It is one of Stephen King’s major novels. This is partially due its size; at 1100 pages, you could throw it out the window at someone and injure them badly. But you wouldn’t want to, its status as major novel is also partially due to its sheer power. It, a carefully, beautifully-constructed twin narrative about a group of friends that twice confront an all-encompassing evil symbolic of the town they live in, is a gut-punching, terror-inducing masterpiece, a tribute to childhood and loss of innocence forged in madness.
It was adapted into a popular miniseries in 1990, starring Tim Curry as the antagonist Pennywise. Like the clown, the first part of the two-film series, It: The Losers’ Club, now re-appears 27 years later—but how does It compare to the original adaptation?
(Before we continue, I should emphasise that the book is superb and you should read it before seeing this promising adaptation.)
The Guardian thought it was pretty OK, settling for three stars and stating, “The problem is that almost everything here looks like route one scary-movie stuff that we have seen before: scary clowns, scary old houses, scary bathrooms. In their differing ways, Brian De Palma [director of the original Carrie]and Stanley Kubrick [director of The Shining] were inspired by the potency of King’s source material to create something virulently distinctive and original. This film’s director, Andy Muschietti, can’t manage quite as much.”
(I will argue that The Shining is a good film, but a terrible adaptation that does disservice to its remarkable source material.)
The Los Angeles Times wasn’t too keen, either, stating that focusing on only one of the twin narratives in this half of the duology does it a disservice: “Without the benefit of the novel’s future timeline to keep the buoyant optimism of its characters in check, there’s little sense that these Losers will go on to live scarred adult lives, or that their memories of the ugly business witnessed in Derry’s sewers may fade from their minds but ring unfinished in their souls for the next 27 years.
“One should walk away from “It” feeling the story lingering like a bruise, a bad taste on the tongue. Instead, it floats safely into a snug Hollywood ending, leaving all the deeper processing for the grown-ups to deal with in the sequel.”
Entertainment Weekly picked-up on the book’s use of Pennywise as childhood (and adult) fear, stating, “‘It’ is essentially two movies. The better by far (and it’s very good) is the one that feels like a darker ‘Stand by Me’ — a nostalgic coming-of-age story about seven likable outcasts riding around on their bikes and facing their fears together. Part of me kept waiting for a voice-over from Richard Dreyfuss: ‘And that was the best summer of my life…’ Less successful are the sections that trot out Pennywise. The more we see of him, the less scary he becomes. Unless you’re really afraid of clowns, he just seems kind of cartoony after a while.”
(Entertainment Weekly also makes a rather daft point: if the film’s protagonists are children, who would want to watch It if it’s R-rated? There’s no such thing as a stupid question, except maybe Entertainment Weekly’s.)
The AV Club really enjoyed the film, but again lamented how the lack of dual narrative steals away from the film a little: “Still, certain aspects of It remain burned on your brain like a flashbulb on exposed film. Cinematography from Chung Chung-hoon, Park Chan-wook’s longtime DP, gives the film a richness and texture that’s far beyond that of most Hollywood films, let alone horror films. Combine that with the booming sound design and meticulous production design, and the film’s more fantastic sequences, like a diabolically imaginative scene where the Losers investigate an abandoned house, are downright inspired. And perhaps the writers gave us the best adaptation of a practically un-adaptable book that anyone could give. But it’s hard not to wonder, had the studio not felt the need to clean up this messy, sprawling tale, if this could have been one for the ages.”
Overall: It’s a good film, but one lacking in the novel’s power.
Read related stories:
© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)