Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, September 15, 2017

When it comes to successful Stephen King movies, this is IT

Yesterday, I treated myself to a matinee showing of IT, the long awaited big screen adaptation of one of Stephen King's most iconic novels. By now, most of the reviews(both professional and word of mouth) have highly praised the film, not to mention breaking box office records in the first weekend of release.

However, as someone who's read the book more than once and seen the 1990 made for TV miniseries, which attempted to capture this elaborate story and did not succeed for the most part, my expectations were above and beyond for a good version here.

I'm happy to say that this film was much more than a good adaptation and instead of a "just the facts" review, I'm going to highlight the three major elements that made this movie work:

THE KIDS: Since the Hollywood powers that be wisely chose to divide the novel into two films, the casting was crucial in order to invest new as well as familiar viewers into this story.

Thankfully, the majority of the cast,both adult and younger, are not well known faces and happen to be amazing actors to boot. Among the kid actors, Finn Wolfhard(Stranger Things) is the most recognizable but his take on Ritchie Tozier,the motormouth of the group, is completely different from his ST character, although I like to think that Mike and Ritchie would be instant buddies.

Stand out performances in this ensemble start with Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, a girl who can break your heart with a self hating haircut one minute and in the next, cause you to cheer as she kicks ass against her enemies(including one that's very close to home).

 Right next to her is Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, whose quiet nature shields deeper feelings and at the heart of the story is Bill(Jaeden Lieberher), the big brother misguidedly trying to make amends for what happened to his departed brother Georgie.

Bill has some major moments in this half of the story, as It has no qualms about pouring salt into that open wound in order to take the biggest threat against it down. Lieberher handles his part like a true professional and then some, leading me to think that he and the other kids in this cast will have some interesting acting careers to check in five or ten years from now:

THE CLOWN: While Tim Curry's performance in the TV version of IT was one of the better elements of that adaptation, Bill Skarsgard brings a very different style to this Pennywise and a major reason for that is budget.

Since there were limits on what could be shown in the earlier miniseries(due to technical and financial restraints along with restrictions on content), it was best for Pennywise to be more verbal, which played well into Curry's wheelhouse there. Don't get me wrong, our creepy clown does get to chat in the big screen version but with more advanced F/X and the creative freedom that an R-rated film permits, enabled the actor to develop his own brand of physical menace for the role.

Actually, Skarsgard gives a more brutal edge to Pennywise, turning his dark humor and sly moments of false cheer into a razor thin veneer that makes you even more tense than you already are as you wait for that leering mask to crack(and trust me, he doesn't keep you waiting long).

 It also helps that Pennywise is able to take on some considerably terrifying other forms, from a twisted woman in a painting to a rotting leper and worst of all, faces of loved ones. Yes, I will not be surprised this Halloween to see a lot of Pennywise costumes hitting the trick or treat scene indeed:

THE CHANGES: Let's get this out of the way; we all know there is a certain scene in the book(involving sexual intimacy) that is not in the film, nor was it in the TV miniseries. Both decisions were correct, as that sequence is best left on the page and that's that.

One of the biggest changes to the movie is setting the early half of the story in the late 1980s instead of the late 1950s. Usually, I hate it when time periods are switched up to modern day(for example, the last remake of Carrie) but this works out well.

 After all, you could argue that the 80s were very akin to the 50s, a redux if you will. Plus, it's not too modern day to break the creative tone of the piece. I don't intend to get into spoiler territory here but I will say that it's obvious that certain things were tweaked for the interest of a reasonable running time(as it is, the movie is a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute deal) and others added a deeper nuance to characters who aren't as fully focused on here.

 For instance, Mike is given a darker backstory that makes the visions It shows him way scarier and Stan's Jewish identity gets seen a bit more here than in the book.

While those guys do get some screen time, they are more in the supporting player section yet these changes give them something solid to work with in the solo scenes that they do have.

Once upon a time, I was one of those "that's not the way it was in the book!" people and thankfully, time has allowed me to take a different approach to such things. When an adaptation is badly done, these changes stand out like an unfinished hem on an outfit for Project Runway. They may not be the full reason for the failure of the project but well worthy of nitpicking.

If, the adaptation is done well, as in keeping with the true intent of the work and not just a direct  carbon copy of the source material, these changes are a true bonus. They give you two slightly different versions of a wonderful story for the price of one. Also, they can offer you a fresh new take on a very familiar scene from the original book, giving you more popcorn bang for your movie ticket buck:

After spending a good portion of my summer watching bad Stephen King adaptations, it was great to see one that Hollywood finally got right. I do hope that when Chapter Two is being made that the folks in charge cast talented unknowns/lesser known actors as the adult versions of the Losers Club. You don't need big names, Stephen King is more than enough here!

Speaking of King, he sounds happy with the film and so do many of his fans, myself included. Tales of outsiders banding together to defeat a seemingly unstoppable evil are much in demand these days and this is one of the best and not just in this genre. Sure, IT may understandably not be your cup of grim tea but it's themes of love,friendship and valor are ones that we need to hold on wherever they may be found,on screen and off:

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