The last time I went to see a movie in the theater more than once was The Avengers back in 2012. If I may take an immediate digression – The Avengers only came out 5 years ago!? It feels like it’s been decades. I know this is because Marvel puts out approximately 700 movies per year. Point is, I don’t usually go the theater for the same movie more than once. So far I’ve seen IT three times. Partly that speaks to how obsessed I am with the story – have I mentioned how much I love the book – but I swear it also speaks to the quality of the movie.
This is a good movie ya’ll! Let’s talk a little about why.
One of the best subtle touches of the movie comes at the very beginning. After Georgie meets Pennywise and gets over his initial – incredibly justified! – fear, Pennywise makes him laugh by talking about popping balloons. He’s making a pop sound with his mouth and Georgie joins him, laughing for the first time. Suddenly Pennywise’s face goes completely blank, his jaw hangs slightly slack, and he makes a very strange groaning noise. It’s like he’s…calibrating or something, like he temporarily disconnected from the Pennywise body. I imagined his true form sliding through the sewers, sending out feelers towards other potential victims now that he’s awake once again before popping back to focus on Georgie when Georgie says he’s going to leave. It’s never explained why he does this but it’s very easy for you to imagine an explanation. Which is really what Pennywise is all about. He feeds your imagination to make you afraid and feeds on your fear. The movie, unlike the miniseries, really gets this. The movie understands the book which is far more important than being accurate to the book.
I talked about how great all the child actors are in the movie in my super quick review and all of that stands. I HAVE to point out once again how great Sophia Lillis was but with every viewing I also find more to appreciate about all the other kids too. The direction is perfect and allowed all the kids to give so much detail about their characters with little dialogue. It’s in the way that Stan always leaves his bike upright when everyone else lets them fall to the ground; it’s in the way that Bill watches Pennywise slink away and says “don’t let it get away” when everyone else is scared out of their mind; in the way Ben stares at Bev even when he’s not in focus; or the way Eddie clutches his inhaler inside his pocket whenever he gets stressed. I love it! Guys. Seriously, this movie makes me happy.
And speaking of minor details. I didn’t notice it in my first viewing, but when Pennywise’s eyes first appear in the sewer drain they’re a bright, fiery orange, and when he comes into focus they turn into a soft blue. Right before he eats Georgie though, they turn orange again. This happens a lot. It seems whenever Pennywise is feeding on fear his eyes turn orange, which actually saves a moment towards the very end of the movie that I originally thought was kind of dumb. When the Losers defeat Pennywise and he’s running away he looks at them all and just says “fear.” It seemed to serve no purpose and was just kind of corny until I realized that his eyes were blue. Then they turned orange right before he said “fear.” This means the Losers, who defeated Pennywise by learning not to fear him, still ARE afraid, which sets up the fact that they’ll have to come back. It’s a very subtle detail but I think a very effective one.
The movie isn’t without its flaws of course. The subplot that turns Bev into a damsel in distress is disappointing after the movie spent so much time building up her strength. The way Ben saves her with a kiss is hokey. The pacing is a little odd and disjointed at times. But the flaws are so minor when compared to everything that the movie does right that it hardly matters.
In terms of scares, the movie isn’t the kind of thing that will keep you up at night. There are far fewer scares than you would imagine but a few of them are very effective. Ben’s first encounter with Pennywise is a particular standout. But what the movie does have is heart. If you read Stephen King you know that this is the main draw of his writing. He writes a great horror story, but his stories are more about heart and humanity than anything else.
If I may digress once again: a lot of people site The Mist as the best Stephen King movie ever. I see why. It’s a very good adaptation, full of good acting, good scares, and great monster effects. I enjoy it. But I think it’s a pretty bad adaptation. See most people like it so much because of its ending. Tl;Dr, the main character shoots his son and two other people to spare them an agonizing death at the hands of monsters. BUT, literal seconds later, the titular mist begins to clear, the army shows up killing the monsters, and it becomes clear that the crisis is solved. It’s a bleak, horrifying, cruel ending. The Mist novella is all about the way society degrades when faced with a crisis. It’s about how easily people can be led down a dark path when the normal conventions are taken away, and how people have to struggle against this impulse. The main antagonist is a woman who spends nearly the entire story telling the main character that his son must be sacrificed for the mist to go away. The movie proves her right. This ending completely invalidates the main character’s struggle to keep everyone together, to fight against the darkness and work towards our better nature. I know Stephen King loves the ending of the movie but…it’s not a Stephen King ending.
IT is a perfect Stephen King movie. Full of humor, compassion, heart, and humanity. There’s fear too, of course, but the fear is small, the monster a small and lonely thing. You don’t win by letting the fear destroy you, you win by standing up to it, together, and exposing it to the light. You win by being human.
I loved this movie guys. Not only because it was a great adaptation of my favorite book, but because I think it might be the first movie since The Shawshank Redemption to really understand what makes Stephen King so appealing. And it’s summed up perfectly by a single image:
Thanks for reading guys! I’ll be back next week to tackle the novel. Expect a very very long post, full of ramblings and diversions. See you there!