The long-awaited new adaptation of Stephen King’s It is finally out, and it’s visually stunning but disappointing in content.
Wasn’t that trailer scary? Didn’t the clown look just perfect? Weren’t the costumes spectacular? I could go on forever listing all the technical aspects of this movie that really impressed me. The camerawork, the use of lighting, the special effects. How spectacular the opening scene was. How appropriate and refreshing the soundtrack was. And how no words can be used to describe just how incedibly good-looking this Pennywise is. Because, let’s face it: when the clown isn’t in a scene, you wish he were. And when he finally appears, you can’t help staring at him in awe.
So what exactly is it that went wrong with Andres Muschietti’s new adaptation of Stephen King’s most popular novel? Some said that the “Stand By Me meets Stranger Things” comraderie took part of the original charm of the novel away (true!). Others criticised the decision not to show the “Losers” as both kids and grown-ups, preserving the way Stephen King had imagined the two timelines in the book (also true!). Many also argued that the bloody, gory sequences happen so often that, after a while, you just get used to it and don’t find them frightening anymore (very, very true!).
The main issue, to me, was the lack of characterisation. Who is this monster? Where does he come from? What is he doing in Derry? Why is he disguised as a clown? Why is he targeting children? And why is he obsessed with making people float? All these questions, whose answers are familiar to those of us who have read the novel, are slightly approached in the movie, but only to be vaguely dismissed in order to leave room for the Parade of the Stereotypes. The obese mother, the abusive father, the school bully. How quickly the Losers bond in the space of a few days, and how little we – as an audience – actually know about them. It’s no wonder we can’t wait for Pennywise to appear: he’s the only character we actually care about.
But when Pennywise does suddenly appear, each time in a more spectacular way and with more and more teeth to display, not much actually happens. People run and get chased around, settings change, the visions evolve and merge together, the special effects team makes the director proud while we, as an audience, can’t help wishing we could make it all stop, sit good old Pennywise down for a chat and finally get to know him.
I really, really wanted to like It. At the cinema, I often found myself wondering if there was something I wasn’t seeing, or if we were actually meant to sympathise with the clown. But just as I’m certain that this rendition of It does not reflect what I look for in a horror film – or in any film, for that matter – I am also conviced that the sequel will make so much more sense. Sometimes a mediocre film is what’s needed for a great sequel to happen: here’s hoping for a second chapter that’s more “scare” and less “stereotype”.