Coming to Terms with IT

The 2017 rendition of Stephen King’s novel, IT, brings a world-renowned thriller back into the spotlight. The highly-anticipated film, which broke the box office record for highest-earning September release, is on pace to have the top-grossing opening of all R-rated movies according to Warner Bros. As of Sept. 18, it has grossed $219 million. Critics have eaten IT up so far, giving ratings of 8.1/10 on IMDb and 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The premise of the film is as follows: Derry, Maine – King’s portrayal of the Queen City of the East in Bangor, Maine – has seen a bevy of children go missing, the most recent being seven-year-old Georgie. As the Amber alerts accumulate, Georgie’s older brother, Bill, and his friends resolve to spend their summer finding exactly what is hiding in Derry, or rather what Derry is hiding. While slowly uncovering the evil that haunts their town, the self-proclaimed “Loser’s Club” discover they will each have to face their deepest fear to free themselves and their hometown.

In comparison to the 1990 motion picture, this version focuses solely on the characters’ story as children, leaving their adulthood portion for later. With much more realistic acting from the children (including Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things) and dialogue that is more reminiscent of a millennial’s childhood, the 2017 version is evocative of our youth, making each scare a bit more jarring.

Contributing to these moments is the acting behind Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård). The many scares within IT were not necessarily startling, but unsettling. The transition of the 1990 Pennywise to the 2017 version is comparable to Jack Nicholson’s boisterous Joker in Batman to Heath Ledger’s dark and apathetic Joker in The Dark Knight. These shockingly similar developments of clown villains in film provoke an interesting question: does this common evolution of the antagonist over a similar period represent overarching changes in the fears of American society, or is Hollywood simply moving toward an exceedingly raw villain? Regardless of the answer to this, the 2017 Pennywise undergoes a dramatic character development as the movie progresses as “It” sees more screen time. Beginning as a creepy and eerie villain, the clown becomes a mysterious, shape-shifting butcher by the end.

Parents and other adults through IT are frustratingly accepting of and oblivious to the missing and murdered children. Using the contrast of the children and adults, Director Andy Muschietti hints at the question “Are those who ignore the evils around them complicit by choice or do their minds unconsciously blind them from their harsh reality to help them cope with their predicament?” Although this question goes unanswered, IT presses you to question how often you disregard or deny evil while it’s right in front of you.

Critics and fans alike have declared the movie much more similar to King’s novel than the 1990 version. In an interview with CBR, Stephen King commended the new film. “I had hopes, but I was not prepared for how good it really was,” he said. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix IT. The sequel is expected to feature the Loser’s Club 27 years later, returning to Derry in an attempt to finish off whatever evil is left. Chapter 2, likely completing this recount of King’s novel, is expected to hit theaters by 2019. It will be here before you know IT.