it | remake | andy muschietti | chase palmer | cary fukunaga | gary dauberman | bill skarsgard | jaeden lieberher | finn wolfhard | drama | united states | clown | jeremy ray taylor | sophia lillis | stephen king | based on | novel | chosen jacobs | jack dylan grazer
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher and Finn Wolfhard
Now I will admit, when I first heard about this film, I fell into the hype. I went to see it opening night with my roommate at the time and to be honest I loved it. I’ve tried to keep it in perspective as at the time of writing of this originally. I’ve now seen it a few times, a couple of them in the theater and now with my wife, Jaime, so we could rewatch chapter 2.
Synopsis: summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.
This starts with two boys in a bedroom. The older one is sick and named Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher). He is making a paper boat for his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Bill tells him that to complete it, he needs Georgie to go to the basement to get wax. He’s scared of the basement but does what he’s asked. Bill uses it to seal the paper and allow it to float. Georgie then takes it out and put in the rain runoff. He chases after it and hits his head. This causes the boat to get a lead on him, going into one of the storm drains. He thinks it is forever lost when Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the dancing clown, appears. He isn’t what he seems though and attacks Georgie.
We jump almost a year into the future. We meet another boy, Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) who works on a farm with his grandpa. His parents have passed away and he is asked to kill the sheep on the farm with an air gun. He can’t do it and his grandfather scolds him for it.
It then shifts to school for the last day and we meet the rest of the cast. Bill hangs out with Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff). Richie is the comedian of the group, or at least thinks he is. Eddie is a hypochondriac who has an overbearing mother and Stanley is a Jewish kid who is afraid of pretty much everything. We are also introduced to Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). She smokes in the girl’s bathroom and is bullied by her classmates. They spread rumors that she sleeps with everyone. There is also Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who is a heavy-set new kid. Beverly is nice to him and warns him where the bullies are. He has a huge crush on her.
We see Bill and his group have a run in with this group. The bully is Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). His friends are Belch Huggins (Jake Sim), Victor Criss (Logan Thompson) and Patrick Hockstetter (Owen Teague). Henry has held off on Bill due to his brother going missing. We learn that there is a curfew for the city and a lot of children have also disappeared. Henry goes to hit Bill when an officer looks over and stops him. This turns out to be the bully’s dad, played by Stuart Hughes.
All these kids have run-ins with Henry. We see one with Mike where he goes down an alley to avoid him. When he does, he sees something behind a locked door that reminds him of his past. When it opens, he sees Pennywise. He is almost killed by Henry and that’s when he notices it isn’t real.
The rest of the group one by one has their encounters with Pennywise as well. Ben does research on this since he didn’t have friends, being the new kid. He learns that there is a high average of kids turning up missing here, much higher than the national average. These kids band together to form the Loser’s Club, at first to prevent Henry from hurting them, but it ends up leading them to a much darker battle.
Now I did want to go a little bit vaguer with the recap here, as this film has a lot packed into its two hours plus run time. I personally think that a lot of it should be experienced as well. I’ve heard people on both sides of the fence with this one, but I will be honest, I like the changes that were made here. I’ve read the novel twice and seen the original mini-series quite a few times. I don’t really want to compare too much, as this is a re-adaptation of novel. I will say, this one is different from the book, while keeping some of the major interactions and important themes.
It feels that this version goes darker and a lot of that is it is made theatrical, not for TV. We see Bill’s family fell apart after Georgie disappeared. We don’t get a lot of it that though, aside from what Bill tells us. Beverly also has darker implications that her father is sexually molesting her. Another is Mike, getting to know how his parents died. Those are the only characters that we delve into their back-story. Eddie though is intentionally told he is sick so his mother can control him. Jaime agrees there is a bit of Munchausen syndrome by proxy there. Mike is forced to do his duty on the farm and Stanley seems to be a disappointment to his father who is a rabbi. These last three are brief though.
Something I did want to bring up here though is Henry in this film is given more of a reason why he is a bully. Now in the original he is a greaser that is just a jerk. Here his father is a police officer who mentally abuses him. There’s probably even physical abuse as well. He belittles him and the only way he can feel better is to exert dominance over those around him. I did find this intriguing to kind of humanizing him before he snaps.
The last bit of the story that I’m glad was incorporated is that Derry is cursed. While watching it with Jaime, I was explaining that from the novel, there seems to be evilness that resides in the town. It makes people worse and effects those around. This gets explored more in the next chapter, but it does get incorporated a bit as well. The main shot is when Henry is cutting Ben. There is a couple that drives by and they don’t help. That is an underlying theme here.
To move next to the pacing, it doesn’t feel like its 2 hour and 15-minutes run time. It moves smoothly through everything and I like how they sprinkle in the scares as well to keep it fresh. The original obviously introduced us to the adults before showing their encounter with Pennywise, but much like that mini-series, this first half is strong. I do think that the ending of this works better for me and how brutal it really is. I don’t necessarily care for a change that is revealed during this end sequence, but that is neither here nor there to be honest.
Now to the acting, the elephant in the room is Pennywise. I’ve heard a lot of people stating who is better as this character. I thought Tim Curry was great as Pennywise, but he also played the character differently as well. Where he brings kind of a wise cracking element to it, Skarsgård plays it much more like a monster and we get the feeling that it is more of a façade for sure. I thought all the kid actors were solid for the most part. Martell, Taylor, Lillis, Jacobs and Grazer were all solid. I’m a big fan of Wolfhard, having seen him on Stranger Things first. Oleff did have some moments of overacting, but he is a kid so I won’t hold that against him. I also like Hamilton, Scott and the rest of the cast as they rounded out the film for what was needed.
Another point of contention with film is the effects. I didn’t have major problems with them to be honest. There are some practical effects, but a lot of is CGI. It does look good to me though. It does seem to be a lot more of touch-ups on some things. Plus, I’ve heard debates about some shakiness with Pennywise. I can see what they mean, but it doesn’t ruin it for me. Skarsgård can do some creepy things naturally to help make his character scarier for sure. I also thought the cinematography was well done. There are some nice wide shots to allow to see things at different levels of the frame which I like
In conclusion, I thought this was a solid update to the first half of the story here. They made their changes, which I’m glad they did as they made it their own. A shot for shot remakes isn’t what I’d want here. They went darker with this one and I can appreciate that. The editing and pacing of the film are good. The darker ending to this one works for me. Acting is good across the board, which really helps to bring these characters to life. I know some people have issues with the effects, but I didn’t, even though they’re mostly CGI. The soundtrack of the film fit the era and it also plays with some humor for the film. There are also creepy sound effects that help drive the tension as well. This is just an interesting story for me and would recommend giving it a viewing.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10