Of all the adaptations of Stephen King’s extensive library of literary works few have managed to be as iconic as the “It” miniseries without having a theatrical adaptation. This weekend “It” joined the collection of Stephen King theatrical films bringing Pennywise to the big screen for the first time in a much anticipated and, according to many, long overdue cinematic event. With that in mind many have wondered in the film would live up to the hype that trailers and early previews have built up for the horror flick, and I’m proud to tell you that yes, the movie does live up to its potential as one of the most enjoyable adaptations of King’s books to date.
“It” follows a group of young middle schoolers who make up The Losers Club. The seven children are played by newcomers Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Sophia Lillis who come together to try and hunt down and stop a supernatural entity played by Bill Skarsgard that takes the form of different fears of local children, including the member of The Losers Club, mainly showing itself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. With the number of missing children adding up, the stakes get higher for The Losers Club to put an end to It’s terror while they also undergo a growing process and deal with issues in their own personal lives at the same time.
With a lot of pressure on “It’s” shoulders, that’s right folks prepare for a lot of “it” puns in this review, it’ll do fan’s hearts well to know that this cinematic adaptation of the work is a very well done and enjoyable movie going adventure that offers frights, an enjoyable and relatable narrative, and actually proves to be a pleasantly odd film that captures the more quirky aspects of its source material quite well. While I can honestly say I never read the “It” book, this film is the next best thing as it tends to play out like a story straight off the page including smooth, profanity-laden dialogue and sexual humor from its cast of young actors and a terrifyingly creative and memorable interpretation of the material’s titular supernatural being.
“It” all starts with the convincing performances (seriously, these puns are WAY too easy) as the seven young actors who make up The Losers Club dominate the screen with no two characters feeling the same or unneeded. While some could have defiantly used more development than others, we get a chance to understand each of these children and their individual fears and personalities and we are provided peaks into their personal lives and the struggles they face in their households that force them to mature into promising young adults as they take on the terror ravaging their town. While more screen time could have been committed to a couple of these characters to truly capture their significance within the overall story, in the grand scheme of things this is a committed and passionate young cast who play well off of each other and actually present believable bonds and comerodare that add to the quality of each actors performance. Capturing the essence of The Losers Club was essential to making “It” a success and, thankfully, that essence was captured quite well thank to an expertly cast group of potential future stars of the screen
Perhaps even more important however was the casting of the film’s villain, the supernatural being known as “It”, or more well known as It’s most common disguise, the dancing clown Pennywise. Bill Skarsgard took over the clown-like character that Tim Curry actually made famous in the original miniseries and while Skarsgard had some big shoes to fill he does a tremendous job making Pennywise his own. Skarsgard bring a much edgier and, frankly, more terrifying depiction of the character to this big-screen adaptation but also maintains the creepy charm and personality that fans have come to expect from the creature. Pennywise is intimidating and well designed to reflect more of his alien-like features and the other forms It takes are equally terrifying and creative showing a range of capabilities without revealing too much about the creature’s origins. While Curry’s adaptation may still end up being the more popular, Skarsgard’s work is nothing to ignore. It’s memorable and a solid interpretation of Pennywise worthy of respect.
With concepts of horror and the supernatural incorporated into the story, “It” is also a surprisingly effective drama showcasing many different true-to-life social issues among the members of The Losers Club. Bill, the leader of the club played by Jaeden Lieberher, has to come to grips with the loss of his brother Georgie, Pennywise’s first victim in the film, while the Club’s only female member Bev, played by Sophia Lillis, deals with a sexually abusive father. Other members tackle issues like the pressure of being the new kid in town, feeling like an outcast in the community, and having an overprotective mother which all plays into the characterizations and the motivations of these kids who turn out to be stronger and more equipped to take on Pennywise than any of the adults seem to be. In an interesting way this movie doubles as a creepy and effective horror thriller and a project of social commentary adding more depth and significance to a film that could have easily fallen into a pit of clichés and allowed the horror aspects to overpower the deeper concepts the story had to offer.
Now, that being said, “It” is scary, fun, and surprisingly deep, although at times it’s also unfortunately formulaic preventing it from truly being a flawless piece of cinematic art. The film has a great pace and some truly terrifying moments to appreciate, but the downside for me was when the movie lost its momentum. “It” suffers mostly from a muddled transition from the second act to the third and final act when the movie delves into the most simple of cinematic tropes with a conflict driving the cast apart to set up a conclusion. Even then however, that separation was necessary as it drives the remainder of the plot and leads to revelations about how to defeat “It”. Another downside for me was the movie’s handling of the iconic secondary villain from the miniseries, bully Henry Bowers, who honestly seems a bit phoned in during the third act as Pennywise manages to corrupt him into being a part of the evil clown’s plans only to see him play a minor role at best in the final scuffle. Bowers plays an important roll in bringing The Losers CLub together, but his involvement in the final conflict feels forced. The film gets back on track quick though as the final confrontation with Pennywise is a satisfying struggle and the movie ties everything up in a nice bow that promises this will not be the last we will see of The Losers Club or Pennywise.
All in all “It” is a very solid horror thriller that provides great scares and moments of suspense as well as touching on some harsh realities of the lives of its seven heroes and even contains some moments of levity that all come together is a nice package. “It” is a film that grabs your attention and holds on from the first frame to the last even if the transition from it’s middle act to it’s concluding conflict is a bit messy. When I need to pick at the smallest of details to find something wrong with a film then you know it’s got some credibility to it. While not absolutely perfect, “It” is among the most well-done horror movies of 2017 and could very well be counted among the best adaptations of King’s famous works. Horror remakes are hard to pull off, but once in a while filmmakers manage to get “it” right (sorry couldn’t help “it”…damn “it” there “it” is again…ok I’m done). “It” contains a memorable story, a narrative that provides great character development and actually has a soul, and only builds on the legacy of one of King’s most popular works as well as its iconic villain and club of adolescent heroes. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how things shape up in the upcoming sequel that is already in the works to complete the duology and cover the entirety of King’s book.