A narrative which is grossly imbalanced plus campy elements of horror makes It a massive disappointment.
The narrative is centered on seven young kids who are considered by many to be outcasts growing up in Derry, Maine. Each of them seems to have some sort of target on their respective back which makes them the subject of ridicule from any number of bullies. The “Losers’ Club” takes solace in the idea that each member has had to face their own fears at the hand of one or many perpetrators. When they’re not dodging behind corners to avoid being beaten, they are subjected to unspeakable terror at the hands of a shape-shifting clown they refer to as “It”. When the kids finally come to grips with the recent disappearances being part of a killing cycle that happens every 27 years, they resolve to be the ones to end this brutality. However, “It” (aka Pennywise the Clown) might have his own agenda for these seven brave preteens.
The ensemble they cast to portray “The Losers Club” was absolutely fantastic. Jaeden Liberher (Midnight Special), Sophia Lillis (37), Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of the Galaxy), Chosen Jacobs, Jake Dylan Glazer (Tales of Halloween), Jackson Robert Scott, Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic), Fin Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Jeremy Ray Taylor exhibited chemistry which was reminiscent of both Stand By Me and Goonies. Their presence in the story provided an appropriate amount of levity to counterbalance how dark the film was at times.
Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman developed a screenplay which played to the talents of the fairly young cast. Each member of “The Losers Club” has to come to grips with their own fears. Liberher’s portrayal of Bill had him coming to grips with losing his brother to the very thing terrorizing his hometown for years. Lillis’s character Beverly has to realize she can’t allow her dad to continue sexually assaulting her. The narrative certainly hits on the idea that sometimes our biggest fears are right in our homes.
Lillis was easily the best part of this film for me. Her character in the film brings an equal amount of toughness and morality to the picture. “The Losers Club” didn’t have any idea how they were going to combat “It” until she showed the power in having little fear. Whether it was leaping off a cliff into the lake below to swim or grabbing a metal spike to attack Pennywise, she proves that having no fear can be empowering.
What Didn’t Work
Bill Skarsgård portrayal of Pennywise came off as just a bit too safe. Shouldn’t audiences have been just a bit more frightened by his presence? After all, we are talking about one of the most iconic characters Stephen King created. While the writing team of Palmer, Fukunaga, and Dauberman were able to knock it out of the park when it came to providing source material for “The Losers Club”, Pennywise came off as a supporting character more than the central source of terror in this story. Had Skarsgård been given even more to work with, the 2017 version ‘It’ could have easily eclipsed the original.
The CGI scenes were awfully executed. They were cheesy and boarding on slightly campy as well. Director Andy Muschietti should have stuck to using as many practical effects in the film as possible as it would instill terror in any number of scenes and heighten the realism in the picture.
Director of Photography Chung-Hoon Chung didn’t nearly do the same quality work in his scenes involving Pennywise as he did with individual members of “The Losers Club.” In the scenes involving the preteens, he was able to capture the angst of each member of the group by utilizing close up shots as each kid was being terrorized by what they feared at home. When Beverly’s dad asks, “Are you still my little girl”, he immediately switched to a shot of the child fighting off this level of disgust on her face. In contrast, when we were in scenes involving Pennywise, it was nothing but generic shots of the group and the psychotic clown. My guess is Muschietti was betting on the story being able to conjure up fear rather than visuals on the screen. Why can’t it be both?
The best way to sum up It is to say that the film is really a combination of two different pictures. On the one hand, there’s this powerful coming of age tale involving seven pre-teens. We also have this poorly executed story of a shape shifting clown who has been terrorizing the town of Derry for years. Had more attention been made towards punching up the elements of horror in this film, we might be talking about a great horror film. It is at best a mediocre attempt at recreating a great piece of horror movie magic. My advice is stick with the original and avoid being disappointed.