Friday, September 29

It, Then and Now

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(This review contains some spoilers if you have zero knowledge of the story. You can avoid these by skipping the videos.) 

I'm a little late with my review of It, but I wanted to share it anyway.

First of all, the 2017 film can be taken in itself with no prior experience of the story, and it still holds up well. In general, I feel this is necessary. There should be no "you have to be familiar with the source material" prerequisite in order to enjoy a movie.

However. . .
While a viewer can easily enjoy It 2017 on its own merit, I do believe that having read the book - or, at the very least, having seen the 1990 version - will help engender more enjoyment of the story and how it is presented.

* * * 

- It the book was first released in 1986.
- I first read it when I was about 15.
- The made-for-TV movie mini series when it was aired in 1990, when I was 10. (Scared the living crap out of me and I loved every minute of it.) I watched that several times as I grew up, read the book when I was 15, and enjoyed that quite a bit as well.

* * * 

First, let's look at the 1990 mini-series.

The two most iconic scenes are: 
1.) The introduction to the story when young Georgie Denbrough meets Pennywise: 

This is perhaps the single most well-known moment in the entire It universe, on any media platform.

Now, when Georgie asks "Do they float?" (which is in the book), I have to chuckle because OBVIOUSLY they float, kid. The narrative stickler in me wants to have had Georgie at least maybe be shown with a balloon that was deflated or just dying out and he was bummed, so he'd care if the balloons were floating. But for a kid to just ask "Do they float?" is like if Pennywise said "There's water down here, too." And Georgie being all "Is it wet?" Dur. But, I digress. The line is in the book and it's an otherwise perfect scene and Tim Curry does it brilliantly. 

The second most well known scene that people will refer to, generally when referencing the brilliance of Tim Curry's acting, is when adult Richie Tozier has returned to Derry and is encountering Pennywise again for the first time. 

A lot of people make fun of the 1990 mini series, and surely, there is enough to mock. But it also does a great job at what it does do. I think often people forget that in 1990 the restrictions of what could be aired on TV were a lot tighter - in language, violence, and sex. In fact, back in those days, this was considered pretty mature content. Additionally, they told the entire story one long movie, so a lot of stuff had to be compressed.

All in all, I enjoy the 1990 TV mini series and yes, it still gives me scares at times. I believe that horror movies we watch as a child often have a bit of a hold over us more than those we see as adults.(Not 100%, but as a a general rule.)

* * * 

So how is It in 2017, anyway? 
Well, it's good.
It includes plenty of little easter eggs for fans of the book, and the creep factor is turned up to eleven. The child stars all perform well and are exceptionally believable as kids you could have known in school. 
This movie is a perfect example of where a good story becomes better for the influence of the technical departments, and in my opinion, it is in films like this where they deserve recognition for the role they play in creating the overall effect. 
(Remember when Speed won the Oscar for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing? Yeah, perfect example. I mean, I love Keanu Reeves more than the average person, but that movie would have tanked if it weren't for the brilliance of the sound team.) 
In It, the screenwriting is good, the pacing is excellent, but what really stands out is the lighting, the cinematography, the costumes, set design, make-up effects (and I'm not even talking about Pennywise's make-up, I'm talking about the general stuff.) The effect is full immersion back into the eighties for those of us who grew up as children during that era, and the way Pennywise's eyes, are done, the way he is lit - the lighting in general - is brilliant. 

The  movie isn't perfect, of course. It has a few things that were, I would say. . . overdone. Beverly's bathroom scene is actually done to significantly better effect in the 1990 version. As I was sitting in the theater watching the modern bathroom scene, all I could think was "Did they suddenly decide to bypass subtlety and go into a Quentin Tarantino film?" 
There were two other scenes that were perhaps, too big. Too much. My chief complaint though, was the bathroom scene. It does not, however, ruin the entire film. 

* * * 

The last thing I want to comment on is the differences between the 1990 film and the 2017. The first and main question I tend to get about the new one is - "Is it better than the old one?"
Well, yes and no. 
It is certainly scarier, and has much more production value. It is more violent, and has more gore. But is it BETTER? 
Well, it's hard to quantify. They are two different animals. One is a fairly small-budget made-for-TV movie from a time when the FCC had much more strident regulations than they do now. The second is a large-scale theater release with a much bigger budget and perhaps, more at stake.
In 1990, the story was "kind of" focused on the Losers Club heroes, but with Tim Curry as your villain, of course he's going to become the focal point, and he steals every scene he's in, making the audience clamor for more Pennywise
In the 2017 film, while Bill Skarsgård is amazing, the story is really about The Losers and their lives, and the story is about them.
The differences can be summed up as: 
1990 - Tim Curry has fun terrorizing some small town kids.
2017 -  Small town kids are terrorized by an evil 'clown.'

It's like comparing Heath Ledger's Joker to Jack Nicholson's. Different movies, different stories, different grit, different approach.
So is 2017 better? No. It is scarier, it has more production value, but it's also not really even the same genre of film-making. 

(Info below is for 2017 only.)

Grade: A-

Heads Up: Violence, Gore, Language, Scares, Awesome Nostalgia.