Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It Wants to Divide Us: A Review of "It" (2017)

I rarely -- if ever -- mention my job on my blogs.  It's just not a good idea to mix business and pleasure in that way, because if I were to be noticed talking about my job online, then all of a sudden I'd be obliged to conduct myself in a manner 100% befitting my professional requirements.  And, like, fuck that.  I'm at work, that's work time; I'm away from work, that's ME time.
  
However, the odds of anybody noticing are rather minimal, and even if they did, I'm not likely to then also be recognized by a customer.  I got better odds of getting struck by lightning than I do of being recognized for my blogs.  What a silly thought!
  
Anyways, I figure it makes sense to err on the side of caution, so I just don't bring it up.  This is not difficult to do; I have virtually no interest in talking about work when I'm not there.
  
This week, though, I'm going to break my rule and divulge to you that I am a manager of a movie theatre.  Not the general manager, mind you; if my boss is Picard, I'm Riker, except with a lamer beard and even fatter.  So, yeah, I'm the Riker of a movie theatre.  
  
I bring that up because I simply can't restrain myself from talking about how utterly cool it has been to be a massive Stephen King fan and to go to work all weekend and see people lining up by the hundreds to see a movie based on a Stephen King novel.  At my particular theatre, it did stronger business than most superhero movies; it did stronger business than Rogue One; it did stronger business than Pixar movies.  Shows were selling out hours in advance, and by the end of the night on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday (the latter unprecedented during September) people were still showing up by the dozens at the very end of the night, once there were literally no seats left to be sold for that movie on any of its several screens.
  
I've seen that happen with Twilights and with Hunger Gameses and with Fifty Shades of Greys and with American Sniper and so forth, and until this weekend I never realized that in the back of my mind, the King fan in me was jealous of those other movies' successes.  Don't misunderstand; given that this is my profession, I'm always hopeful that EVERY movie will be that big a hit.  Few are, but trust me, I never mind when they are even if they are movies I personally would like to ignore.
  
This weekend, though, I realized that It was scratching an itch I'd not even realized I had: an urge to see my Stephen King fandom validated in my own workplace.  No King film had been a hit during my management tenure since 1408, and that one was only a mild hit; people went to see it, but nobody cared about it, so far as I could tell.  With It, you could sense immediately -- show began on Thursday night and were busy from jump -- that this was a movie people were excited to see.  They weren't coming to the theatre out of a sense of obligation, or because it was the weekend and they had to go see something (those days appear to be over for 95% of the public, if not more).  They were acting like ... like ...
  
Well, they were acting a bit like people in line for a roller coaster.  This was an experience, not a mere movie.  They came by the hundreds per hour, and they were of all colors, ages, sizes; they were evenly split in gender.  There were an untold number of kids not old enough to vault over the R rating, and some of them got older people to buy 'em tickets, and some of them -- most of them (possibly numbering in the thousands, and no, I'm not exaggerating that) -- failed.  They looked brokenhearted to be missing out on it; no, I'm not exaggerating that, either.
  
I have seen a weekend's worth of audiences that was both larger and more excited; but not many.  This will rank as one of the most enthusiastic audiences I've personally ever been around in the movie business; they were laughing and excited on the way in, and they were laughing and excited on the way out.
  
It was really, really cool.  It always is.  
  
Add on top of that that they were there to see a movie based on one of my five favorite novels (one written by my absolute favorite author), and it translated to me having a much better weekend personally than I might otherwise have had.  A weekend's business like that can sometimes be sort of oppressive, like a grim march to a too-distant finish line.  Get me to Monday, get me to Monday, get me to Monday..., like that.  This can especially be true if a movie is a smash hit and you weren't expecting it to be.  Luckily, we were, so the effects we felt were minimal.  I would all but guarantee you that many of the nation's theatres got caught flat-footed by it, especially after the past few weeks have been so dreadful at the box office.
  
But yeah, we saw it coming, and we were more or less prepared.  Even so, it was a show of It basically ever 45 minutes, so the lines were nonstop, from Thursday at 7pm to Sunday at 11pm, with respites while we closed and for maybe the first half-dozen shows of the day.  Otherwise?  Non-fuckin'-stop.
  
Despite this, I was in a thoroughly cheerful mood.  I was wearing this:
  
  
  
  
Nobody recognized it except one of my fellow managers, who just shook his head at me as if to indicate he was disappointed in what a nerd I was.  I am guilty as charged, and the fact that I was in a good mood while all around me swirled a sea of people who wanted tickets and/or popcorn without further delay indicates to me that it was a pretty good weekend to be the type of nerd I am.
  
So yeah, that's where this review will be coming from.  From the guy who was happy to be swamped at work not merely because it was good for business, but because the hordes of customers were there to see something I really cared about.
 
And let's go ahead and jump to the verdict: I loved it.  That's a big part of why the spring got into the step; I saw the movie a night ahead of everyone else -- gotta make sure it plays correctly, you know -- and so I knew that not only was it going to be a smash hit, but that it was deserving of being one.
  
This is not to say it's a perfect movie.  I've got a few little issues with it.  Those issues are insignificant, though, at least for me; they might help to explain how the movie could have gotten from a 9.5/10 to a 10/10, thus making the movie I loved a movie I love even more.  But do I have any actual complaints?  Nope.  I mean, I can't see Chapter Two right this very second; but even that isn't a complaint, just more of a why-can't-the-day-after-Christmas-also-be-Christmas kind of observation.
  
So let's dive into it.  I feel certain there will be spoilers.  But if you've read the book or seen the ABC miniseries from 1990, there's nothing to spoil except the specifics of the adaptation.  (I could ruin the punchlines of some of the jokes, I guess, but I wouldn't dream of doing that, so rest easy.)
  
  
  
  
The first thing I'm going to talk about is the cast, beginning with Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise.
  
  
   
  
Skarsgård had a tough job in taking on this role.  People adore Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise in the 1990 version, and it's no exaggeration to say that at least one entire generation seems to have been happily traumatized by his performance.  I have known for years that the potential existed for a movie version of It to be a big success, because of the sheer number of co-workers who, upon finding out that I was a King fan, enthusiastically told me about how much Tim Curry has fucked them up when they were kids.  The nature of the job means that I work with a large number of high-school and college students, and for about the last fifteen years, the roster of employees has changed, but the seemingly-omnipresent fear of Pennywise remained the same.
  
So I knew this shit was possible, guys.  Nothing special about it; I was just listening to the people around me.  I ain't Karnac or nothin', I just sometimes use my ears.
  
The trick was always going to be finding somebody who could make people forget Tim Curry, at least temporarily (there's no forgetting Tim Curry, and why would you want to?).  That's a tall order.
  
Happily, the production decision was made early on to not go for a star.  Oh, how tempting it must have been to want to get, like, Leonardo Di Caprio or Robert Downey Jr. or something like that.  And let's be clear: I'd be interested in seeing what either of them would do with the role.  But would America have?  Would those years and years' worth of movie theatre employees I spoke to?  I don't think so.  They don't want to go see Johnny Depp or Seth Rogen as Pennywise.
  
They want to go see Pennywise.  That was the only thing they were going to accept, and by gum if Bill Skarsgård didn't manage to pull it off.
  
He's got a few moments that are a bit wonky; a few line readings fail to land the way you'd like them to, and there are a few places where it seems as if maybe there were some looping sessions that didn't quite get the job done.  Largely, though, he is fantastic.  His best moments are probably during a scene in which he menaces Eddie, and another in which he menaces Beverly; in these scenes, his movements are both recognizable and otherworldly, which is an unsettling combination.  His physical performance is close to perfection, and if I was carping about a few of his line readings, let me be careful to make it plain that he's also got some great ones.
  
Does he blow Tim Curry out of the water?  Well, no.  That's probably not doable.  But I do think I prefer Skarsgård's take on the role, and that's a hell of an achievement.  At a mere 27 years of age, he can look forward to dining out on this movie for the rest of his career.  He'll be 80 years old and commanding lines around the block for his autograph at cons, if he's interested in going that route.
  
The next thing on our agenda has to be the Losers themselves.  I'd like to start by saying that if Pennywise was the key to making people want to see the movie, the Losers are the key to making people love the movie.  I can't remember where I first encountered the notion, but when I was a kid I read some piece of critical thinking about King's work (probably The Art of Darkness) that blew my mind by informing me that the secret to King's popularity was his ability to write characters that readers would empathize with.  I was stunned by this, but immediately knew it to be true.
  
It's maybe never truer than in the novel It, which is basically a thousand pages of character-scene triumphs.  The ABC miniseries didn't fare particularly well in replicating this, partially via mildly shoddy performances and questionable casting decisions.  (It actually holds up a bit better in this regard than I'd previously thought; I watched it about a week before the new one was released, and had a good time with it.)
  
I'm happy to report that this new version is a near-total success in the casting, even apart from Pennywise.  The kids who play the Losers are uniformly excellent, and several of them are flat-out great.  
  
  
Jaeden Lieberher

  
Bill is played by Jaeden Leiberher, who you might have seen in St. Vincent or Midnight Special.  He's confident, soft-spoken but decisive, wracked with guilt and grief and anger over what has happened to his brother but also determined to do something about it.  
  

Sophia Lillis
 
 
Beverly is played by Sophia Lillis, who you've probably never seen in anything.  That's okay; you're going to see her in plenty after this.  I predict she has an Oscar by the time she's thirty; if not, she'll have been nominated.  She's that good.  She's tough as nails, she's funny, she's resilient, she's defiant.  She owns damn near every scene she's in, with the exception of maybe one she shares with Skarsgård.
  
  
Jeremy Ray Taylor
  
  
You might know Jeremy Ray Taylor from his roles as "Boy" in 42, "Bully" in Ant-Man, or "Kid" in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.  Not that last one, pray God.
  
Here, he plays Ben, and it's obviously his most substantial role to date.  He knocks it out of the park.  There's one scene in particular that I'm going to partially describe (leaving out the best jokes) in which he and Sophia Lillis briefly star in their own romantic comedy.
  
Bev has just been bullied by a pack of mean girls, and she's walking out of school.  Ben has his Walkman headphones on, listening to a popular band of the era (1989); he's blocking her path, obliviously staring out into the distance while holding a scale model of the Derry Standpipe.  Bev, somewhat exasperated, asks if he's going to move.  He does, apologetically, and flustered by the sudden appearance of this tall redhead.  He drops his model, which comes apart.  Bev tells him that Henry Bowers in on the other side of the school, and Ben puts up an "I'm not afraid of THAT guy" front, not with any conviction.  Bev introduces herself, already warming to this genial young fellow; Ben says he knows who she is, because they're in the same social-studies class.  She seems inwardly sorry that she didn't recognize him, so she grabs his yearbook so she can sign it.  When she flips it open, she sees there are no signatures inside the front cover; not a single one.  
  
Here's where Lillis begins to truly shine.  A look of hurt recognition comes over her face; she is both sorry that Ben has no friends AND sorry that she's inadvertently called attention to the fact.  Taylor doesn't play embarrassment or hurt, though; he plays sheer lovestruck wonder.  There's a great shot of Bev opening the yearbook to see the blank pages, and Ben's eyes being visible over the top of it.  These are the most honest puppydog eyes you've ever seen in your life; if you don't respond to this, you have no heart.  Bev responds, and signs her name along with a line of hearts.  Ben is like a man -- well, a boy, anyways -- for whom time and the world have stopped.
  
It's an incredibly sweet set of moments, and immediately becomes one of the all-time great character scenes in a King movie.
  
Taylor is good elsewhere in the film, too; he plays Ben with a tenderness that never turns into sourness or glumness, which would have been natural to do.  Instead, he shows Ben's inner resourcefulness, which makes it more plausible that this chubby fellow would be a key component in fighting a eons-old monster of near-godlike power.
  
  
Finn Wolfhard
  
  
The excellently-named Finn Wolfhard plays Richie, which, for my money, was maybe the most difficult role in the film to cast.  The Richie of the novel is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character, which is almost always the case when King writes a "funny" character.  King and humor do not go together comfortably; they do go together, just ... awkwardly.  
  
For me, the trick to reading a character like Richie is to basically just pretend that the character IS hilarious.  He's not; but if I pretend he is, then he kind of becomes so, at least within the story.
  
I don't know if the screenwriters get the credit for this, or if director Andy Muschietti gets credit for it, or if Wolfhard gets the credit -- or if it's a combination of all of those options -- but somebody made a genius decision regarding Richie Tozier.  They decided to make him be abso-fucking-lutely hilarious, BUT for none of his friends to think he's even slightly funny.  At no point does anybody laugh at one of his jokes; he gets off a good one on several occasions and throws his hand up for a high-five, and whoever is closest to him literally pulls his hand down out of the air.  The extent to which this makes Richie even funnier is genuinely impressive.  This is a Jedi-mind-trick, man; this is Obi Wan telling Vader that if he strikes him down now, he will become more powerful than he can possibly imagine.
  
Wolfhard is probably the kid in the movie everyone is going to be talking about the most.  He's fantastic; I thought he was great in Stranger Things, too, but he's doing something completely different here.  Good luck finding an adult actor to play older Richie as well as Wolfhard does; that's going to be a tall order.
  
  
Jack Dylan Grzer
  
  
Eddie is played by Jack Dylan Grazer, who has done even less than Jeremy Ray Taylor.  Grazer is just as funny as Wolfhard is, which is an aspect of the movie that surprised me.  Eddie is not funny in the book, nor is there any attempt.  
  
Here, I think it is almost entirely Grazer's own talent and personality shining through.  Many of the yuks generated by Eddie come from responding to Richie, or by simply being the sort of neurotic worrywart an Eddie Kaspbrak would undoubtedly be.  The key is that he's gotten mixed up with a group of friends whom he loves, and they are keeping him grounded.  So he worries, he kvetches, he bitches, he moans ... but he goes along with it all, because that's what friends do.
  
I saw somebody on Twitter say that Grazer is this movie's secret weapon, and he may not be far off the mark.  Grazer is going to be revered for his work here, for years to come, especially by anyone who is a kid and sees the movie.
  
  
Wyatt Oleff
  
  
Wyatt Oleff played young Peter Quill in both of the Guardians of the Galaxy films; he has little to do in the second, but is excellent in the first, and he's excellent here, too.  He doesn't make as big an impression as most of his fellow Losers, because Stan's role isn't as showy.
  
Mark my words, though; his is one of the performances that will stick with you, especially if Chapter Two works well.  I mean, I assume you all know where Stan's story goes, right?  Razor blades in a bathtub for adult Stanley Uris.
  
Oleff makes it work, right here in this movie.  He doesn't telegraph it; if you don't know the story, you will still be surprised by it when it happens in the second film, but then when you go back and watch the first, you'll absolutely see it in Oleff's performance.  This kid is terrified of what is happening around him.  He's keeping it together, but only barely.  It won't last forever.
  
So yeah, sure, maybe Stan doesn't get as much to do here as some of the others; but what he gets is crucial, and it's also subtle, and Oleff does very well with all of it.
  
  
Chosen Jacobs
  
  
My biggest gripe with the movie is the way it handles Mike Hanlon.  Don't misunderstand me; Chosen Jacobs does a fine job in the role.  But it's not much of a role; he's really not in the movie very much, despite the fact that he's one of the first Losers we meet.
  
If you're surprised by that, well, trust me, I was surprised too.  I was even more surprised when the movie reassigned Mike's interest in the history of Derry to Ben.  This is possibly going to piss some book-readers off, and I'm sure somebody is going to eventually use the word "whitewashing" to describe it.
  
I think it's purposeful, though.  I think the screenwriters thought that since Mike is an outsider -- a home-schooled kid who doesn't even live in Derry proper -- it would be harder to explain his interest in Derry's history.  A movie that adapts even half of a thousand-page novel has got to do some serious condensation and must maximize its every scene.  Mike's obsession makes perfect sense in the novel, but in the miniseries, he literally sounds like Dr. Exposition, walking into the story so as to tell us things that we need to know.  I think they were afraid of the same thing happening here, but figured out that they could reassign the interest in town history to Ben, who is (a) a loner and (b) a new resident with a natural interest in the place he's found himself.
  
It's actually quite logical, provided that the screenwriters can then find a way to gracefully transfer it back over to Mike for the sequel.  Muschietti has verified in interviews that Mike WILL be staying behind, keeping his role as "lighthouse-keeper" for the others.  That is likely to mean that Mike is the de facto lead character of Chapter Two, so I don't have much fear that the filmmakers have disrespected the character; I just think they made a hard decision in Chapter One designed to keep the story graceful.
  
There probably was a better way to do it, though, one which didn't strand Chosen Jacobs in comparison to the other Losers.  Jacobs seems like a solid enough performer; he looks scared when he ought to, he looks tough when he ought to, he looks like the kind of guy you'd be able to make friends with quickly.  Jacobs gets the job done, but isn't given an opportunity to do much beyond that.
  
That's got all the Losers covered, but there are several other roles worth talking about.
  
  
Jackson Robert Scott
  
  
Casting kids must be tough.  Casting little kids must be brutal.  Jackson Robert Scott, however, does a great job as Georgie.  He's somebody you can understand Bill spending a year trying to find (Georgie's body isn't found in this version of the story, so he's considered missing).  I've seen kid performances so grating that my subconscious self rises up in revolt, and if Georgie had been portrayed by one of those, I'd have subconsciously wondered why Bill was bothering.  You think shit like that doesn't matter; it matters.  It matters a LOT.
  
Scott has recently been cast as Bode Locke in the Locke & Key pilot Muschietti is directing for Hulu.  He'll be terrific in that role.  (His character's sister, Kinsey, is going to be played by Megan Charpentier, who is effective in It as Greta, the girl who bullies Bev and Eddie.)
  
  
Nicholas Hamilton
  
  
Henry Bowers is played by Nicholas Hamilton, who also, in a bit of 19, played a bully in The Dark Tower.  He was fine there in a tiny role, and he's very good here.
  
The screenplay minimizes Henry's role somewhat; only somewhat, but he's definitely reduced in comparison to the novel.  Things must be cut, though, and cutting out Henry's family history was a wise decision.  Gone is Henry's singular focus on Mike Hanlon, which results in a somewhat welcome absence of racial slurs; that aspect of the novel is more or less successful (if overused), but I didn't miss it here one bit.
  
  
Owen Teague
  
  
Owen Teague -- who you might recognize as Ben Mendelson's son from Bloodline -- plays Patrick Hockstetter.  He's great, and if somebody doesn't cast him to play at least one of the Ramones in a Ramones biopic, somebody is dropping the goddamn ball.
  
Weirdly, none of Patrick's story from the novel has made it into the movie.  He's basically just there as one of Henry's gang, and he gets killed off very early.  This are decisions that left me scratching my head a bit.
  
I've got a theory, though.  I think that some of that story is maybe going to be used in chapter Two, and that Teague will be brought back to be the revenant that busts adult Henry out of Juniper Hill.  That is, if Henry is still alive; it's implied that he dies here.  He won't actually have died, I hope; that will be a mistake.
  
Either way, Owen Teague -- who had a small role in Cell and is therefore a King-movie veteran -- is terrific here.
  
  
Stephen Bogaert
  
  
Stephen Bogaert plays Beverly's dad, and he's incredibly creepy, but not so creepy that you feel as if he's unrealistic.  This role could have gone badly wrong; that it manages not to is a testament to Bogaert's performance.  Some people will find him to be scarier than Pennywise.
  
And guess what?  They're not wrong to think that.
  
  
Molly Atkinson
   
  
Molly Atkinson has only a handful of scenes as Eddie 's mother, but she makes them all count.  Sonia Kaspbrak is vile, but, again, not in a cartoonish or unbelievable scene.  She's playing a familiar type; she's a slightly more refined version of the sort of white-trash lunatics found in Rob Zombie films.  Here, the type gets a more suburban spin; she's not homicidal, she just wants to sit around watching television and giving her son advice on how not to cause his allergies to flare up.
  
And yet, the oppressiveness of her love for Eddie shines through.  She's not so overbearing that you feel it is unrealistic that Eddie would turn out as well as he has; but she's also abnormal enough that you see how he would have turned into kind of a fucked-up little kid.  Not majorly fucked-up; just fucked-up enough to stay fucked-up for the rest of his life, in silent and secretive ways.
  
  
Joe Bostick
  
  
Joe Bostick plays Mr. Keene.  It's a small role -- just one scene, really -- but boy, does Bostick make an impression.
  
You know that one scene in the novel?  No, not the Mr. Keene scene.  I mean the scene in the novel, the one in the sewers, when the kids ... uh ... have to find a way to get back out again?
  
Well, that scene in not in this movie, thank Gan.  But the movie does find ways to replicate certain aspects of it, and the ick factor of it is alive and well in the scene from which the above image is taken.  Mr. Keene is leering at somebody, you see; leering at somebody he really -- really -- ought not be leering at.  If this scene doesn't gross you out, you should turn yourself in to the police, immediately.
  
But, you know, he really does look a little bit like Clark Kent...
  
There are other roles, and they are all filled capably -- Steven Williams (Mr. X!) plays Mike's grandfather, for example, and does a good job of it -- but let's now move on.
  
We haven't talked about Andy Muschietti, have we?
  
  
  
  
Andrés "Andy" Muschietti is an Argentinian whose first film, Mama, was a modest hit back in 2013.  I never saw it.  I wanted to, though, because it starred Jessica Chastain, who is not known for picking garbage movies to appear in; I figured that if she was in it, it must have something going for it.
  
Well, I still haven't seen it, but I'm going to change that for Halloween season this year.  And based on his work in It, I suspect Muschietti probably did well with Mama.  
  
Let's get the negatives out of the way first, or negative, singular, because there's really only the one (although I could carp a bit about a mild over-reliance on CGI): the movie isn't scary.  Not for my tastes, at least.  And trust me when I tell you that I'm very scareable once I'm sitting in a darkened movie theatre.
  
In fact, I'm so likely to be scared by movies that I basically haven't seen the last decade's crop of horror films.  A few here and there, sure; but most of the big stuff from, of, let's say 2008 onward...?  Skipped 'em.  At some point, I just decided I was out of that game.  Does this make it necessary for me to change my name to Wussington McPussburger?  Might be, I can't deny it, and don't even want to.
  
The point is, I sat down to see It prepared to be scared.  Instead, what I found was a collection of heavily-telegraphed jump-scares where I could predict the timing of the jump almost to the second.  
  
I don't mind.  I didn't actually need the movie to scare me.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm really here for the characters, all of whom work (Mike being a possible mild exception).  I don't need to be scared, but I do need to believe that those characters are scared.
  
In that, Muschietti succeeded admirably.  "Admirably" is too tender an adjective; Muschietti succeeded triumphantly.  And it also has to be said that just because I was not scared by the movie, it won't scare other audiences.  For example, if you are a twelve-year-old kid who manages to see this, you might be scared out of your wits, and in the best possible way.  For people to whom this movie is an introduction to scary movies, this is quite possibly the 2017 equivalent of what Star Wars was in 1977: a sort of greatest-hits mix-tape of an entire genre of cinema, delivered in a compellingly entertaining package that plays perfectly as a child's-introduction-to-horror(/sci-fi, in the case of Star Wars).
  
For the record, yes, I'm saying it: It is a movie for children.  This might surprise some people, but it needn't: it's a throwback to the wonder cinema of the eighties, when kid-centric films like E.T. and The Goonies and The Lost Boys and Poltergeist and Gremlins and Stand By Me (heard of that one?) and The Monster Squad appeared with regularity.  E.T. gave birth to that sub-genre, I think, and most of the movies that chased its success also had its PG rating, or a PG-13 at worst.
  
But an R-rated kid's movie IS possible; look no farther than The Lost Boys, which is cat(kid)nip to preteens (or was in 1987, at least).  I'd probably also put Fright Night on that list, and I'm sure there are plenty of others that aren't springing immediately to mind.  They need not have kids to entice kids, and those movies are hugely enticing for certain types of children.
  
So will It be.  I don't necessarily feel that Andy Muschietti -- or his sister, producer Barbara Muschietti (whose name I have only now thought to mention, although her omnipresence in the movie's press leads me to believe that she likely had/has a huge creative influence on these films) -- or the screenwriters set out with that goal consciously in mind.  I think they just wanted to properly adapt the novel.  They did that, which means that the kiddie-catnip aspect must be present in the novel, right?
  
Right, I'd say.  I found Stephen King when I was fifteen-about-to-be-sixteen, which is older than many rabid King fans were when they became Constant Readers.  Why is that?  Simple: the genre is attractive to children.  That's step one; that's where the initial interest comes from.  Then, the deal is clinched by virtue of the fact that many of the kids who read King's work find so much there to relate to.  This is probably truer of his seventies and eighties work, when kids featured so prominently in novels like Carrie, 'salem's Lot, The Shining, Firestarter, The Talisman, The Gunslinger, and, of course, It.  
  
I'm straying from the point a bit, but I can bring it back around simply by emphasizing that the tone Muschietti, et al, set with this film is one that perfectly mirrors the parts of King's novel that appeal to juvenile readers.  So whether the film is intended to scare guys like me or not is irrelevant in how it plays.  It didn't scare me, which threw me a bit the first time I watched it.  The second time I watched it, I realized that its lack of scares was actually making me more empathetic toward the Losers themselves, who -- and this is crucial -- ultimately find themselves not scared by the monster.  I was prepared to be scared right along with them, but instead found that I'd gotten to the end a little bit ahead of them.  
  
Did Muschietti craft the film with this goal in mind?  Beats me.  He may suck at scaring people.  All I know is that the end result for this movie is a positive one.
  
Even if I thought it was a negative, though, I'd have no choice but to praise Muschietti's work.  His performances are superb, across the board.  Even some of the background players do tremendous work; the mother of one of the missing kids, Betty Ripsom, has a single scene, in which she's standing outside the school on the last day before summer, hoping in vain that (as one of the kids says with a mix of snark and sympathy) her kid has been hiding in Home-Ec all this time.  The actress playing Mrs. Ripsom (Sonia Gascón) is great; she looks simultaneously haggard and hopeful, and communicates everything she needs to communicate without speaking a word.  She's only in the movie for a few seconds, but in those seconds she manages to deepen the film's themes and mood and emotional impact.  
  
So many filmmakers fail at that sort of thing.  It's understandable, in a way; a character like Mrs. Ripsom is unimportant, in the grand scheme of things.  But stories are like dominoes; if one falls over, it is almost certainly to hit another, and even a tiny domino can take down a whole bunch of larger ones.  (Yes, I know dominoes are basically all the same size; it's an imperfect metaphor, I'll grant you.)  The best filmmakers take care to keep all their dominoes upright, because they know what can happen.  
  
There is not one single poor performance in It.  Not one; no matter what the size of the role, every character/performer seems as if they are worth following and are doing interesting things in their own stories.  Some get less to do than others, of course (Belch and Victor, Henry's pals, are nonentities, for example); but none feel out of place or poorly cast.  
  
This, in turn, helps the movie feel realistic; and THAT, in turn, makes the stakes for the Losers feel greater, because it helps them all feel like real people.  
  
I can't wait to see what Muschietti has in store for Chapter Two.  If he can handle the adults as well as he handled the kids, then it could be an even better movie than this one.
  
There's plenty more to be said about the film, and whenever it comes out on Blu-ray, I'll return to it for a more in-depth exploration.  
  
I'll tell you this now; that sucker is going to be a screencap-a-palooza.  It's a gorgeous film, and a lot of that probably comes down to cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, a (justifiably) lauded DP who has shot great films ranging from Oldboy to Stoker to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  I'm calling it now, this guy is only a step or two away from winning an Oscar.  Later this year, he's got The Current War, in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Thomas Edison, coming out; might want to keep an eye on that.  Oh, and for the love of God, somebody please get him signed up for It: Chapter Two.
  
Other notable contributors whose work I have not yet mentioned:
  
  • Benjamin Wallfisch -- He's the composer of the original score, and while I wouldn't say his music is among the great King-movie scores, it's quite good.  (King-movie scores/soundtracks are deeper in quality than might be generally considered to be the case.  I ranked the major ones in 2014, and my knee-jerk estimate of where Wallfisch's It would rank, based on two viewings and zero listens to the score on disc [it's in the mail], is probably #20 or so.  While we're here, I'd say that Tom Holkenborg's score for The Dark Tower would be probably wind up around #30.)  There are unsettling vocal effects, a couple of good themes, and a wistful quality that serves the movie well.
  • While we're speaking about music, whoever gets credit for song placements -- possibly music supervisor Dana Sano -- gets a thumbs-up from me.  Only a few songs are used, and the temptation must have been strong to lean on that to capture the eightiesness of the setting.  To be sure, the songs are all eighties in origin; and they are gems, just not obvious ones.  You get "Love Removal Machine" by The Cult (awesome), a brief bit of "666" by Anvil (awesome if only for the fact that fucking ANVIL has a song in a movie that just made $100 million in a weekend), "Bust a Move" by Young M.C. (which was released in May 1989, so it represents a super-of-the-moment sound in the film, a nice touch) (oh, and, yes, awesome), "Six Different Ways" by The Cure (awesome), "Antisocial" by Anthrax (awesome), and "Dear God" by XTC (a hugely interesting inclusion given its placement in the movie plus some of King's statements about how he views the novel/movie as a meditation of faith and belief).  Plus some other very brief usages I'm not going to mention.  I need you to hold on and see the movie lest I ruin a couple of top-notch jokes; if you can't manage that, what'cha gonna do about it?  Trust me; it's gold.
  • Gary Dauberman -- He's the screenwriter who wrote the final draft, building on an earlier draft by Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga.  I think that they, combined, did a heck of a job of finding ways to make a single film out of half the novel.  Less than half, really.  they added their own touches, and made changes to King's story (some, such as Mike's parents having died, significant), but always in service of retaining the tone and thematic intent of the novel.  
  • Javier Botet -- Read this.  How awesome is it that he's getting work?  He's said he wants to appear in a Star Wars movie, and this is something that needs to happen.
  • Carter Musselman -- He plays the headless boy in Ben's first encounter with Pennywise, and that's one of the standout moments in the film, for me.  I've said the movie isn't scary, but here's a fact: a great deal of it is sticking with me, and there are individual moments (such as this one) that are already becoming iconic horror-movie moments.
  • Claude Paré, Peter Grundy, and Rosalie Board -- The production designer, art director, and set decorator, respectively; they all did a terrific job of making this $35 million film look like it cost a lot more.  The locations they filmed on look great, and the sets do, too.
  • Janie Bryant -- she was the costume designer, and she's won an Emmy for her work on Deadwood, and got nominated four times for Mad Men.  So, yeah, she's kind of awesome.  Her work here is great, too; like Bill Skarsgård, she had a tough act to follow in coming up with a look for Pennywise that wouldn't disappoint fans of Tim Curry's version.  I think she -- along with the makeup and hair people -- succeeded admirably.  Her choices for the kids are also good; they look like exactly what they are supposed to look like, kids from the eighties.  I especially like her choices for Patrick Hockstetter (vintage teenage-dirtbag look).
 
 
So all in all, this is an instant classic, as far as I'm concerned.  Maybe there's a little too much CGI in some places, and maybe some of it isn't as successful as it could have been; maybe a few of the story decisions/abridgements don't fully work (although the sequel could change that in some cases).  Personally, I thought the rock-fight scene came off flat (despite being scored with an Anthrax song).  But so what?  Those are just trees, baby; I'm talkin' 'bout a forest, and this forest is a lush and lovely one.
  
Before we go, let's talk briefly about the box office.  It went through the damn roof, and if anybody tells you it was anything other than a surprise, they are either a liar or a genius.  Me?  Like I said earlier, I thought the potential was there for it to be a hit; but in my wildest dreams, I didn't imagine it could make $123 million in its opening weekend.  That's the #27 top opening-weekend gross of all time.  Unless you count things like the Twilight movies and Harry Potter and Jurassic World (which I wouldn't, although arguments for them could be made) as horror, then this is not only the top-grossing horror-movie opening weekend, but it's in #1 by a nearly-unassailable margin; unless Chapter Two breaks it, that spot might go unchallenged for the next twenty years.  If you want to read more about the box office performance, here's a good article about it.  Suffice it to say, though, this is a performance that people will be talking about for many, many years to come.
  
That being the case, I think it's useful to attempt an on-the-ground, embedded-with-the-troops sort of analysis of just why and how this happened.  Because while it is by no means unprecedented for a horror film (or a film marketed as a horror film) to be a huge crossover hit, you have to go back nearly two decades to find the last time it happened: The Sixth Sense, which did so on the back of a truly awesome plot twist.  Prior to that?  Poltergeist, maybe, although that one was smaller in scale.  Jaws was probably the one prior to it, and The Exorcist before that, and Psycho the one before that.  Those last two are the closest examples; they were among the first true blockbusters, and they came along at precisely the right time to be what they ended up being, financially.
  
So is the case with It.  The writing was probably on the wall when the first trailer came out and astonished the industry by setting the record for all-time trailer views in a single day.  Even then, though, industry estimates as late as mid-summer were that the film was going to gross $40 million in its opening weekend and maybe a hundred mil overall.
  
And let the record show that that would have been sufficient to make it go down in history as a hit, AND as one of the biggest King films ever.  The estimates gradually began to swell as tracking began to trend upward and social-media engagement was taken into consideration.  Then, when presales began to be counted, you began to hear experts saying things like, "Well, we think maybe $60 million opening weekend, but we're hearing whispers that some industry folks think as high as $80 million."  That's tracking-speak for "holy fuck, we don't know, but it's going to be HUGE."  It's exactly what happened when presales for The Avengers and The Force Awakens (both of which were expected to be huge but were not even imagined to be as huge as they ended up being) began.
 
Why It?
  
In my opinion, it's a convergence of numerous factors:
  
  • inherently popular source material (the novel and the miniseries)
  • excellent marketing
  • great reviews (meaning that it's a high-quality product and therefore something that enables growth in performance, rather than the shrinkage that accompanies a low-quality product and the ensuing poor word of mouth)
  • the persistent, yet continually undervalued, popularity of the horror genre
  • a major -- and "major" is an understatement -- box-office slump during the latter half of the summer, leading to built-up desire to go to the movies on the part of people who otherwise go semi-regularly
  
There are probably other factors at play, too.  The biggest: the cultural climate in America is one in which fear is running rampant.  I'm not going to go off on too big a tangent about this, but I think it absolutely HAS to be mentioned, if only so that, years from now, when people are looking back on it and trying to put it all in context, they've got at least one tool at their disposal.
  
I am a firm believer in the idea that what you fear says a lot about you.  You could modify that hypothesis by speculating that when you fear also says a lot about you.  Without getting political, I think it's safe to say that there's plenty to be afraid of right now.  There's always plenty to be afraid of; but, for at least the past year, and probably the last two (if not more), there's plenty that people ARE afraid of.  We won't get into the specifics; this is not a political place, and anyways, it's not purely a political conversation (despite what some people would have you believe).  It's a very large topic, and there will be many, many resources available to the scholars of the future trying to figure out what the people of the late twenty-teens were afraid of and why they got so scared of those things.
  
For our purposes, it's sufficient simply to point out that we are as afraid right now as we've been in half a century or more.
  
Is the enormous opening-weekend success of It a direct outgrowth of that ramped-up tension?  I think it absolutely is, BUT ... and this is crucial, ye future scholars ... the success was/is not only due to that fear.  There are indeed other factors at play, such as the ones mentioned above.  Ask yourself this: if It had come out earlier in the summer -- let's say one week after the $140 million plus opening weekend of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- would it have done as well?  Probably not; can't say for sure (it might have sucked some of the air out of the Guardians' performance for all I know), but I think the softness of the marketplace was a major factor.  Conversely, if another horror movie had opened a week ahead of It during the same month -- let's say if Get Out had opened here rather than in the winter of '17 -- would it have satisfied much of the same demand?  Maybe; although I tend to think the inherent qualities of It made it a uniquely potent ticket-selling force.
  
My guess is that it was always going to be at least a minor hit, even if done poorly; done well, it was always likely to be a hit.  As is, though, it landed in precisely the right place at precisely the right time in precisely the right cultural climate.
  
And here's where the movie not actually being that scary really comes into play.
  
See, unlike some horror movies, I think the underlying messages and themes of this story are overwhelmingly positive.  There's a terrific scene ending the movie's second act in which the Losers become fractured, and go through a sort of breakup in the middle of the street.  "It wants to divide us!" Beverly warns her friends, and by the end of the movie, the message is clear: if they are going to triumph, they have to stay together, stand together, fight together.  It's win together or lose apart; Bill tells them all that what Pennywise wants is to keep them separate and pick them off, one by one.
  
This is always good advice, but let's not overlook the fact that $123 million worth of people -- people seemingly (based on my limited observations) from all walks of life, from multiple generations, of multiple persuasions and backgrounds and interests -- walked into movie theatres this weekend and sat down to witness that idea played out over the course of a couple of hours.  (And I'm not the first to notice this, by the way, Anthony Breznican published a piece making the same observation on September 11.  More synchronicity, that.)
  
Maybe that's one of the takeaways from this film: that thing -- whatever it is (it's different for each of us, although potentially also the same for many of us) -- really isn't all that much to be afraid of, especially if we all refuse to be afraid of it, and refuse to let it continue to harm us.
  
We're better together than we are apart.  That's one of this movie's major themes, and I don't know that it could have come along at a better time.  The movie's massive opening-weekend success probably doesn't reflect that theme, but the performance from its second weekend forward surely will.  I'm not into the prognostication business, because that way lies madness; but I have a feeling about this one.  I think it's going to hold up quite well, and might still be playing strongly come Halloween.
  
Either way, both in terms of the film's quality and in terms of its reception, I don't know that King fans could have asked for much better.  It's truly a fine moment to say you're a Constant Reader.  I mean, when isn't?  But it's nice to have a little validation from time to time.
  
As Beverly says in one scene here, "I never felt like a loser when I was with you guys."
  
Damn right.

52 comments:

  1. Ah, I was hoping that you would share your thoughts on this one! I loved it as well; I'm glad that my expectations of it weren't drawn and quartered.

    Over the weekend, the host of the Stephen Kingcast put out a call for listener feedback for his review of the film. In the interests of time, I'll reproduce here what I sent him, putting in brackets any new remarks. It may take a few comments to do so completely.

    ***

    I had been looking forward to the new IT adaptation since the first teaser dropped earlier this year, and after catching a screening yesterday (September 9th), I was not disappointed. Is it a perfect, 1:1 adaptation of the 1957-58 portions of the novel? Of course not--the mere fact that they moved the time period forward by thirty years ruled that out. I do, however, think that they did justice to the overall spirit of the novel.

    It's hard to resist drawing comparisons between this and a certain... other King adaptation that was released recently, but where THE DARK TOWER was a rushed, muddled mess, I felt that IT streamlined the admittedly dense source material as necessary while still doing it justice. We have to remember, after all, that even adjusting for the shift in time period, a straight adaptation of that half of the novel would probably be flirting with at least four hours' worth of running time. [I've heard other people complain that IT is too bloated to warrant the praise that it gets. One comment in particular that I confess to finding a bit amusing is that the novel "is two hundred pages too long with a title that's two letters too short." I disagree, but I absolutely see why people would feel that way, and if their tastes run that way, I can't say that they're wrong.] If THE DARK TOWER represents the drunken, halfhearted skimming of a Wikipedia summary, IT demonstrates the work of creators who are familiar with the novel and tried to accurately portray it while still adhering to the limitations of time, budget, etc.

    Were there things that I, as a fan of the novel, disliked about it? Of course. The abduction of Beverly seemed trite to me, but her active role in the subsequent battle did help to make up for that in my mind. The literal floating made me roll my eyes a little, and the throwaway line about the kids coming back down after Pennywise's defeat made me worry for a moment that they'd go the route of having the kids just be catatonic, coming back to life like Beverly after Its influence wears off. I was glad (how weird to phrase it like that) that they were well and truly dead--to have these dozens of victims all turn out to be okay would severely lessen the monster's villainy in my eyes. I would have liked to have seen Mr. Keene be the one to, as in the novel, spill the beans to Eddie about his meds being fake. I would have also liked to have seen Pennywise take additional forms--the werewolf, the mummy, the Rodan-thing, etc., but those are probably more the quibbles of a book fan more than anything else. It makes one wonder, though: if kids from the '50s were scared of the Teenage Werewolf and the Mummy, what would scare these Losers if we adjust for thirty more years of pop-cultural baddies? Would it be fair to expect the filmmakers to buy the rights to show It taking the form of the Alien? Michael Myers? Carpenter's version of the Thing?

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    1. I have to say that I was surprised at the lack of "You'll float, too!" during the Georgie/Pennywise encounter at the beginning of the film, though the line does get its use as the film progresses. Incidentally, it was a bit surreal to hear Pennywise talk about popcorn being his "favorite" while I was sitting in a screening room filled with people (myself included) who were eating the stuff. Intentional on the part of the screenwriters, do you think? [To be clear, even without a 100% accurate adaptation of that scene's dialogue, I liked that sequence. I wasn't scared, probably because I knew what was coming, but it was nevertheless very effective.]

      Would it have been nice to see the smokehouse vision? Yes. Would it have been nice to see the slingshot and the silver slugs? Yes. Would it have been nice to see the Ritual of Chud? Yes. Would it have been nice to see the Turtle? Yes. As a fan of the novel, it would have been wonderful to see all of those things, but I also have to ask: does the film work on its own? For me, yes, absolutely. With regard to the last two of the elements I mentioned, we have to remember that both of the novel's story arcs end with the Ritual and the battle-inside-the-mind with It. Had they included the Ritual, the Spider, and the Turtle here, it would have seemed repetitive, especially to non-book-reader moviegoers, if the second chapter ends the same way. Now, my gut tells me that we will see neither the Ritual nor the Turtle in the next installment (though I think that the Spider is still a possibility), but it's still worth keeping that in mind, I think. The couple of shout-outs to the Turtle do show the filmmakers were aware of it and wished to include it in some way, and I did appreciate it. If we're lucky, those Easter eggs may end up serving as foreshadowing when the sequel floats around.

      I thought that the performances were strong all around. I don't always like child actors' performances, but I loved the Losers: Finn Wolfhard is great, of course, and I think that Sophia Lillis has great, great things ahead of her. Bill Skarsgård brought a definite creepiness to his portrayal--less affably evil monster clown and more eldritch abomination trying its damnedest to pretend to be human. I know the 1990 miniseries mostly by reputation: I've seen a few scenes, but I've yet to sit down and watch the whole thing. I do like what I've seen of Curry's portrayal, though, and I think that Skarsgård more than fills his shoes.

      I also liked that music, enough of a fixture of King's novels as to be considered its own Kingism, had an appreciable presence here as well. It's obvious that King loves his rock and roll (as do I), and it was good to see the filmmakers recognize that, adjusting the specific songs as needed to the '80s.

      All in all, I'd call this a solid 4/5 for me. My issues with the film can't be dismissed, but they weren't such that I couldn't enjoy the movie. If THE DARK TOWER is an example of how to do an adaptation poorly, IT is an example of how to do one well. To me, it comes down to this: absent any knowledge of the source material, THE DARK TOWER explodes on impact, but IT makes me want to return to the novel, even though it's only been four and a half months since I read it. [Looking at this now, I think that I was a bit unclear. What I meant was that if I had read neither IT nor any of the DARK TOWER novels, seeing THE DARK TOWER would not make me rush out to read THE GUNSLINGER, but IT would make me want to experience the source material for myself. Now that I mention it, imagine the mental whiplash that must have happened to people who saw THE DARK TOWER and *then* went out and read the first book.]

      ***

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    2. [Thus ends my e-mail to the Kingcast.]

      I eagerly await CHAPTER TWO, and I'll definitely keep an eye out for news as its production moves forward. I haven't given much thought to whom I'd cast as the adult Losers, but my first choice for Beverly would be Jessica Chastain.

      All in all, I loved the movie, and I'm fine with the liberties that it took with the source material, with, as you mentioned, the possible exception of Mike's diminished role. How they treat him in the next part will determine how I ultimately feel about that.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with your readers. It was great to see the positive buzz that it got when the review embargo lifted, especially after the debacle that was that... other King movie that came out recently.

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    3. Lots to chew on here, so I'll just go through and take some time to respond to individual points:

      (1) "Ah, I was hoping that you would share your thoughts on this one!" -- Well, thank you! I wanted to finish it quicker, but I'm getting to be real good at taking cat-video breaks while allegedly writing.

      (2) "Over the weekend, the host of the Stephen Kingcast put out a call for listener feedback for his review of the film." -- I look forward to his review of it. I'm actually in the midst of listening to his episodes about the novel/miniseries again, and they're just as good as I remembered.

      (3) "I've heard other people complain that IT is too bloated to warrant the praise that it gets." -- I've heard that, too, and I just don't get it. Is it long? Sure. Is it bloated? Arguably, but when the bloat is as good as what King presents here -- Stan's wife's backstory, or Patrick's backstory, etc. -- then why would anyone complain about it? I think all too often, readers treat books as a challenge to be surmounted rather than an experience to be had. For my tastes, if the quality level is consistent, a book as good as "It" could be ten thousand pages long and it wouldn't be too long for me. Might hamper my ability to reread it, but other than that? No complaints from me.

      (4) "If THE DARK TOWER represents the drunken, halfhearted skimming of a Wikipedia summary, IT demonstrates the work of creators who are familiar with the novel and tried to accurately portray it while still adhering to the limitations of time, budget, etc." -- I could not agree more. Well, that's not true; I actually don't think the people who made The Dark Tower put in even that much work. I think they wrote the movie based on half-way listening to people summarizing an article about a messageboard post about the Wikipedia page. Fuck that movie. Can't wait to draw and quarter THAT one. (But I AM going to wait, at least until the Blu-ray is out.)

      (5) "The abduction of Beverly seemed trite to me" -- I've heard other people say this, and I'm not onboard with it, because she's never made to be a damsel in distress. She's active through the whole experience (including her time in the deadlights), and the fact that it's their love for her that brings the Losers BACK together is a moving and satisfactory replacement for the, uhm, problematic sewer-orgy scene in the novel. (A scene that I don't loathe the way most people do; it's transgressive, and was probably a bad idea, but I see what he was going for, and think he got a good part of the way there.)

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    4. (6) "The literal floating made me roll my eyes a little" -- Yeah, me too. It was a cool image, though, and while it's a bit nonsensical as a story point, I think it works okay enough.

      (7) "the throwaway line about the kids coming back down after Pennywise's defeat made me worry for a moment that they'd go the route of having the kids just be catatonic" -- I worried about that for a split-second, but knew that if they were going to go that route, Bill would have gotten to say goodbye to the actual Georgie. Since they'd avoided that, I knew they weren't going there. I think they did that so as to make it more plausible in the sequel when it's revealed that Henry -- still very much alive -- is convicted of killing them all.

      (8) "I would have liked to have seen Mr. Keene be the one to, as in the novel, spill the beans to Eddie about his meds being fake." -- That was an odd choice. I can only assume that since they gave it to Greta, they must have some plan for her character being part of the sequel.

      (9) "what would scare these Losers if we adjust for thirty more years of pop-cultural baddies?" -- It was pointed out by somebody that since this was a New Line movie, Freddy Krueger could have shown up. I'm torn as to whether I think that would have been awesome or awful, and I think I'm glad they opted not to do it. But yeah, they could have used any characters owned by New Line or Warner Bros., so I'm sure there were other options.

      (10) "Would it have been nice to see the smokehouse vision? Yes." -- Word on the street is that they plan to do some version of this in the sequel, via Mike using drugs so as to get into a hallucinatory state. I need to see how it plays, but I think I like this. It's simpler, but gets to the same place, theoretically.



      (11) "Had they included the Ritual, the Spider, and the Turtle here, it would have seemed repetitive, especially to non-book-reader moviegoers, if the second chapter ends the same way." -- Great point!

      (12) "The couple of shout-outs to the Turtle do show the filmmakers were aware of it and wished to include it in some way, and I did appreciate it. If we're lucky, those Easter eggs may end up serving as foreshadowing when the sequel floats around." -- I think maybe they realized that they could put the references in, and then let the Internet do the rest. There are articles all over the place talking about the Turtle, and they SEEM to almost entirely be positive. The subtle, Easter-egg-style inclusions seem to be pulling people further into the story, which is a major win.

      (13) "I also liked that music, enough of a fixture of King's novels as to be considered its own Kingism, had an appreciable presence here as well." -- Another great point!

      (14) "THE DARK TOWER explodes on impact, but IT makes me want to return to the novel, even though it's only been four and a half months since I read it." -- A hell of a recommendation; probably as good as it gets.

      (15) "imagine the mental whiplash that must have happened to people who saw THE DARK TOWER and *then* went out and read the first book." -- Yeah, for sure. I mean, they are basically not the same thing at all.

      (16) "but my first choice for Beverly would be Jessica Chastain." -- I'd say there is virtually no way this isn't who plays her. Muschietti has all but said that's who he wants, which tells me that they are only waiting on contracts to be signed. I can't wait to find out who they get for all the parts!

      (17) Thanks for sending me all of these thoughts! I love it.

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    5. Regarding having Pennywise take the shape of Freddy Krueger, there's an interview with Muschietti on Ain't It Cool News where he addresses this. In a nutshell, he seriously considered it, but then decided that it might be the sort of thing that would draw the viewer out of the scene, so he decided not to do it.

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    6. I think it was the right decision, although I'd probably have kinda enjoyed it.

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    7. regarding Nightmare on elm street, it felt to me like the director was giving a nod to that movie with the shot of Pennywise's hand extending into the werewolf claw. The framing of that shot was very reminiscent (to me) of a similar shot of Freddy's hand in the original NOES.

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    8. Oh, yeah, for sure. That hadn't occurred to me until you mentioned it, but if that's not an intentional homage, I'd be surprised.

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  2. Mr. Burnette:
    Should we call you Number One now?
    This is a movie I'm actually excited to see and have been for some time.I just re-bought a paperback copy (the same one I had recently) and watched the TV movie on Spike the other day to get primed for it. Usually I am underwhelmed by movies, but I don't think that will be the case here. I haven't seen it yet but already can't wait for the second part. It sounds like you had a good weekend at work despite the onslaught. Good for you.
    Make it so.

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    1. Make it so, indeed!

      Nah, no need to call me Number One -- just don't say I'm number two! Bah-DUM-ss!

      I hope you enjoy the movie if/when you see it.

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  3. I haven't seen this, but I was excited to read your review. Great stuff - I'll definitely be circling back to run my trap once I get the chance to see it/It.

    Make it so indeed! (There sure are worse nicknames to have than Riker or Number One.)

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    1. We watched it tonight.

      I liked it all right, but I wasn't blown away.

      I definitely think you are correct when you say this will be an R-rated-film-for-kids (Fright Night is a great comparison) that will be an entry-level widely-shared film. It'll be interesting to see if it actually plays out that way, but I can totally see that.

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    2. Only time will tell, I guess. But it seems like a solid prediction.

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    3. (1) Seems I'm the odd man out with Skarsgard's Pennywise. I didn't think too, too much of his performance. And all the stutter-stops-motion/ wide mouths, etc. just didn't work for me. At the end when Bill tells him they aren't afraid, I was like yeah, join the club; he's just acting like a bad CGI effect given a modicum of sentience. There is some precedent to the hypnosis/ too-many-teeth/ extended jaw ness in the book, but (these latter points) have been rendered kind of meaningless by being in roughly 50,000,000 horror movies since. I'm surprised he didn't roar like a CGI Kraken while he was stutter-stop-motioning.

      (2) I don't think anyone who hasn't read the book is going to come away from the movie with the idea that Pennywise instills terror so he can salt the meat before eating it. He even says it a couple of times, but that's what I mean: the way the lines are delivered and the lack of context for them just means the kids are hearing generic horror dialogue ("yummy fear" etc.) Except for when he sniffs Beverly at the end, but by then it was too late for me.

      (3) A word on the "floaters" in the sewer: one thing that always bugged me about the miniseries was how it turned a silly, completely un-scary line ""THEY ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE!") into some kind of catchphrase. It's in the book, sure, but Pennywise has a broad range of action and dialogue in the book. It's not his mantra. (On last read, I counted the times it appeared and it's like one-millionth the amount of times "Beep Beep Ritchie" is said). I wish they'd left out a few dozen for this new movie, particularly from Georgie.

      (4) Speaking of, outside of the initial death scene, the Georgie scenes were kind of painful. The kids give it their best, but I think too much was expected of the child playing Georgie in the pivotal confrontation with Bill scene.

      (5) Anyway, back to floaters: I joked with Dawn at one point that it's not anyone is actually floating, so why do they keep making such a specific point of it? Then at the end I said oh hey, how about that. But then it made me grumpy. What is the point of it? I can think of a few, but it just seemed a big set piece whose logical point of relation was subordinated to "hey this'll look cool." Which admittedly is a hundred horror films' motivation and who cares, but yeah, that mildly bugged me.

      (6) Mainly the tone of things just felt off. The humor didn't mix with the seriousness, for me. In theory, an 80s montage cleaning the bathroom should have landed with me, as did the "gazebos/ placebos" line, and many other moments. I SHOULD have loved "Antisocial" for the rock fight, and yet it just didn't land. The Kevin Bacon/Lou Diamond Philips visual analogs for Henry and Patrick should have worked, but meh.

      I was disappointed, I guess. Woke up feeling much clearer about it. I'll probably like it more the next time I see it. And I'll definitely still check out pt. 2 of course; it's always so difficult to comment on just the first part of anything.

      (7) I agree with your notes on compartmentalization and transcribing for the screen, but I, too, felt Mike Hanlon kind of got the shaft. And the scene where they rescue him and he tells his fire story while the camera slowly zooms in is just badly designed. We're meant to share in their bonding, but it just didn't come off right. (For me.)

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    4. (8) So yeah, positives: a) Didn't care too much for Skarsgard, but the casting worked pretty much, Bev being the stand-out. c) Derry seemed okay, although I've got to hand it to the mini-series for the Barrens.

      (9) I usually joke about narration in King films - it seems like such a go-to for those who adapt him to the screen. Not illogically - it makes sense to preserve some of his authorly voice, and usually it works all right. I think this one might have used one, especially since we know there's a sequel coming. I don't know, just a thought.

      Clearly whatever decisions they made were the correct ones, given its success, but I wish I'd have enjoyed it more. As it is, I've got to give "Gerald's Game" the King Adaptation Prize for 2017.

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    5. (1) I, too, could have lived without the huge-mouth-full-of-teeth thing. A few shots of it worked for me -- like when Bev sees the deadlights inside its maw -- but a few of them very much did not.

      (2) I can't argue with that, apart from saying that a lot of the choices made in the depictions seem to have had the result of putting the audience in sympatico with the kids. THEY don't know that's what's going on, so the audience doesn't, either. Now, whether that was ingenuity on the part of the filmmakers or just an accident is something I leave to you to decide. (I tend to think it was an accident, but one that worked -- given the extent to which audiences did identify with the kids/movie, I think it worked well.)

      (3) Agreed. I can live without catchphrases in general. Bless Uncle Steve's heart, though, he loves 'em to death. He must have sent out at least 19 float-related Tweets while that movie was in theatres.

      (4) Really? I thought the kid playing Georgie was good throughout. Maybe not much more than good, though.

      (5) This aspect of the movie doesn't make a lick of sense, I cannot deny it. I'm very happy that I didn't know about that going in, because I would have been up in arms about it. That said, I actually liked it within the context of the movie. I have no idea why; it's probably just that the movie had captivated me emotionally well before that point, so I was inclined to just go with it, whatever that turned out to be.

      But if I'm being objective about it, I have to admit that aspect was indeed a failure.

      (6) The rock fight scene was a complete dud for me, too. Especially the slow-motion "fuck you, bitch" moment. Ugh.

      (7) If the second movie doesn't more or less belong to Mike, then these movies will have failed that character.

      (8) The Barrens aren't even in this movie, are they? Not really. Hard to cram everything in to a single movie, but I was surprised that was omitted.

      (9) I could see that happening for the second movie.

      As for "Gerald's Game" taking the prize for the year, I have heard several other folks say the same. I do believe that one has become a bit of a classic already. Well earned!

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    6. (4) I think it was just the BLAM! scene. It was too big not to land big with me, and it didn't, so I think I retconned his other scenes. You're right, tho, he's above par. And the BLAM! scene, too, I guess.

      I watched it again (well, skipped around a bit) and as I suspected enjoyed it a bit more. Skarsgard included. Looking forward to pt. 2! (But I was, either way!)

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    7. Don't feel bad about being a bit underwhelmed. You're not the only person who was/is. I'm glad a rewatch improved it for you a bit, though!

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  4. I saw the movie on Friday and really really liked it. When asked by a friend I met for dinner afterwards I gave it an 8/10, maybe an 8.5.

    Then I went to see it again on Saturday with my brother and nephew and I realized I loved it. Afterwards I rated it a solid 8.5, maybe even a 9. Then my brother and I both agreed... this is going to be a classic.

    I'm considering going to see it again soon with another group. The theatre experience for this movie is just really great.

    Anyway, great review, loved you analysis and enthusiasm. After The Dark Tower I was so happy to see It be as successful as it was.

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    1. Early box-office signs are that it is going to continue to do monster business, so I suspect plenty of folks are seeing it a second time. That generally only happens when people love a movie, and that crowd experience is often a key component.

      Say what you will about theatres being full of annoying people (they often are) in the audiences, but when you get a great movie with a well-behaved and responsive crowd, that shit is like heroin.

      I say that not knowing what heroin is like outside the realm of "Trainspotting," and based on that movie, it makes you shit the bed and imagine babies on the ceiling. So ... NOT like heroin, maybe.

      It's like SOMEthing addictive though!

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  5. I thought Skarsgard's best moment was his first scene with Georgie, but overall he did an excellent job with a role comes with a pretty unique set of challenges. I appreciated how different his portrayal of Pennywsise was from Curry's, and for me, nowhere was this more apparent than the iconic opening sewer drain scene. There's a moment where Georgie is repeating "pop! pop!" and laughing and enjoying himself, and the film cuts to a cold, blank yet still malevolent stare on Skarsgard's face. A complete lack of anything resembling humanity sets this portrayal apart from Curry's, in my view. One is not better than the other, but I enjoyed the different approach.

    I could have watched an entire film about the Loser's Club, without anything supernatural occurring, that's how good these kids were and how strong the script was. Eddie and Richie in particular had such natural and warm chemistry, it felt like a genuine friendship, and the kids felt like kids, not tiny adults.

    If there's one thing I wanted and didn't get, it was Bill verbally smacking-down Pennywise. I felt it would have been cathartic and elicited much applause in theaters across the world. There was a moment in the Fukanaga script where Bill runs out to the street at night and screams into the sewers, putting Pennwysie on notice and letting him know he's not afraid of him/it. And that he plans on avenging his brother.

    Overall, it felt like the cinematic equivalent of a trip to a haunted house with a group of pals. Not terrifying by any stretch of the imagination, but a spooky-good time.

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    1. "I appreciated how different his portrayal of Pennywsise was from Curry's" -- Absolutely. And that was the only way to go, really.

      "I could have watched an entire film about the Loser's Club" -- Yep. Wouldn't even have to involve the supernatural. Just those kids going through life; I'd watch every episode.

      "If there's one thing I wanted and didn't get, it was Bill verbally smacking-down Pennywise." -- I was convinced that the "thrusts his fists," etc., thing was going to play a major role in that way. So yeah, I agree with you on this.

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  6. Great review, and you're mostly spot-on. First, allow me to opine that this adaptation couldn't possibly have worked as well if they'd stayed in the fifties. I haven't watched the miniseries in probably 20 years, but I did watch it repeatedly with my best friend in high school, and even Teenage Me thought that pretty much the entire second half was completely retarded, and if that was my opinion then, I can't imagine it would improve much for my more sophisticated self. Even in 1990, the things that terrified the kids were out of date. I loved that they updated it, and did it without doing the showy "Hey! It's the eighties!" thing they always do in movies. In Stranger Things, it's appropriate. Here, it would have been a distraction. And the "Hi ho, Silver, away!" was thankfully absent.

    Second, as you said, they nailed it with the kids. Eddie is a much stronger character than in the book. Bill and Ben both couldn't have been better, in my opinion. Georgie you just want to scoop up and hug. Stan doesn't do much but look horrified, but as you say, that sets the groundwork for what's coming. You are probably right that Mike wasn't developed enough, and I wonder if the racial slurs might have actually helped. You don't get a sense that Henry Bowers is being anything but the sadistic prick he is to everyone. I thought Richie really shined, and I was glad he was toned-down enough that you can believe that anyone could hang around him for more than five minutes (and the constant "beep, beep"). He has a major mouth, and combined with the huge glasses and bug face, and no exposition is needed to show that this kid is bully catnip. And of course, Sophia Lillis was every bit as wonderful as you said. I wasn't sure whether I liked the hint that her father was doing more than teetering on the edge of incest, but I liked that she was able to use her budding sexuality to distract a gross, pervy old man without going all Lolita on us, and maybe that was the director's reasoning for giving her that ability. I loved the innocence of the boys gawking at her like she's an alien (which anyone who's ever been an adolescent boy). They gave her just enough of an edge with the cigarettes while keeping her kindness and general harmlessness. I didn't love the abduction. To me, it did feel a little like a damsel in distress, who's literally saved by true love's first kiss, but because they'd made her character strong by then, it's just a minor gripe.

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    1. "First, allow me to opine that this adaptation couldn't possibly have worked as well if they'd stayed in the fifties." -- Hmm. Well, I think maybe it COULD have, in theory; I'm not sure the setting mattered much at all, except that it gave people buying tickets a different connection to it than they would have otherwise had. From that standpoint, it's slotting in admirably to the eighties-nostalgia boom that's fully in effect right now.

      "Even in 1990, the things that terrified the kids were out of date." -- I don't entirely agree, but I know what you mean. I think it's a matter of how it was filmed. Imagine the same stuff, but executed as well as it's executed in the new version. That MIGHT work.

      "And the "Hi ho, Silver, away!" was thankfully absent." -- Oh, but it isn't! You hear Bill yelling it during the moment when Ben sees the Losers riding their bikes past the library. I am curious to see how they handle that in the sequel. I don't think they can possibly end it with Silver saving Audra.

      "To me, it did feel a little like a damsel in distress, who's literally saved by true love's first kiss, but because they'd made her character strong by then, it's just a minor gripe." -- I'd argue that she is saved by the power of Ben's belief, and I'd also argue that while she is captured by the deadlights, she's not submitting to them. I suspect you will find out in the sequel that once it all goes down, Pennywise will really, really wish she had not already been there. We'll see!

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    2. Okay, couldn't is a strong word. I'd probably phrase that differently. But I definitely don't think anything was lost by changing the era.

      You may be right about Bev's importance in Chapter 2. It's a little tricky to review a movie properly that's obviously setting things up that we're unaware of, and some of the changes may work very well when it's all said and done. Altogether, I thought they did great with Bev's characterization.

      I completely missed any verbal mention of Silver.

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    3. Yeah, it's very low in the mix. Depending on what the sound is like at the theatre you visited, it might have been too buried to be heard. It's there, though, I promise!

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  7. (continuation from above)

    Now on to the others: Skarsgard was certainly effective as Pennywise, but I agree, I wasn't terrified. Knowing the source material as well as the miniseries might have helped there, but it might be that I'm just pretty well desensitized now and don't scare as easy. (Okay, with one exception: the slideshow was pretty creepy, and when Pennywise does a Ring-like crawl off the screen into living flesh might have pushed me over to skeered, but the danger ends almost immediately after, so it kind of let me off the hook). I enjoyed some of the little flourishes Skarsgard added to the character, like the way he speaks through the buckteeth, but the one that really stood out for me was how he has a few seconds once in a while where he goes blank for a few seconds and drools, almost like he's rebooting.

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    1. Yeah, definitely. The best one of those for me was when he is seen withdrawing after manifesting in the Denbrough basement. It is almost as if the unit has been switched off and is being reeled back in to wherever it originated from. Weird, unsettling stuff. I love it!

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  8. I wish I could say I liked this film, but, yeah, I went away real disappointed.

    For me, it all starts when Skarsgard is introduced in the sewer grate. What’s frustrating is I hear him deliver lines from the actual novel, and for a minute it looks like this could be interesting.

    Skarsgard: Pennywise, meet Georgie.

    Me (intrigued): …Yes?

    Skarsgard: Georgie, meet Pennywise.

    Me (getting exiceted): Yes, yes?!

    Skarsgard: Pop!

    Me:…Whuh?

    Skarsgard: Pop-pop!

    Me: Um, dude, no.

    Skarsgard: Pop-pop-pop!

    Me: You’re gonna wanna do a 180 backtrack from that, pronto, if you wanna save-

    Skarsgard: (completes the scene).

    Unfortunately, he also undercuts it. It didn’t get any better for me from there. The irony is I had the exact opposite reaction for Tozier. After a few lines, I was thinking, “What the heck did they do to you, man?!” I always saw Richie as something of a quick-change artist. He has no sense of self-worth, so he always hides behind vocal masks, which he’s always changing at the speed of light to make sure others won’t discover how pathetic he at least believes himself to be. Here, I think he’s just been relegated to standard-comic-relief. Granted, Richie would always be tricky as how many people do you know who can perfectly mimic the voices of others? That, and it would be odd to see an eleven year old boy towering over Pennywise, and then hear him exclaim in the exact voice of John Goodman, “See what happens when you “find” a stranger in “the Alps”?!!! (turns out that is, in fact, an actual meme on the net).

    Here’s a good question, though. Did you hear any laughing where you were? Because the audience was cracking up every other minute when I saw it. I also don’t know whether this was intentional or not, or if it was even a good thing. I thought I heard one guy (I could never find out who it was, he might have been somewhere below and to the left of me) making some derogatory comment, and I just thought, “Man, this is bad all around”.

    I really wish I could say we have a new rival to the Curry version, yet, yeah, it just didn’t work as a film for me. Real sorry about that.

    ChrisC

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    1. Well, you can't please everyone, I guess!

      I definitely heard laughing when I watched the movie. But I wasn't watching it with an audience, because I was conducting what we in the industry call a "quality control check." So there WAS laughter, but it was coming from me, and pretty regularly.

      I've walked in on the shows numerous times since it opened, and every time one of the jokes happens, it lands perfectly. People are laughing up a storm. I feel pretty certain the director intended that to be the case, yes.

      I can't agree that Richie in the novel has no sense of self-worth. He's the one who seems to have the healthiest relationship with his parents; I think they've encouraged him to be exactly what he is, so I think he has a TREMENDOUS sense of self-worth. It's where his confidence comes from, and that's why his friends love him.

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    2. I'd be willing to bet that your experience was not the same as your fellow moviegoers. I have to second what Bryant said, the audience I was in were laughing in all the right places. By far, the most boisterous one was with Eddie's placebo/gazebo mix-up, which as far as I'm concerned, couldn't have had better timing.

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    3. I forgot about the gazebo/placebo line. Genius!

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  9. I must have accidentally deleted part of my lengthy message last night. It made me split it in two, and there are some points I think you might find interesting. I'll try to reproduce it, because God forbid that a half dozen Internet strangers go without my brilliant insights.

    First, Sophia Lillis was brought on to be the young Amy Adams in the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, based on a book from Gone Girl's Gillian Flynn. You and the other long-winded dude were speculating on Jessica Chastain, but Adams has been another popular choice, probably because those are by far the most high-profile beautiful redheads around 40 with multiple Oscar nominations. Adams would be interesting as Beverly, because it's a fairly gritty role, and Bev has a lot more fight in her than many of Adams's characters that are pure sunshine and probably still tends to be how audiences think of her. But think about this: if your prediction comes true, she'll have played young versions of Adams and Chastain to start her career. That's a pretty phenomenal way to start out. I think you can say the same thing of Adams that you did of Chastain; they both tend to be in pretty good material.

    One other thing I mentioned that somehow got deleted before I clicked Publish was a minor disagreement about the actress who played Eddie's mom. Most importantly, she played Mrs. Kaspbrak superbly. I'm not sure I agree with calling her vile. Without a doubt, she's fucking up her son but good; I tend to see her character as more sad and pathetic than malevolent, in the end. You kind of figure that she's doing everything she can to make sure Eddie always needs her, but there's probably some past rejection (perhaps Eddie's dad?) that's behind that. You see it in her last scene, when Eddie tells her off and she yells for him to come back with such fear and agony that you almost want him to give her a little reassurance. She might actually be one of the better parents in Derry (which is admittedly a very low bar).

    I'm not remembering what else, other than to say that another detail I liked was Pennywise's costuming, which hints at his being a very old-timey clown, not the Ronald McDonald or Bozo types that came around sometime following WWII. Those threads probably go back centuries, when clowns weren't so Disneyfied. And one question: you mentioned Richie's parents being supportive. I somehow remember nothing of this in the novel, and pictured his family life in much the same way as the anonymous commenter above. His constant smartassery and profanity definitely wouldn't be encouraged by many adults, even less so by parents who have to put up with it constantly. Where do they even talk about the Tozier family in the novel? I seriously thought we were meant to understand that his family life wasn't great. Not a living hell, but his humor seems like a textbook coping mechanism of being largely ignored at home. After doing a search, it certainly doesn't seem like he had a good relationship with his father. What have I forgotten about in the text that says his parents were supportive and that his self-worth is anything but adolescent bluster?

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    1. "God forbid that a half dozen Internet strangers go without my brilliant insights."

      This gave me a good laugh! I love it! Aaron, we've all been there: just overflowing with things to say and hoping to find someone to listen (and actually get what we're saying). Say what you will about the internet, but when it's at its very best, in a place like this where there's an actual sense of community and respect, it's pretty great to be able to have a place to share all our "brilliant insights"!

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    2. (1) "God forbid that a half dozen Internet strangers go without my brilliant insights." -- I mean, that could basically be the title of this blog, so you're in good (?) company.

      (2) I see this Bev as more of a Jessica Chastain than an Amy Adams, but you'll never hear me complain about Amy Adams showing up in a movie. I've also heard some people say Bryce Dallas Howard might work. Or Lauren Ambrose. One of them could/should also be Audra! (Assuming Audra exists in this version, which I'm not sure will happen.)

      (3) "You see it in her last scene, when Eddie tells her off and she yells for him to come back with such fear and agony that you almost want him to give her a little reassurance." -- You make a good point, and unless I misremember it, that's STRAIGHT out of the novel.

      (4) I only remember this because it was talked about on one of the "It" episodes of the Stephen King Cast -- and even then I had to go looking for it. Chapter 8, section 6, Richie has to get some money to go to the movies so he asks his father for some. Wentworth Tozier engages in some banter and affectionate teasing that indicates Richie is very much a product of growing up in his house. It's very warm and charming. Unless there is something elsewhere that I've forgotten, I think this is the only scene his parents are in, and I just don't see any evidence that his home life is anything but pleasant.

      (5) "Say what you will about the internet, but when it's at its very best, in a place like this where there's an actual sense of community and respect, it's pretty great to be able to have a place to share all our "brilliant insights"!" -- Thanks, Joseph! I'm continually surprised by how rare the negative comments and/or trolls are. It's been a while -- I'm overdue!

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    3. Well, I'm glad that line was enjoyed. I seriously feel like a grade-A nimrod sometimes when I leave lengthy comments on blogs. It's probably not that different from doing it on Facebook, other than the strangers factor. I like what you say about the Internet, though. I've been on multiple threads on blogs, the IMDB (until their comment section shut down), and elsewhere that make me feel like these people are just friends I haven't met. You get the right group of people who are polite and funny and incisive, and I can enjoy it as much as hanging with the friends I do know. I like to think that if I ever made it to Alabama, I could share a meal or drinks with Bryant, or if he ever was in the greater Salt Lake City area, and I'm sure the same is true of Joseph, wherever you are.

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    4. Maybe one of these days I'll be wealthy and I can start an official Truth Inside The Lie convention. Not sure who I could get as guests, except, obviously, Lou Ferrigno; but currently, it's a moot point.

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  10. Had a great time reading Bryant's review and everyone's comments! I love all the thoughts and opinions everyone brought to the board. I love the passion everyone has for "IT" in every medium! Bryant, Will R, Kevin, Aaron Orgill: you guys seem to have taken the words right out of my mouth with many of the thoughts-- excuse me, Aaron, I mean "brilliant insights"-- you've shared.

    A few of my own thoughts:

    1) I haven't seen this discussed anywhere else online, and I'm really disappointed that no one else is as excited as I am about one particular Easter (ahem) egg:
    How about the fact that BEN, of all people, followed a trail of EGGS to his first encounter with It? Since (in the book) his role in the final showdown as an adult was to follow the trail of eggs It had laid, destroying them all.

    2) One disappointment for me was the lack of a dam building scene. It makes sense that that was an easy thing to cut, but I love how in the book that scene not only gave Ben a big victory, but was also the first big "bring the Losers together" moment; and that it also demonstrated that Bill has real leadership skills in that he had enough confidence to step aside and let someone else lead when it was obvious that they had knowledge and abilities that he did not.

    3) My only other real disappointment was the loss of Stan's encounter in the Derry Standpipe. For my money, that is the most terrifying scene in the book-- and ranks with the best of any suspenseful, scary moment Stephen King has written. Few scenes in literature have ever made me stop and wait until daylight to finish, but that is absolutely one of them. Even earlier this summer when I revisited the novel via the audiobook, I still stopped and saved that scene for the next day because I didn't want to have it in my head when I went to bed. I'm a grown man and this was my third time through the novel, yet I still can't face that scene at home alone in the night!

    (Side note: speaking of the audiobook of "IT": Steven Weber's performance in the 2016 production is amazing! If you want to revisit the novel, but like me you don't have enough time to actually reread it, I highly recommend checking out that version.)

    4) I haven't heard anything to make me think that very much was filmed that didn't make it into the theatrical cut of the movie, but if there were any movie that I wish could get the "Extended Edition" treatment that Peter Jackson gave the Lord of the Rings films, where he always planned on there being longer versions that were more faithful to the novels that would come out on home media, then "IT" is that movie.

    4.5) I would also love if someday, after the release of Chapter Two, Muschietti would put together a combined cut of the two films that echoes the alternating timelines of the novel. I understand why they chose to make the films as two distinct halves, but I think that so many of the most important themes of the book only become apparent with the juxtaposition of the characters as children and adults.

    Now if you'll excuse me, everyone's comments have me psyched about this film all over again. I wasn't planning on going back to the theater, but I don't think I can help myself...

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    1. (1) Oooooooohhhhh ... that's a GREAT catch! It hadn't even crossed my mind, but that's very cool.

      (2) I missed the dam-building, too. I like what it was replaced with, but that is indeed an iconic element of both novel and miniseries. It could still show up in "Chapter Two," though! Wouldn't surprise me a bit, actually, as a means of introducing the Ben-as-architect element.

      (3) I listened to the audiobook over the course of the summer. Weber is GREAT. I'm not a huge audiobook fan, but I wanted to "reread" the book and had heard great things about his performance. They were all true.

      (4) Apparently it was announced in some interview Thursday that there will be a director's cut that is about fifteen minutes longer. Fine by me!

      (4.5) It wouldn't surprise me, especially if the second film does as well as the first seems likely to do.

      Thanks for dropping by! Enjoy that second viewing.

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    2. Joseph E.:

      1): Oh, boy. I feel foolish for not piecing that together myself. Now that you mention it, I really, really hope that it ultimately serves as sly foreshadowing. Just imagine it: you're a casual moviegoer. You saw IT 2017 and have maybe even have memories of the 1990 miniseries, but you've never read the novel and know nothing about it save for perhaps an essay or two concerning *that* scene.

      You go to see IT: CHAPTER TWO.

      You reach the end. They're in the sewer again.

      Oh, look. It's the Spider. You remember that from the Curry one. The effects sure are better these days, aren't they?

      Wait, what's this? Eggs? Oh, shit. IT's female. IT's pregnant.

      How mind-blowing of a twist would that be for someone who hasn't read the book?

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    3. Oh, yeah, that'd play crazy well! I'm sure they are going there, too; they've proven they want to stay as close to the novel as possible.

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  11. Great review. I agree with you completely. I'm not really surprised they left out Patrick's story from the book, I'm actually more surprised they put him in. Patrick's section in the book is actually one of my favorites, I find his train of thought very interesting. But I think it makes sense why its not included, since Patrick isn't really connected into anything really of the main story in the book, he just kind of gets his own little section to shine, then dies in one of my favorite of Pennywises manifestations. Considering they did have to obviously cut out a few things, like a lot of Henry's stuff, and Mikes greater importance, it makes sense they wouldn't bring in Patrick's story. Though based on what we see, he probably still has that personality, as he doesn't really seem to care if he lights Ben on fire, almost as if he thinks he's the only thing that's real and matters in the world.
    Anyways sorry for that tangent. Can't wait to read more of your blog posts !

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    1. Hey, thanks! That's a very nice compliment to receive. No worries about tangents around here; we're all about some tangents.

      I think the Patrick section of the novel is one of its highlights. They DO seem to be hinting at it all still being true in the movie, don't they? There's one shot in which Bill, Richie, and Eddie are walking up the hall toward the beginning, and the bullies are leaning up against the lockers or whatever, and as the Losers pass you can see Patrick literally lick his lips. I wouldn't be surprised if some of his story filters into the sequel somehow; I think it's going to be him who appears to the older version of Henry.

      If not, then it really is mystifying why they'd include him at all. I guess I don't mind too much; I just don't know why they'd have bothered.

      Glad to hear from another fan! Great handle, by the way.

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  12. Okay, here is the long-promised comment about Chapter Two casting. I always imagine you on pins and needles, dying for me to share, but what's more likely is, "oh, yeah, Orgill said something about that a while back".

    Anyway, there are probably hundreds of these things out there, but here are some of the most intriguing ideas I've seen that I can remember: First, this is no "Stop the Presses" moment, but shortly after one of your comments about Adult Beverly, I started seeing comments about how much of a resemblance Sophia Lillis has with Amy Adams, and heavens to Mergatroid, they're right! Spookily so. On to the parts that need a little more imagination, I think it could probably work as well or better with some unknowns, but a few really stood out to me.

    First, for Eddie: it seems pretty well agreed that he was an unexpected favorite in the first one. I like Giovanni Ribisi for the role, although Adam Scott could be fun as a hen-pecked husband, and also bears a reasonable likeness to the kid (Google Adam Scott Boy Meets World to see for yourself). Fred Savage was another possibility I liked, but I don't know whether he's acting anymore. Presumably he is; I've seen pictures of him at industry events, but I'm pretty sure the last thing I saw him in was Austin Powers in Goldmember. (Moley moley moley!)

    For Bill, I think once again that Tobey Maguire could be exactly what Jaeden Lieberher looks like in the future. We haven't seen a lot of him the past few years, but I think he can project the quiet dignity and leader-by-example vibe needed for the role.

    For Ben, interestingly enough, there was at least one suggestion of Mark Duplass, which I think (?) was your suggestion in the Adapting Stephen King blog. I kind of like John Krasinski for the role, since he does the low-key heartthrob thing to perfection, and can obviously play sweet.

    Mike Hanlon had some interesting possibilities, including David Oyelowo, who is a really good choice physically, but I'd love to see Donald Glover as Mike just because I want to see Donald Glover as Mike. It seems like a natural choice, no? I think he's proven he can handle dramatic or partially dramatic roles.

    Stan Uris: as we know, adult Stan is a brief role, but an idea that kind of got ahold of me was Seth Rogen. You laugh, but here's the explanation in the blogger's own words: "When I set out to select actors for this list, I determined not to use any huge names. No one unrealistic. However, I strongly believe there is room for a little bit of stunt casting when it comes to Stanley Uris. Since poor Stan decides to kill himself rather than return to Derry, casting a recognizable face, a friendly and likable face, only to watch him vanish into a pit of despair and desperation and take his own life within moments, could make for a remarkable scene in the sequel. So while the choice of Seth Rogen began as a joke when I started brainstorming Jewish actors to fill the shoes of Wyatt Oleff, it lingered in the back of my mind until it stuck. It would be truly painful to watch Rogen, with his mischievous grin and contagious laugh, slit his wrists in a bathtub. It would certainly set a tone." I think that's pretty brilliant. Another possibility that I think could work well for similar reasons is Johnny Galecki.

    For Richie, I have no goddamned idea. It's pretty crucial to get this one right. Some suggested Bill Hader, Ike Barinholtz, and Kyle Mooney, but I remain uncertain. I'm kind of at a loss on this one. Anyway, thoughts?

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    1. Thoughts? Yeah, you bet, I got a few of those.

      On a personal level, I try not to get invested in this stuff. I don't want to get myself emotionally attached to the idea of Actor X playing Character X, and then being disappointed when they cast Actor Z instead.

      But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy engaging with some fan casting. And there's some good ones here! Let's just run through them one at a time.

      Amy Adams as Bev -- I just don't see it. I always think of Adams as her character from "Junebug," which is very far away from who Beverly is. Adams could play her, sure. But I think I'd feel like she was acting. I would rather see someone in the role who simply seems to BE Beverly.

      Adam Scott as Eddie -- That'd work for me just fine. I'm less sold on Ribisi; I don't dislike him, but I'm also not a huge fan.

      Tobey Maguire as Bill -- Genius! Yep, I'm sold on that one.

      Mark Duplass as Ben -- That wasn't MY suggestion; might have been Josh's, I can't remember. I don't really know Duplass; I'm guessing he'd be fine, though, based on what I do know.

      David Oyelowo as Mike -- He'd do fine. I can't get excited about it, but he'd be good.

      Donald Glover as Mike -- He's a solid decade too young. No way. He's a good enough actor, but I don't think he'd look sufficiently aged.

      Seth Rogen as Stan -- Also about a decade too young. And I don't know that he can play haunted. I'd have to vote "no" on that one. I do like the idea of having a big-name actor in the role, but I wouldn't want him to overshadow the rest of the cast. Don't be surprised if they mostly go with unknowns; everyone expects stars, but the studio isn't going to want to spend $40 million on the cast alone. Nor should they.

      As for Richie? Bill Hader might work, but Kyle Mooney is too young.

      I'm a little surprised we haven't had some casting announcements already, to be honest. Seems like they'd want to get those locked in pretty soon.

      Something to look forward to, I guess!

      Thanks for the comments! Very fun to read.

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    2. I agree it's no good getting invested in this. At best, maybe one or two of these somehow happen. This is purely for fun's sake. It's just nice that a King universe isn't 100 percent theoretical now, where Josh's ideas were something of a pipe dream. What a difference a year and a half can make. I agree with you on budget. Some projects go for the all-star cast, and it's not always to their advantage. But with Chapter One exceeding all expectations, they are probably more willing to spend more. And you're right, it can't be long before we start hearing some actual casting news. There have probably been some things in the works for several weeks.

      My only comment on your critique is this: I constantly fall victim to thinking I'm younger than I am. Discarding some of my ideas can and should be done, but I can't help thinking that you too are underestimating the march of time. In Chapter One, the kids are 11. So 27 years later, we're looking for actors in their late 30s and early 40s, allowing for some variance when an actor has the looks and chops to pull off older or younger without it looking ridiculous. Seth Rogen is 35 and schlubby, and personally I don't find a couple of extra years a stretch at all in his case. Furthermore, I'm not sure he has to play "haunted". I'll explain. Adult Stan is in a happy marriage and extremely successful as an accountant. When he gets that call, you see his face fall into immediate despair. We're not talking about Tim Robbins in Mystic River, pretty much the ultimate example of "haunted" in a showy way in the movies. Rogen is probably a talented enough guy to pull it off. We talked a little last week about Carla Gugino and the material she's previously been given not showcasing her enough of her talent. I have long thought that happens quite a bit in Hollywood, not allowing actors to show their range. I heard the Rogen idea and now I'm just stuck on the point that we want to be sucked back into the world of Pennywise straightaway, and nothing would be more jarring or disquieting than the suicide of a lovable goofball. Also, Donald Glover is 34, which is more like 4-5 years too young, but in his case, he probably wouldn't be a convincing 40. I just liked the idea of him as the librarian. Kyle Mooney is 33 but looks and acts like he's 40.

      Anyhoo, that's about it. Sorry to be argumentative. Any good potential Richies out there you can think of?

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    3. Not that comes to mind. I'm sure there is somebody out there who can get the job done, though.

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    4. So now that the cast for Part 2 has been announced, what do you think?

      James Ransone and Bill Hader (who I fully expect to star in a Stephen King biopic one day) seem perfect for their roles. I hate Jessica Chastain, but since they probably cast Sophia Lillis just because she was her clone I can’t say she’s a bad choice. Dunno about James McAvoy and Jay Ryan. Is there some kind of law against movies where all the Americans are played by Americans? Neither one seems that convincing on the surface but we’ll see.

      I do like that there’s a mix between famous and unknown actors. That was one problem with the miniseries, they threw together a bunch of (then) well-known TV stars without much thought as to how well they fit their roles.

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    5. I think it seems like a very promising cast indeed. Some of them are people whose work I know nothing about, but I think Chastain, McAvoy, Hader, and Ransone are home-run picks. And given how incredibly well-cast the first movie was -- not just the kids, either, virtually every single part was filled terrifically -- I have near-complete faith in Muschietti to have gotten all these picks right. I'd like to think that he ended up going with some of the unknowns based on their chemistry with some of the better-known folks; for example, maybe Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan had mad chemistry together. One can hope!

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    6. Cheers for Bill Hader. Fingers crossed for unknowns. I hate Jessica Chastain. I agree with you, Flip, on American-casting and doubts on McAvoy.

      I think someone up there referenced me as "that other long-winded guy." Nice!

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