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The UnPopular Opinion: It

11.16.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Last month, I wrote up a defense for THE DARK TOWER and why it was a worthy adaptation of Stephen King's magnus opus. Now, I am here to take down what may be the most overrated King film in years. As much as I wanted to love Andres Muschietti's IT, I found the movie to be lacking in many ways; my biggest complaint being that it just is not scary. Stephen King's resume is full of novels and movies that are both terrifying and eerily prescient, but it is the balance between horror and character development that has left him in an arena all his own. What IT lacks that made the 1990 television miniseries such an enduring cult classic is the subtle use of horror to accentuate the creeping menace that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While Tim Curry's performance was completely over the top, it was a malicious take on a character that could flip at any second into a monstrous nightmare. Nothing is subtle about the new version of IT. I am beyond happy that the reception for the movie has aroused the curiosity of a new generation of fans to check out Stephen King's books, but that does not save IT from earning the title of most overrated film of the year.

As a faithful fan of everything Stephen King has written, I derive no pleasure in writing this column and I actually did find some good things in the film. On one hand, the non-supernatural scenes are absolutely stellar with the entire cast doing one hell of a job. It is hard not to compare and contrast this cast with their counterparts in the 1990 miniseries, especially with the mannerisms and style of acting from Jonathan Brandis and Seth Green. This relatively unknown cast, including Finn Wolfhard and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL's Jaeden Lieberher, truly embody the characteristics that made Stephen King's creations so real and relatable. Even the updated 1980s setting works seamlessly. In fact, I would put this young cast right alongside the ensembles of STAND BY ME and THE GOONIES as one of the best ever in a youth-centered story. If IT had been stripped of all horror and been merely a drama about these kids becoming friends, I would have watched that movie in a heartbeat and should be a reminder to Hollywood that there is still potential to make movies about kids with young actors who actually are the same age as their characters. 

Stephen King, It, Cary Fukunaga, Finn Wolfhard, Andres Muschietti, Bill Skarsgard, Horror, Clown, The UnPopular Opinion

IT fails due to falling back on the lazy tropes of countless generic horror films. There are two types of horror that you will see on film; you have the jump scare type of horror that is executed with editing, music, and special effects and then you have the organic horror weaved into the fabric of the story. IT relies far too heavily on the former and doesn't capitalize on numerous examples of the latter. Watching IT, I continued to find myself unimpressed by what the filmmakers thought would be scary. Maybe it was Bill Skarsgard's over the top Pennywise or maybe it was the shoddy CGI used to enhance the visons the children see. There are some scenes, like the horrifying vision of burning hands reaching around a locked door or the blood pouring from Beverly's sink, that work on their own. Then, there is The Leper and The Flute Lady, both of which suffer from embarrassingly bad CGI. Practical effects would have been so much more effective to make this monster seem tangible. Instead, I found myself laughing at just how poorly executed they were.

Then there is Pennywise himself. Comparing Tim Curry's take on the role to Skarsgard has been equated to comparing Jack Nicholson's Joker to Heath Ledger's award-winning portrayal. The key difference here is that what Skarsgard does in no way eclipses Curry's take nor does it really make the clown more frightening. Clowns are inherently scary and Ryan Murphy managed to make them far scarier on American Horror Story than Muschietti does here. Aside from the final confrontation with Pennywise in the sewer, the killing of Georgie, and the slide projector sequence, Pennywise is more humorous than horrifying through the film. He never really has much of an aura of menace rather than one of insanity. I am not saying an insane clown is better than a menacing one, but it is definitely not the scarier of the two.Curry's portrayal hinted more at what Pennywise could do rather than showing us. The new version of the supernatural monstrosity is content to give us ten times as many teeth as an example of how sharp they are when a single row of them still gets the message across.

CGI is not and will never be as scary as practical effects. What Warner Bros managed to do so well with their marketing of the film was to conceal all of the shoddy animated gore and focus on hinting at Pennywise's maniacal visage. That was a brilliant decision that kept butts in theaters to see what the fuss was all about. IT feels more like it is riding the coattails of Netflix's Stranger Things by evoking as much nostalgia from audiences as possible, which explains why this one is not set in 1957. But, where Stranger Things thrived on giving us homages to the work of Steven Spielberg and King himself, Andres Muschietti's film does not benefit from a memorable score or enough nostalgia to carry it over the finish line. A lot more time should have been spent on developing something unique rather than hitting the same notes as every other horror film. Because, believe it or not, IT doesn't really present anything distinct from the countless other horror films released this year aside from better acting which, in turn, comes from a better screenplay. Cary Fukunaga's core script helped pave the way for Andres Muschietti's direction, but it just is not enough.

IT also suffers from being overlong despite tackling half of King's original novel. Focusing on the Loser's Club as kids and leaving their adult years for a sequel was hailed as a bold and risky move. But, by cutting the massive novel in half, there is no reason the film should have stretched to over two hours. After all of the build up in bringing the kids together and forging a bond between them, the ending feels incredibly forced in a short amount of time. Like I mentioned early in this column, I truly did enjoy the interaction between the cast members, but the movie doesn't earn the ending. By eliminating a decent explanation as to why everything floats and how Pennywise came to be, we are just left to assume that their is a rationale for this demonic jester to be killing children. It was much more clearly laid out and explained in the novel and the miniseries whereas the feature film glosses over it in favor of presenting more gruesome sights that are not really needed.

Stephen King, It, Cary Fukunaga, Finn Wolfhard, Andres Muschietti, Bill Skarsgard, Horror, Clown, The UnPopular Opinion

IT is more infuriating than frightening and that upsets me much more than I thought it would. After seeing the film twice, I still cannot figure out why anyone finds it scary. I wanted so badly for this movie to keep me up at night or at least give me chills, but I found myself laughing at Skarsgard during his more over the top moments rather than cowering. I found more to fear from Henry Bowers and Alvin Marsh than I did from the child-eating monster. And that is the crux of where every Stephen King adaptation fails: they evoke the right mood and tone but they never manage to stick the landing. There is so much potential in the first hour and a half of IT that collapses unto itself in the final act. IT is only half of the story so when the already developing second chapter is released, I hope the filmmakers decide to recut the story into a single film that mimics the source material. Maybe then it will work as a whole story. Oh, and chapter two better have improved special effects or it is just going to bring down the quality that the first chapter should have had.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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