Movie Review: "It"
After the disappearance of his little brother, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his friends decide to use their summer to investigate the mysterious disappearances that are occurring throughout the town and, hopefully, find Bill's little brother. Their mission leads to new friendships and forces them to confront their bullies, but (as if bullies were not bad enough) they soon discover that they are all being hunted by a murderous clown, named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), who has the ability to embody his victim's worst fears.
Realizing that Pennywise is behind the disappearance of his brother, Bill persuades his friends (who now refer to themselves as "The Loser's Club") to try to track down Pennywise and rescue his brother. In order to do so, The Loser's Club will have to come face to face with their worst fears and stop a supernatural, monsterous clown who wants to eat them all.
The Pros & Cons
The Bullies (-2pts)
The Loser's Club (+8pts)
Fear & Teamwork (-5pts)
The Horror (+8pts)
Close Calls (-4pts)
Pro: Pennywise (+10pts)
Pennywise was perfectly portrayed in this film. He can be funny, silly, creepy, scary, extremely violent, or any combination of these behaviors. Mixing comedy with horror, in the monster, could spell out disaster for any monster-flick. In this film, the combination was blended very well and made Pennywise feel unpredictable. Pennywise is powerful, dangerous, and unpredictable. This makes the character so captivating to watch.
Furthermore, Bill Skarsgård is fantastic in the role of Pennywise. While he is under a significant amount of make-up and special effects, Bill Skarsgård is able to bring so much to the role. He, masterfully, uses his voice, diction, and facial expressions to make this character believable. From making silly faces to scary faces, silly voices to creepy voices, and through simply accenting certain syllables, Bill Skarsgård deserves a lot of praise for playing this (extremely complex) character so well.
This all being said, it would be wrong for me to compare Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise with Tim Curry's Pennywise. This Pennywise is such a different character that the Pennywise from the 90's. They share a goal but their behaviors are very different. I think the filmmakers knew how great Tim Curry's Pennywise was and tried to make the new Pennywise as different as possible while still staying true to the character. Both versions of Pennywise are great and are played very well by their respective actors, but they have their differences.
Con: The Bullies (-2pts)
The bullies are necessary because they are what brings The Loser's Club together. However, the bullies are very generic and one-dimensional characters. They do not like kids who are "fat", they do not like kids who stutter, they do not like kids who are Jewish, and the bullies (at least the one that got character development) have daddy issues. That is all you need to know about these characters. They are mean for the sake of being mean.
I know there is more to these characters in the book, but the film struggled to find time to develop these characters on screen. The film was able to give proper character development to the members of The Loser's Club while showing plenty of Pennywise. So they really did not have much time to develop the bullies. This is understandable and, if I had to sacrifice something, I would definitely sacrifice the character development of the bullies but the underdeveloped bullies still end up being a low point of the film.
Pro: The Loser's Club (+8pts)
The Loser's Club was so much fun to watch. Some got way more character development than others, but they were all interesting characters that the audience cares about (in one way or another). Though they are all interesting enough, individually, it is when they are together that this movie shines. When they are together there is a little bit of everything. There is the leader with the stutter, the loud mouth, the germophobe, the Jew, the African-American, the overweight kid, and the girl who has become the victim of a slut rumor at their school. It is such a diverse group and they all feel isolated for their own reasons but they are able to find strength together.
Con: Fear & Teamwork (-5pts)
Pennywise is an interesting villain because defeating him, requires his prey to learn something. Pennywise feeds off fear. He embodies his victim's worst fears and, to make matters even worse, he finds that scared flesh tastes better. Due to this, Pennywise waits, until his prey is experiencing maximum terror, before trying to eat them.
So there are a couple of ways to defeat Pennywise. The first method requires overcoming your fears; if there is nothing to fear, Pennywise has nothing to embody and the meat does not taste good (and who wants bad meat?!). The second method is, essentially, strength in numbers; as Pennywise focuses on one person and embodies their fear, another person can strike Pennywise which causes him to switch focus and change whose fear is being embodied.
The concept is interesting because it requires the kids to learn and grow (figuratively) in order to survive. The problem with this movie is that the kids (who survive) accidentally figure all of this out so are not developed as well as they could have been. We never get to see them overcome their fears or learn to work together, they just sort of fumble through the story and run blindly into danger.
Pro: The Horror (+8pts)
The horror, in It, was intense. Pennywise stalks a lot of kids in this movie. He haunts them individually, harnessing their fears and he haunts them all together. Point is, there are a lot of scares in this movie and, what I really enjoyed was, the film does not rely on jump scares (as so many horror movies do).
Each kid, who ends up on the receiving end of Pennywise's focus, has their own fear personified. This lets the audience see a pretty wide variety of horrific imagery and, due the fact that Pennywise waits for his victims to reach maximum fear, the audience gets to sit in the intensity of each horrific scene.
Con: Close Calls (-4pts)
Pennywise stalks a lot of potential victims in this movie. How many of them meet a horrific death? You will have the see the movie that find out, but I thought there were way too many close calls in this film. There were way too many scenes, in which Pennywise has his victim trapped, terrified, and helpless, then something interferes (allowing the victim to escape).
It is fine if a movie does this, but doing this over and over causes It to feel a bit redundant. It also makes Pennywise feel (slightly) less intimidating. Why not add a few extra kids to give Pennywise more kills and make him feel unpredictable?
Grade: A- (90pts)
I really enjoyed It. It has a few minor problems but that did not keep me from having a blast in this movie. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) was so much fun to watch. He was silly, creepy, sometimes both, and always dangerously violent. While Pennywise does get a few horrific kills in this film, there are way too many close calls. Too many characters barely escape Pennywise and it ends up making him feel a bit less dangerous.
It also does a poor job of focusing on the story's messages. The story should teach viewers to face their fears, work together, even misfits can belong to something, and that (sometimes) one can find friends that are more of a family than their actual family. There is a lot that one can take away from Stephen King's It. This movie touches on all of these messages but focuses on none, so the audience has to dig deep to find them and they end up losing impact.
Despite It's problems, The Loser's Club was an absolute blast to watch. There are some great kid actors playing some entertaining and compelling characters. This ends up making of for some of the film's problems and that is why I definitely recommend seeing this movie (if you like horror, of course).