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 was either funny, silly, creepy, scary, extremely violent, or any combination of these behaviors. The combination was blended very well and made Pennywise feel unpredictable. This made the character so captivating to watch. Then there was Bill Skarsgård, who was fantastic in the role. While he was under a significant amount of make-up and special effects, Bill Skarsgård was able to bring so much energy and charisma to the role. He masterfully used his voice, diction, and facial expressions to make this character a believable, captivating enigma.
That all being said, it would be wrong for me to compare Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise with Tim Curry's Pennywise. This Pennywise was such a different character than the Pennywise from the 90's. They shared a goal, but their behaviors were 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 were great and were played very well by their respective actors, but they were completely different interpretations of the character and really cannot be compared.
Con: The Bullies (-2pts)
The bullies were necessary because they were what brought The Loser's Club together. However, the bullies were very generic and one-dimensional characters. They did not like kids who were fat, they did not like kids who stuttered, they did not like kids who were Jewish, and the bullies—at least the one that got character development—had daddy issues. That is all you need to know about these characters. They were mean for the sake of being mean.
I know there was more to these characters in the book, but the film struggled to find time to develop them properly on screen. The film was able to give proper character development to the members of The Loser's Club while showing plenty of Pennywise. As a result, they really did not have much time left to develop the bullies. This is understandable, and if I had to sacrifice something, I would have definitely sacrificed the character development of the bullies. Nonetheless, a probably intentional sacrifice is still a sacrifice, as the underdeveloped bullies still ended 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 audiences will care about in one way or another. Although they were all interesting enough, individually, it was when they were together that this movie shined. When they were together there is a little bit of everything. There was the leader with the stutter, the loud mouth, the germophobe, the Jew, the African-American, the overweight kid, and the girl who had become the victim of a slut rumor at their school. It was such a diverse group and they all felt isolated for their own reasons, but they were able to find strength together and I liked that element of this story.
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. There are a couple of ways to try to defend yourself from Pennywise. The first method would require overcoming all of your fears. If there is nothing to fear, Pennywise has nothing to embody and it will not want to eat something that does not taste like fear.
The second method is essentially strength in numbers and overloading Pennywise. Pennywise can only focus on one person at a time and embodies their fear, which is not necessarily a fear that everyone shares. What makes the character of Pennywise scary, is that even knowing these two methods does not guarantee survival. I liked the concept, because it required the kids to learn and grow in order to survive. However, the kids who survive accidentally figured all of this out, which made it feel like the filmmakers sort of just glossed over the more compelling part of this story. We never got to see them overcome their fears or learn to work together, they just sort of fumbled through the story and ran blindly into danger. This definitely took some of the impact out of the climax of the story.
Pro: The Horror (+8pts)
The horror in It was intense. Pennywise stalked a lot of kids throughout this movie. He haunted them individually and he haunted them all together, harnessing many of their fears along the way. There were a lot of scares in this movie, and I appreciated that the filmmakers did not rely on jump scares, as so many horror movie filmmakers do. Each kid who ended up on the receiving end of Pennywise's focus had their own fear personified. This let the audience see a pretty wide variety of horrific imagery, and due the fact that Pennywise waited for his victims to reach maximum fear, the audience got to sit through a lot of intense and suspenseful horror moments.
Con: Close Calls (-4pts)
Again, Pennywise stalked a lot of potential victims in this movie. How many of them met 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 had his victim trapped, terrified, and helpless, only for something to interfere just before Pennywise had the chance to feed.
It would have been fine if the filmmakers did this a couple times, while having the protagonists figure out clever ways to escape in other scenes, but doing this over and over again caused the story to feel a bit redundant. It also made Pennywise feel like less of a threat, as it became clear that most of the characters would survive—at least to the story's climax. I think the solution to this would have been pretty simple. The filmmakers either could have let Pennywise kill a few of the kids or—if the filmmakers wanted a specific group to survive—they could have added additional, disposable characters for Pennywise to get. This would have gone a long way in making the antagonist feel like more of a threat. Either way, the constant close calls felt like lazy filmmaking and reduced the threat that the primary antagonist posed.
Grade: A- (90pts)
It had a few minor problems, but that did not keep me from thoroughly enjoying it. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise was so much fun to watch. He was silly, creepy, sometimes both, and always dangerously violent. However, while Pennywise did get a few horrific kills in this movie, I thought that there were way too many close calls. Too many characters barely escaped Pennywise, and it ended up making him feel less dangerous with each narrow escape. Unfortunately, I thougt that the filmmakers did a poor job of focusing on the story's messages. The story should teach viewers to face their fears, work together, that 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, and while this movie touched on all of these messages, it ended up focusing on none, which I thought was a missed opportunity. Fortunately, the movie also had its strengths. There was the great performance from Bill Skarsgård as the captivating and suspenseful Pennywise, who provided plenty of suspenseful horror moments. Then there was The Loser's Club, who were a lot of fun to follow. They consisted of some great young actors playing some entertaining and compelling characters, and I really liked the characters' dynamic as a group. The movie had some problems, but I thought its strengths made up for most of them. It ended up being a movie that I really enjoyed, and think any fan of Stephen King's—or horror movies in general—will as well.