It ★★

My friend Matt Armitage told me to wait until the book was not so fresh in my system and I should have listened to him. Despite some effective production design for the horror sequences (and while I'm glad they weren't flashy with the 80sness of it all, which would have been tacky, some extra punch could have been added in that department) and crisp cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, the first Chapter of It fell real flat for me.

All of the child actors were technically great but not much was given to them to make them three-dimensional human beings. The closest was Sophia Lillis who was pretty perfect as Bev Marsh. But the rest were pale imitations of their literary counterparts, which is usually (and sadly) expected in a screen adaptation. It is a tough ask to introduce seven main characters and give them all something meaningful to do and to stick out for more than just their sole descriptive attribute.

My main issues lie with the script. The book did an incredible job of laying out how evil sinks into every available hole of humanity in Derry, Maine. Derry itself is an embodiment of evil of which Pennywise is just a piece. But the film completely abandons the concept of the evil town or even the evil in men's hearts and instead focuses on Pennywise the Clown as the sole contributor of that which goes bump in the night. I generally understand the need to simplify a screenplay for a general audience but it takes the teeth out of the fight the boys/girl have to go through when they are only dealing with a being of limited power. The book shows that evil has no boundary for our characters. Unfortunately, the movie limits the effect of the evil (and danger) at play.

Also, by grounding Pennywise in more realistic terms, it makes his power kind of unexplainable and nonsensical. If I was watching this having not read the book, I'd be a bit confused as to what the fuck was going on. There are only passing references to the concept of "fear" being utilized by Pennywise in the avatars he inhabits so it mostly comes across as spooky jump scares that exist just to exist. Why does Eddie see a leper? The movie never makes it quite clear. Why does Mike see what he sees? Etc.

So, it is nice and crisp to look at but majorly lacking in the script department and, as a result, the scare department. This ends up being just a good-looking monster movie when the source material indicates that Pennywise in anything but a run-of-the-mill monster to be confronted with at the movie's end with spears and nail guns.