R Dir: Andy Muschietti | Warner | 2h 15min
Plot: What’s it about?
I think most people have had a fear of clowns at some point in their life. It might even be some people’s fear in their adult life. I’m not too proud to say that they definitely freak me out more than a little bit. I remember always being scared by Pennywise the clown from the TV version of IT. I returned to that version shortly before this new one arrived in theaters. I’d say that old version bored me more than anything else. There were still a handful of creepy moments, but you can see the limitations of a TV movie budget in addition to technology that wasn’t quite there yet. Whereas the original was a 2-part miniseries, this new version only focuses on the main characters in their younger age. The next chapter is scheduled for release in 2019. Ultimately I can say that I did enjoy this version, though it didn’t keep me up at night from scares. No, if anything it’s more amusing and humorous than anything else. It’s essentially Stand by me, but with a clown at the center of it. It’s well-acted and moves along nicely despite more than a few moments running too long. Before I get too far into my critique, let’s take a look at the film itself.
It’s October of 1988 and stuttering teenager, Bill Denbrough gives his younger brother Georgie a paper sailboat. He goes outside and plays with it, but bumps his head and loses the boat. He sees it goes down into a storm drain and encounters Pennywise the clown (played by Bill Skarsgard). Ultimately, he kills young Georgie and drags him into the sewer. We flash forward to the next summer where Bill is still in shock (and denial) about what happened to his brother. He recruits some friends to join him in searching the barrens in hopes that maybe he’ll find Georgie alive. Bill and his friends are often bullied at school (for varying reasons amongst the group) and they eventually are labeled as the Losers Club. We spend a lot of time with them, with each character getting their moment to shine. All of the characters are developed nicely. You can expect a lot of foul language from a few of them, but somehow it all works here. I especially liked the character of Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) who is the lone female of the group. None of these kids have the best life at home, whether it be overprotective parents or abusive ones. We learn that all of them are being haunted by their fears and have all encountered Pennywise the clown. He assumes the identity of whatever they fear the most. We learn that he comes out every 27 years to prey on children before hibernating. Together, they try and find a way to stop the clown once and for all.
It was widely praised during its theatrical run, and for good reason. While I don’t think the film is some modern masterpiece, I really enjoyed the characters more than anything else. It really didn’t scare me that much at all, but I found the interactions and humor among the characters to be the large selling point here. Skarsgard does great work as Pennywise, though he’s aided a bit too much with CGI. I think some scenes go longer than they should, and the director was probably letting the actor have too much fun. Still, there’s no denying that he truly got into character and is having fun here. All the other actors do fine in their respective parts. With so many colorful and well written characters, I’m sure most viewers will have their favorite. With this set in the late 80’s, it keeps modern technology away from the kids so that nothing is too easy for them. I’m interested to see how the next chapter will play out. It isn’t perfect, however. It runs too long and in turn, loses some effect. There’s no denying that it’s well made and will resonate with most viewers, though. I just think a bit more editing would’ve gone a long way.
Video: How’s it look?
Ah, clowns. Meant to entertain, all they really do is scare the hell out of folks. However, in Pennywises’ case, that’s the point. And what better way to view It than by showcasing the world’s scariest clown in 2160 lines of resolution? As the marquee title for Warner, they’ve clearly pulled out all the stops and have delivered an amazing-looking transfer that showcases the colorful aspect as well as the dark picture. The 2.40:1 HEVC 4K image sports tack sharp detail, the HDR gives an expansive look and feel to the color palette and the 4K resolution brings it all together. The included Blu-ray, I should add, looks just fine as well. Indicitive of a new to 4K film, It looks about as grand as I’ve ever seen.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included Dolby Atmos track has several instances of some very immersive sound. Vocals sound rich and full and the atmospheric soundtrack seems to resonate during a few key sequences. If you’re not so equipped, the TrueHD track sounds nearly as good, just not as expansive. However, this is an instance in which the visuals, coupled with this next generation mix really do enhance the experience. I don’t think anyone will have much to complain about here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Pennywise Lives! – This focuses on the performance of Bill Skarsgard and how the actor developed the clown’s evil physicality. He used his own ability to achieve a “lazy eye” effect as well as the use of, yep, drool.
- The Losers’ Club – We get a look at the younger actors and the ways they bonded on the set. Director Anthony Muschietti explains how vital it was to have the friends feel real and we see how the kids learn they weren’t allowed to see Pennywise until filming a key scene – this guaranteed their reactions would be genuine.
- Author of Fear – Author Stephen King talks about the various inspirations for the story, in addition to the way he used legends from his hometown of Bangor, Maine. King is wonderfully descriptive and engaging which gives us a look at how this classic tale was born.
- Deleted Scenes – Finally, there are 15 minutes of deleted scenes, most of which are just snippets excised from what’s in the finished movie. There are, however, two notable exceptions. One is a very funny “gag” version of the opening sequence. In it, little Georgie snatches his paper boat back, leaving Pennywise befuddled. The other is an ending coda that finds Bill and his parents heading out for a vacation. As their car drives down the street, the camera pans over to a storm drain, just like the one from the beginning, and a few drops of rain start to fall. It’s a more conventional finale that doesn’t quite have the power of the ending ultimately used, which leaves the viewer on a note of connection between Bill and Beverly.
The Bottom Line
While not quite as good as most of the reviews would lead you to believe, It is still an effective film. I found it funny before anything else with each character having their moment to shine. It probably won’t keep you up at night from scares, but it more than makes up for it as a coming of age story that just happens to feature a clown. It’s also far superior to the TV version, though that still has its merits as well. Recommended.