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, the sequel and the rest of the story isn’t out yet. I’m updating this review after my fourth viewing, second time in the theater. The synopsis is in the 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.
We then see two boys in a room. The older boy 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 get what he is supposed to. Bill uses it to seal the paper and allow it float. Georgie takes the boat out and puts it in the water that is moving toward the storm drains. He hits his head and his boat gets a lead on him, going into one of these 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 a local bully and his friends. 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 of 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 and 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 hour plus running 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 the film, 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. Now 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 still.
This film to me went darker and a lot of that is it is actually a film, not made for TV. Bill’s family really fell apart after Georgie disappeared. We really don’t get a lot of it that though, aside from what Bill tells us. Beverly also has much darker implications that her father is sexually molesting her. Those are really the only two characters that we delve into their back-story much though. Eddie though is intentionally told he is sick so his mother can control him, Mike is forced to do his duty on the farm and Stanley seems to be kind of a disappointment to his father who is a rabbi. These last three are pretty 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. 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.
To move next to the pacing of the film, it actually doesn’t feel like its 2 hour and 15 minute run time. It really just 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 has been quite strong. I do think that the ending of this one works much 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 or there to be honest.
Now to the acting of the film, 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 much 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 of the kid actors were pretty 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 really 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 really didn’t have any 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, but I still don’t see it. Skarsgård can do some creepy things to help make his character creepy 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
Now with that said, 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 and shot for shot remakes don’t really seem to work. They definitely went darker with this one and I can appreciate that. The editing and pacing of the film are good; I also like the darker ending to this one. The 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 really didn’t, even though they’re mostly CGI. The soundtrack of the film did fit the era and it also plays with some humor for the film. There are also some creepy sound effects that help drive the tension as well. I am really curious to see how the second half plays, but so far, much like the original mini-series, I think this is really good.
My Rating: 9 out of 10