Well, this review doesn’t really need any introduction, does it? We all know story of IT, it’s arguably Stephen King’s most famous novel. We all know the imagery of IT, the paper boat, the red balloon, the sewer grate, and the sharp teeth. We all know Bill, Ben, Bev, Eddie, Richie, Mike, and Stan. I’m sure many people my age are terrified of clowns thanks to Tim Curry’s iconic portrayal of Pennywise the Clown from the 1990 television miniseries.
Having finally read the novel two years ago in preparation of Chapter One, it’s easy to see these most recent movies take some more inspiration from the book than the miniseries did, but also make some changes as well. It’s almost impossible to not compare and contrast the miniseries with the movies in this regard.
For one, the timeline has been moved up from the 80s to the present day, so all the kids’ scenes take place in the 80s rather than the 50s. So we get some funny 80s references, like Ben being a huge New Kids on the Block fan, which earns him the nickname “New Kid” from Beverly, and since Ben was also the new kid in school… well, you get the joke. Another thing the movies do different is the sequence of events. In the book, everything is shown through the eyes of the adults, who flash back to everything that happened to them as kids (which the miniseries tried to do in the first episode).
However, there are some elements that are removed from the story that were integral to the characters that I felt were missing. For instance, Ben’s growth from the book is completely missed in Chapter Two, as one of my favorite moments from the second episode of the miniseries is John Ritter’s Ben (yes, THAT John Ritter) telling the story of how he was motivated to lose weight in high school. Also, outside of Bev, no one explains to their significant others why they have to suddenly leave to go back to Derry. One of the crucial moments in the book and miniseries is Bill trying to explain to his wife why he has to leave in the middle of a film shoot, which makes her try and follow him later. This leads to disaster when Pennywise realizes her importance to Bill.
Another concept missing from the movies is the town as a character itself. The town of Derry is interlinked with IT due to IT being underneath Derry for CENTURIES, and everything that happens in that town is a result of IT, but most adults in the town seem to ignore them. Massacres, mass shootings, and such would happen, and one witness would always point to a random clown being present during the incident.
Casting wise, these movies NAIL it on both fronts. You believe that Finn Wolfhard’s Richie Tozier will grow up to become Bill Hader, and fittingly, both steal the show in Part One and Two (Philly’s own Seth Green played Young Richie Tozier in the 1990 miniseries). Same goes with the casting of Jack Dylan Grazer and James Ransone as young and adult Eddie Kaspbrak respectively, the latter of which steals the show with Hader in Chapter Two. And James McAvoy’s adult Bill Denbrough is a huge improvement over Richard Thomas from the miniseries, whose attempt at a stutter was almost mocking to people who actually have one. The only casting change I think could have been improved was Amy Adams over Jessica Chastain as adult Beverly, as she looks so much more like an adult version of Sophia Lillis, but Chastain was still a great casting decision all things considered. And of course, Pennywise himself is played masterfully by Bill Skarsgård, who of course doesn’t try to replicate what Tim Curry did and instead goes straight for creepy rather than the “potentially innocent clown” that Curry went for.
In closing, Halloween is coming up, so watch the miniseries, and then watch Chapter One and Two if you’re into getting a good scare. All three are good times that are worth watching despite some of my criticisms.
Sidebar: The year both movies came out were proceeded by two other Stephen King film adaptations. In 2017, Chapter One was proceeded a month prior by the Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, and the less said about that the better. Chapter Two was proceeded by the Pet Sematary remake, and again, the less said about THAT film’s ending the better. And next month, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to the Shining, will be releasing in theaters. Then after that, Castle Rock Season 2 will be released on Hulu. It seems like 2019 is quite the heavy year for Stephen King adaptations.
Second Sidebar: It was announced today that Alexander Skarsgård, Bill’s brother, was just cast as Randall Flagg/the Man in Black in the upcoming CBS All Access miniseries The Stand.