Stephen King’s 1986 novel, “It,” terrified countless people and was later adapted into a miniseries in 1990 which has no doubt scared children away from storm drains for life. The original miniseries starred Tim Curry as the titular “It,” a supernatural entity who feeds on children. As I previously mentioned, the miniseries almost certainly frightened children, but director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the novel tries something different. It attempts to traumatize adults.
Set in the late 1980’s, It is a story about seven children who are trying to solve the mysteries behind a large number of missing children in Derry, Maine, all the while being hunted by a murderous clown who calls himself Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). As the children delve deeper into the lore surrounding Derry, the threat of Pennywise becomes increasingly prominent. Unlike the miniseries, this adaptation only adapts the first half of the novel which features the characters as children, leaving the second half to be adapted into a sequel that will feature them as adults.
Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise this time around, replacing Tim Curry’s iconic performance. If Skarsgård attempted to replicate Curry’s performance, it may have not worked, but fortunately, Skarsgård was able to create his own version of the character, which makes it feel fresh and exciting. Whereas Curry’s Pennywise is often funny, Skarsgård’s version is rarely so. Instead, he is much more sinister and flat-out terrifying. Skarsgård proves himself quite capable and he never has to really try to be scary, making the character all the more disturbing.
The breakout performance of the film is without a doubt Finn Wolfhard’s “Richie Tozier,” a wisecracking little boy who absolutely steals every scene he’s in. I cannot recall the last time I have seen a child actor so genuinely funny whose comedic timing balances all the drama and scares that the film can throw at you. One of the only downsides to a sequel focusing on these children as adults is that Wolfhard will most-likely not have grown up in time to reprise his role as the adult Richie.
The tone of the film is very reminiscent of older films such as E.T., Stand by Me, and the Netflix show Stranger Things. All of these films feature a group of children teaming together to accomplish something great. Muschietti never fails to highlight what the real driving force of the story is, the children. Like the films I mentioned earlier, It thrives on the chemistry of the group and the journey that they go on together. They’re about the loss of innocence and the acceptance that the world is not what we think of it and that banding together is the only way to survive.
Unfortunately, the film is not perfect. There are some minor pacing problems in the beginning, mostly due to the introduction of seven different protagonists. The climax is somewhat unfulfilling and could have benefited for a bit more of a buildup, but the absolute worst thing about the film is the treatment of Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). Lillis gives a great performance as the one female character in the film, but near the climax the strong, brave, independent girl that the audience has come to love is turned into nothing more than a damsel in distress. This is something that originated in this film and I have no idea as to why, but I cannot see any reason Beverly couldn’t have played just as much as the boys.
Despite the treatment of the female protagonist in the climax of the film, It is still a film worth watching. Muschietti’s direction and the tonal aspects of the film are not only scary, but endearingly euphoric. It features an exceptionally talented cast of young people and is sure to not only frighten viewers, but also enamor them with its mythology and heart.