IT Blu-ray Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Blu-ray released by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunagaa, and Gary Dauberman based on the book by Stephen King
2017, 135 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on January 9th, 2017
Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom
Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh
Finn Wolfhard as Richii Tozier
Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon
Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kasbrak
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise
When asked what my favorite book is, without thought I name two from Stephen King (because I really do love both equally): IT and The Stand. I can't tell you how many times I've read both, but at one point I was reading each at least once a year (and I'm long overdue for that, now that I think about it). When IT was made into a TV mini-series in 1990, I devoured it much like Pennywise devours the children of Derry, Maine. Admittedly, there are lot of issues with that mini-series, mostly in its special effects, but it will always have a special place in my heart because not only does it do well with the source material, all things considered, but Tim Curry as the killer clown was, is and always will be one of my favorite villains.
When it was announced that there would be another adaption of the book (please stop referring to this as a remake, people, the source is the book, not the mini-series), my interest was piqued. When the man behind True Detective, Cary Fukunagaa, was set to write and direct, I was totally on board. Then, as things go, Fukunagaa left and Andy Muschietti was brought in. My interest didn't wane too much even though I was unfamiliar with Muschietti's work. I will always have the book and the 1990 TV version if this was a disappointment. Then the first teaser dropped. Holy. Shit. Immediately after seeing that, I was determined to avoid everything else about this film until I was able to watch it. This was a tough thing to do seeing how everyone and their brother was posting pictures of Pennywise on Facebook every five minutes, but I was successful in avoiding the remaining trailers, and I'm glad I did. Going in blind was a treat.
For those that don't know the story of IT, it goes like this: about every 27 years or so, the town of Derry has a real bad time. Explosions, violence, and missing children are but a few things on the menu. In the late '80s (late '50s in the book if memory serves), however, a group of seven bullied kids – who affectionately call themselves The Losers' Club – band together to fight this evil being that takes many forms, but mainly one of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Hijinks ensue.
The first thing I should mention as far as, you know, an actual review is the acting across the board is superb. Considering the majority of the film rests upon the shoulders of seven kids (and one terrifying clown), this saying quite a bit. Each child actor handles their role with ease. I will say, though, that Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sophia Lillis as Ben and Beverly respectively stand out. The two play off each other extremely well, and this makes me very happy because Ben is one of my favorite characters in the book. It's unfortunate that Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon is underutilized in the film because it seems like he has a lot to offer, and he played a much more important role in both the novel and the 1990 mini-series, but more on that in a moment.
As great as the kids are, Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise steals every scene he's in. Effectively creepy and dare I say almost likable, Skarsgård does an amazing job taking a role that I will always associate with Tim Curry and making it his own. Think of it as an amazing cover of an amazing song, like Johnny Cash's version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". While NIN created the music and it will always be theirs, Cash put his own spin on it and made it his own. That's what Skarsgård does here. He takes something fantastic and we all win because we now have two Pennywises. And if you notice that thing with Pennywise's eyes, how one seems to go slightly adrift, that's all Skarsgård. No CGI here, kids. He added that himself. Prior to this, I have never seen anything he was in, but I can confidently say this guy has a strong future in front of him.
The film follows the book as closely as it can, but not quite as closely as the 1990 version. I'm not going to compare the two, nor am I going to compare it to the novel because I'm more than satisfied with the execution here. However, I'm extremely curious on one change that was made (no, no, not THAT change; that change I'm good with – those of you who have read the book know what I'm talking about). Without getting too much into it, I'm curious as to why Mike Hanlon's character plays such a minor part in the movie. His role in The Losers' Club is critical, and the decision to both downplay it and assign that role to another character confounds me. Think of it this way; say they made a Sesame Street movie, and The Count was both The Count and he loved cookies. And Cookie Monster was just a random dude. That's similar to what happens to Mike's character. He was relegated to a random dude. While it doesn't hurt the film, it leaves me with a lot of questions that I hope have answers in Part 2.
Another issue with the film is the over-sexualization of Beverly. There is an incredibly uncomfortable moment where she's laying in her bra and panties in front of the boys, soaking in the sun. Naturally, they are ogling her because that's what boys about to hit puberty are wont to do. It's almost as if she's teasing them, either intentionally or unintentionally. It's jarring and doesn't fit with the character. Karin sums it up better than I can in her review of IT, where she says, "In that vein, the development of Beverly is uncomfortable to watch. Emily Perkins' 1990 double braids and knit Peter Pan collars are replaced by Sophia Lillis' lipstick and baby dresses. Gawked at by the boys, including an underwear scene, Beverly as an outcast just doesn't make sense anymore. The overt sexualization of her may speak a point, but it isn't made with resolution. " But, as above, maybe this will be answered for me in Part 2.
IT has a running time of over two hours, but you don't notice. Muschietti keeps things moving and does a masterful job toying with your emotions throughout. You have fear, naturally, but there's sorrow, joy, and I found myself cheering on more than one occasion. He also does a fantastic job with Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), the main bully in film. Hamilton is great at portraying the teen sociopath, and Muschietti wisely adds depth to the character where you actually kinda feel sorry for him in a way. The handling of Henry is as interesting as Mike because he also plays a pivotal role later in the book and it appears that Muschietti painted himself in a corner with him. But what the hell do I know, the second part is coming in 2019 (according to IMDB) and I'm going to have faith in Muschietti because even with my slights, this is one hell of a film and deserves all the accolades it receives.
I gave IT five stars on Letterboxd immediately after watching it because it really is a lot of fun and handedly lived up to all of my expectations. However, upon reflection, my niggles with Mike and Beverly's characters are a misstep. Who knows, I may end up looking the fool next year when IT: Chapter Two hits the theaters, and I'm okay with being wrong – part of me really hopes I am. However, I can still easily and highly recommend IT. You're in for a solid film that will take you through the gamut of emotions and it will be one to revisit often. Just like Pennywise.
Video and Audio:
IT's 2.40:1 presentation is spectacular. There are ample scenes in dark and dreary places and nothing is lost to the shadows. Pennywise's red balloons are as gorgeous as our first on-screen victim Georgie's yellow slicker. The picture bodes as well in the bright light of Derry as it does in the sewers underneath.
While multiple audio options are offered (including Dolby Atmos, which I do not have the equipment for just yet), I went with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and it was as exceptional as I expected. There were times I heard things going on behind me that I refused to turn around and check in fear that it was in fact Pennywise wanting a late-night snack. Your surrounds get a work out here and it's all great.
- Pennywise Lives! - Discover how Bill Skarsgård prepared to portray the primordial creature known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
- The Losers' Club - Get up close and personal with the teenage stars of IT as they bond together during the film's production
- Author of Fear - Stephen King reveals the roots of his best-selling novel, the nature of childhood fear, and how he created his most famous monster, Pennywise.
- Deleted Scenes - Eleven deleted or extended scenes from the film.
First up is the featurette, Pennywise Lives! (16:25). Concentrating on Skarsgård and his role as the killer clown. As mentioned above, one of my favorite stories is the trick he does with his eyes, which is on full display in this piece.
The Loser's Club (15:42) centers on the kids starring in the film and I had more fun with it than I thought it would. These cats are incredibly likable and excited to be part of the film.
Stephen King discusses how the book came to be among other things in Author of Fear (13:51).
Closing it out are eleven deleted and extended scenes, as well as one gag scene that actually made me smile.
While I would have loved a commentary (especially from Stephen King and/or the stars), everything offered is well worth a watch. It wouldn't surprise me if a special edition found its way to the shelves once the second part is released.