Sunday, 17 September 2017

It (2017)

It's summer in the late 1980s and a bunch of kids (in Maine... because this is a Stephen King adaptation) decide to spend their time hunting the sewer dwelling clown that is munching the local population.

Stephen King adaptations, more often than not, tend to be questionable pieces of film-making. While, yes, there are the likes of 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'Carrie' (the original), 'The Shining' (Kubrick), Misery and so on, all of which are solid films, there are also a billion 'Children of the Corn' films, 'The Dark Tower', 'Dreamcatcher', 'The Langoliers', and a whole lot of others you've probably never heard of (though, to be fair, many of them are made for TV). Now Hollywood has turned its attention to 'It' and decided to remake it as a proper film rather than a TV miniseries (which it was before). I haven't actually seen the previous version but the reaction from others seems to be muddled. And seeing the marketing for this new adaptation, it looked like muddled was going to be the best this new film could hope for (I really wasn't convinced). It looked like the generic 'horror'/Stephen King-type film. Surprisingly, however, the final product turned out to be... decent.

The easy way to sum this up would be to say that if you liked 'Stranger Things' then there is a very high chance you'll like this. It's about a bunch of kids in some 1980s American town who spend their time trying to uncover the threat in that very 80s Spielberg/King way. Ignoring 'Stranger Things', it functions primarily as a coming-of-age tale (à la 'Stand by Me'), albeit one with a killer clown.

The focus is on a bunch of kids and their 'Losers' club as they come to terms with their lot in life. It's not exactly anything new in that regard, but the central characters are handled properly (both by the film-maker and the kids playing them) so they they do actually feel like the proper core of the film rather than being some bland stereotypes there to make up a mezze for Pennywise. That being said, certain characters, like the black kid or the Jewish kid, seem very peripheral and their introductions and reintroductions feel very awkward as they ultimately serve no real purpose. The film-maker could have done better with that but, otherwise, the kids act as the ideal heart of the film and really give it the drive as they go on their adventure to uncover the truth all while interacting with each other.

However, as there is a also this evil clown lurking around, the film will occasionally foray into the horror elements. It's not really a scary film as it does things seen many a time before from certain scenes to the idea of the kids confronting their fears to overcome it. That said, because the film is able to develop the child characters, there can be tension in particular moments as you want to see them get out and director Muschietti is able to stage some of these moments reasonably well. Again, though, a lot of it is stuff many films of its ilk have visited and so it doesn't really come across as particularly surprising or original but it does remain very entertaining, especially with Bill Skarsgard putting in a memorable shift as Pennywise.

However, what did surprise me was that the film was darker than I had been anticipating. From what I had heard, bits and pieces were being taken out to the point where it sounded like it was about to become a 12A (PG-13) rated film which wouldn't have surprised me because many studios still think that chucking everything into that rating means more money. Yet I was pleased to see (from the first scene and arguably the film's highlight) that it doesn't shy away from some of the darker and more brutal details that adds something to the film. It was darker than I thought it would have the balls to be and, looking at the box office figures, it has been rewarded for it.

Now it has been over a week since I watched the film (I've been very busy) and, while watching the film, I had issues with the audience from the tall guy in front of me obscuring key parts of the screen (not his fault - it's a badly designed cinema) to the couple to my right with their heavy breathing (forgivable) and kissing (unforgivable) with talkers and phone-answerers (should be punishable by death) in the row behind me. What that means is that I couldn't fully focus on the film and the gap in time means some of it has likely fled my mind. But, when able to watch the film, what I saw I quite enjoyed. It may not be anything groundbreaking or overly original but what it does is done in a manner than intentionally entertained and left me positively surprised.

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