Director Andy Muschietti
Screenplay Gary Dauberman
Starring James McAvoy, Jaeden Martell, Jessica Chastain, , Sophia Lillis, Bill Hader, Finn Wolfhard, Isaiah Mustafa, Chosen Jacobs, Jay Ryan, Jeremy Ray Taylor, James Ransone, Jack Dylan Grazer, Andy Bean, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård
One has to hand it to Andy Muschietti. He took on one of the most daunting tasks in the history of converting a book to film:
How do you make a great story with a horrible ending a great story with a good, or even just decent ending?
Things got off to a great start with the first “chapter” of IT. This is the easier task because the part with the kids has always been the best part of the book. Concentrating on kid characters is one of Stephen King’s specialties. He remembers more about our youths than the audience.
The second half of the book, dealing mostly with the adults, is an incredibly weak link. The miniseries version was somehow worse. The pact that The Losers make is enacted by Mike (Mustafa), who remained a resident, librarian and chief historian of Derry, Maine. He calls each of the members back after the amount of missing starts to spike for the first time in 27 years.
There is a reluctance to the adult Losers. This is exasperated by events where Pennywise the Clown instills fear in each of them. Will they reform into a unit that can effectively end the reign of terror that covers the area every quarter of a century or more? Well, yeah, but you have to wait a while to find out how.
There are many jokes in the early going about how the center figure, Bill (McAvoy) is an author of good books who cannot seem to write a decent ending. Even King himself gets in on the joke. It’s a brave move for Muschietti and Dauberman to put that kind of dare in the first act, as the audience is now effectively being told IT is literally going to be ended effectively this time.
Outside of McAvoy, the rest of the losers are pretty effective doppelgangers for their younger selves. Even if he doesn’t look the part of Bill, McAvoy’s talent for acting gives the character enough characteristics to pass for the part.
For reasons of plot contrivance, each of our Losers are forced to spend a certain amount of the film alone. This gives the opportunity for us to see them literally face their tormentor in a way that mirrors a moment in their past. The scenes are effectively drawn for suspense and some astounding jump scares, even out in the wide open. These events are interspersed with other tragedies drawn by the monster as it seeks new victims upon whose fears and bodies IT literally feeds.
For the first 2 acts, and most of the 3rd, this all works exceptionally well. And as hard as the filmmakers try, the end is still a bunch of gobbledygook that seems to have been pulled out of one of the clown’s many orifices. It’s not nearly as awful as the book or the miniseries. It still isn’t quite worthy of the skill with which the rest of the story is told.
None of this is the fault of the actors. To a person, every one of the adults matches the sincerity of their child counterpart. They are more real than any previous incarnation by a long shot, right up to the point where they come up with their plan of attack, which is tantamount to when Ray told the rest of the Ghostbusters “Get her!”
Bill Hader’s been getting a bunch of positive press for his portrayal of the adult Richie. He is very good, but so are Chastain, Ryan, Ransone and Mustafa. There isn’t a bad performance in the film.
IT is one of the highest points of horror cinema in this decade. If the second chapter doesn’t reach classic status, there will be very few complaints. This is a combination of films that will be watched when kids the age of the Losers have overnight sleepovers for generations to come.
(**** out of *****)