Posted on September 11, 2017
TL;DR: This is both a great movie and a scary movie. You should see it.
I’ve written before about how magnetic yet truly flawed Stephen King’s novel It truly is. For years I found myself returning to reread it, remembering it only for the awesome and terrifying first 2/3 and somehow completely blanking on the awful and inappropriate ending only to run up against the awfulness and inappropriateness of that ending and be disappointed all over again.
I’ve also written about how much I despise the 1990 miniseries, once even live tweeting a rewatch until I gave up an hour in.
But, I’m happy to say that this new movie got it right.
Spoilers for Stephen King’s It (in all its incarnations) follow
I wasn’t even planning on seeing the movie. I’ve moved on from horror almost completely and I knew this work to be a slow tumble down a long dark staircase. First off, the story is too big for a two hour movie. You’ve got a very complicated narrative in the present and you’ve got a very intricate story in the past. Even the miniseries had to rush and cut to tell it all.
Secondly, the book has the worst ending of any story ever told in any language. And it includes an underage gang-bang as a key element to the kids’ victory.
It’s so awful that I routinely forget it’s there and then decide to read the book again and… NO! So bad. So, so bad.
But then I noticed a couple things from the trailer. One, they only showed the kids. Two, they had moved the time frame from 1958 to 1988. And I thought if they are willing to make big cuts like that, maybe they’re willing to fix everything that’s wrong with that story.
And they absolutely did. Far from the thudding, misogynist, racist work that inspired it, this movie is a gem. It’s fast, efficient, and thrilling. It’s charming and funny. The kids are portrayed so well and the dialog is so crisp that you will be amazed these are actual child actors.
Pushing the adult tale to the sequel was brilliant stroke one. That buys enough time to work with the childhood story at a reasonable pace. Cutting the scene where five teenage boys have sex with a 14 year-old girl, one after the other, to… — strengthen their friendship? I never really figured it out. I usually just try to skip that section — was also brilliant and allowed the third brilliant thing: Updating Beverly Marsh’s character from patriarchal victim to modern feminist warrior.
Even if you’re not a feminist, you must be sick of seeing inchoate female characters wait to be rescued or simply take a beating. I mean, Buffy was 20 years ago, dude. We want to see active characters take action.
The most brutal part of the book is watching Beverly’s will being broken by her father, knowing full well that she would grow into a (literally) beaten woman. This new agency for her character in the movie gives hope that the writers will have the courage to do something else with her adult form in the sequel.
And let’s just spare a moment for casting. Bill Skarsgard did a fantastic job as Pennywise. All the kids were fantastic and it was a special bonus to have Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things (itself basically one long homage to It), but Sophia Lillis just knocked the role of Beverly Marsh out of the park. Such a nuanced and powerful performance for such a complicated role. This will be her calling card.