IT review by The Grim Ringler
Ok, ok, ok, I get it, this is an old as hell movie and really has no place being reviewed here. Fine. I mean, as DVD's go it's pretty much not on the radar. I review it though not for what it is and isn't but for what it represents.
IT was a television adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name and tells the story of an ancient evil that has lived under and fed off of the small town of Derry, Maine for millennia and the seven children turned adults that must face It and their fears to destroy it. I have never read the novel but know the story well enough to know that this adaptation is pretty cursory at best. I mean, the book is over a thousand pages long and the movie clocks in at just under three hours. So, yeah, a bit was lost in the translation I would reckon. The movie isnt bad though, and in a made-for-television, B-movie sort of way its good. Tim Curry, who stars as Pennywise, the clown persona of the monster It is the stand-out here, truly bringing a sense of menace and evil to what could have been a throw-away performance. Sadly, the rest of the cast isnt as well suited to their own roles. I mean, none are awful, but none really makes you care about their characters a whole lot and hell, that may be the problem with the writing I found so apparent. And herein lies the rub. How closely should a novel or story be adapted when turned into a film?
As a writer myself I wonder how I would like my stories to be seen if they were adapted, and the hell of it is, I know none would ever be what I had seen in my head or had written on a computer. The magic of a book is lost, is changed when it becomes a film. Sure, there are a few like the Harry Potter films and the Lord of the Rings films that defy this, but why is that? Because they take the essence of the stories and adapt that, and not the works themselves because thats well nigh impossible. I have read the Rings books and adored them one and all, but I realize that that world is too big to adapt religiously. And anyone that thinks that any story can be transformed completely into a film is mad. Hell, if nothing else you will lose the magical connection between creator and creation, reader and read, there are too many cooks stirring a films pot to feel connected to that world. I mean, it happens, but not as easily as it does with a film. And part of that is emotion and part is time. You invest a heck of a lot of time into a book, hours, days, weeks, months, and in so doing you invest your heart as well because you begin to care about these people, these worlds you are temporarily living in. The best we can hope for is that the filmmakers know and appreciate these works so deeply that they can look at them and know what the heart of the work is and work from that. You can leave out Tom Bombadill in the Rings books, not because he isnt an important character but because the story isnt about him. He is but one of many travelers met, and met well, on a very long journey. With IT they should have 1. made the damned thing longer so you could get a better feel of the horror IT created and about who these children became when they became adults. Director Tommy Wallace does a well-enough job giving each character an episode from their dealing with IT but by the time we are shown the adults we are invested in the kids and not their older incarnations and its hard to get back the energy of the earlier battle with IT. Secondly, they should have done a better job of adapting what they had. I know a lot was lost in the adaptation, as I said, I know the novel well for not having read it, and they got the idea of what is going on but not the heart of it. The story is a about lost childhood. Robbed childhood. The losing of the magic that keeps us young. IT is just the thing that takes that childhood in this town but the beast could be anything from the devil to a child molester to a parent. IT is a symbol, duh. But the movie becomes a monster movie as soon as Pennywise is out of the picture, and as such, it isnt as strong nor is it as gripping. There is a lot of buildup, and really a lot of investment in Pennywise as a horrific thing in and of itself, that is lost when we see the spider-thing that make up the Losers Club confront at the end. The same goes for the awful Dreamcatcher, a film that has a similar story but that, again, loses what little heart it has when it becomes a monster movie.
I think that we as readers, we as an audience, need to let go of the story when it is adapted. Sure, we all get excited when its done right and bummed out when its ruined (I felt that way about most Lovecraft adaptations, believe me), but we need to let that go. To go into the adaptation with an open heart and mind and see what happens. The story and the things we loved in it will never be changed, and for that we can be glad, now we just need to cross our fingers that the story is done justice in the adaptation. And to do that the filmmakers really need to speak with the writers more, need to ask them what is this books heart? What did you want to say more than anything else? And then go from there. Sure, there are going to be plenty of asinine writers that will insist that its all important and it all must be adapted, and perhaps even some who cant tell you what the heart is, or if their story has one, but it must be asked. Hollywood loves the idea of an adaptation because its usually easy money an immediate audience, the story is already written so just add water, and you can take the best parts and skip the rest. Fine. I can understand that. But what these masters of reality must remember is that they are playing with peoples hearts, with their dreams to a degree, and they need to tread very softly on them. Its impossible to capture the warm feeling you get when reading the Lord of the Rings books, just as it is hard to top that dread you feel with that book as well, but you can capture the essence of the book. The feeling. The heart. Peter Jackson nailed it with his LOTR adaptations because he loves the books and understands what they are, and he knew there was no way to adapt what is in essence a world. So he took the heart of the story and adapted that, and brilliantly so. They missed that with IT, though they made a valiant effort of it. Sadly, It was just so big of a book that the filmmakers lost sight of its heart, and thats a shame.
The movie is good, not great. Its a fun watch. I picked it up cheap on DVD and so can you, just dont expect anything more than a fun killer-clown cum monster movie. And as that it aint half-bad.