Director: Andy Muschietti.
This is quite possibly the most anticipated film of 2017, with It's first teaser trailer smashing the record of having the most views within 24hrs by over 40%, hitting 197million views globally. I can imagine it being a triple challenge of appeasing fans of the novel, fans of the 90's televised adaption and raising the story to a whole new and refreshing level to play for a newer audience. It's quite the responsibility, which at first was given to True Detective and Beasts of No Nation director, Cary Fukunaga.
Fukunaga dropped out the project due to budget and creativeness issues, with the helm going to Mama director, Andy Muschietti who brought some welcome edits to Cary Fukunaga's original script before filming began. Muschiette reverted it back to tie in more closely to it's original source, and the decision to keep this solely focused in one particular era was a brilliant decision, though relocating the story forward to 1989 as oppose to the original 1958 setting. I'm not sure if this is going to have a negative effect on the planned sequel, possibly suffering the same fate as the 90's version with the adult's story not being as good as the children's. You can read the review of the TV mini Series of Stephen King's It here that gives you more background on the novel and story.
What really works about this picture is the children and of course, Skarsgård's Pennywise. There's stronger chemistry here among the kids, with a script that allows the children freedom to explore their characters; I don't mean ad-libbed, but well written to make their characters more realistic as kids. This made it more relatable, reminding us of our younger selves. The entire young cast are brilliant in their own way, each coming from different backgrounds providing them with good character individuality, development and their own phobias.
My personal favourites were Stranger Things' Wolfhard playing the sarcastic, quick-witted Richie, brilliantly. He reminded so much me of Feldman's Mouth from The Goonies. Glazer is amazing as the tiny hyper-allergic Eddie and Taylor as the chubby newbie, Ben. who is just adorable. Lillis' portrayal of Bev is equally outstanding those affection for the losers reminded me of Sing Street's Raphina.
Will Poulter was originally given the part of It under Fukunaga's production and when that fell through, Hugo Weaving was considered for the role of Pennywise before it going to the more playful Skarsgård. It's such an responsibility and a hard mask to wear taking on the role of Pennywise, but assuming Skarsgård would also realise the iconic fame it could bring him, forever being remembered for playing the Dancing Clown alongside Tim Curry's portrayal. Though he respectful decided not to mimic Curry's Pennywise adding his own dimension to the character, making it clear he's more than just a shapeshifting monster and not in anyway human. Skarsgård takes to the role perfectly, giving himself nightmares by playing the ghoulish creature that even discouraged him from wanting to reprising the role in the planned second chapter. He genuine terrified the young cast during filming (apart from Lillis who reportedly laughed during their first encounter) he doesn't blink and his eyes oddly look in different directions, something Skarsgård can actually do in real life saving them some of post-production CGI.
The visuals are incredible, stunningly horrid and frightful, recycling the favoured and much used techniques from popular horrors, like the jittery and disjointed movements, the abnormalities that can be very unsettling and unnerving to watch, though much of the film depends heavily on the visuals as oppose to tension building. There are more than a few scenes where you question the actions of our protagonists, the same dilemma that even the characters fight over, but I don't think the VFX department could have done more than what they have achieved. The set locations totally echo the previous visualisation which will give fans something to immediately reminisce and connect with.
There is a strong comic element here that feels like a smart trick of attempting to lead viewers into a false sense of security, making the film's mood seesaw between happy summer holidays to creepy, shadowy underworlds. But these funny touches actually makes the film more believable and does in no way, steer away from the horror that follows.
One of my recent favourite composers, Benjamin Wallfisch does a haunting, warped score that's mostly mellow in parts, suitable for a Tim Burton dark fantasy and the sinister fusion of the popular nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons and the circus fanfare is a creepy touch. Unlike most horrors, the score is accompanied by a selection of a few decent songs from Anthrax, The Cult, New Kids on The Block (mostly for comedy effect) and even the Canadian band Anvil appears on the soundtrack which gives the film that Stranger Things tone, possibly trying to appeal to the younger of the mature audiences. Luckily it works.
It's reception has smashed the box office grossing an estimated $51million globally, by the end of Friday, proving the anticipation to be very real. It exceeding King's expectations with him tweeting "succeeds beyond my expectations. Relax. Wait and enjoy." Though the only real negative response I have seen against the film is from the good clowns of the world, who have protested against It, claiming it is ruining their friendly image and thus their reputation and business, spawning planned rallies to help promote the good nature of clowns. I'm not sure if that's such a good idea being so soon after the release. It could be counterproductive and will probably only reinforce the horrific imagery of It.
Sadly, or should I say, gladly, I had no lasting effect and could walk home merrily on my own down pitch black alleyways without giving it a second thought. I didn't have to leave any lights on, play the PlayStation or watch any stand-up. Yes, it has a few cheeky jump scares and it's visually horrific and stunning but maybe it's because I'm too familiar with the characters and story? Or did they hold back, like a curry house being too afraid to make it that extra spicy for fear of hospitalising you? It's not the most terrifying film I've seen in the last decade, but it is a really enjoyable watch and is worthy of all the hype it is receiving. It's a super glossy horror flick that has that Stranger Things feel to it and I think fans of any of the previous material will be both impressed and pleased with the result. It's a perfect revival of the classic horror film and what better story to do it with.
Here's to 2044 for the planned second chapter.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 5 this time for Skarsgård's brilliant performance of Pennywise.
Is there a planned connection across King's universe? Creating a massive franchise and entwining most of King's recent film adaptations together? There was a Pennywise Easter egg in The Dark Tower, and there's a few in this hinting at the larger universe of King's imagination.
Who would you cast for the adult versions? The young cast have already nominated who they would most like to see play their adult selves. Do you agree or who do you think should play their roles?
Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough) - Christian Bale
Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom) - Chris Pratt
Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier) - Bill Hader
Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak) - Jake Gyllenhaal
Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh) - Jessica Chastain
Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon) - Chadwick Boseman
Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt