The children of Derry must band together to face evil in It.
It’s not often that we get the opportunity to review two different versions of the same film story, but the 2017 remake of Steven King’s 1986 horror novel It allows us to compare it with the film from 1990 which was originally broadcast as a two-part special on television. That version was later released on VHS video and DVD. There are many differences between the two films. The original It is much more faithful to the King novel, which is based on the adult of the seven member “Losers Club” reuniting in Derry, Maine to once again face the evil monster It when it reappears again after a thirty year hiatus. The stories and experiences they had as kids when they first confronted It were all told in flashback sequences. The new version totally eliminates the adult characters and everything is told first hand by the child characters. The original It is 187 minutes long, whereas the 2017 version is a somewhat shorter 135 minutes. The horror scenes in the new film are much more graphic and shocking in nature, with a lot of swear words throughout, earning the film an R rating, as opposed to the original which has a TV-14 certificate, because the horror scenes are a lot more subdued. The original It is set in 1990 and 1960 for the flashback scenes, while It (2017) is set in 1989.
Billy looks inside a culvert.
Besides those differences, several of the characters in the new It are substantially changed from the original. In the original all of the kids were classmates at the local school. In the new It, Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), the one African-American in the group, is home schooled, and his father is a butcher who wants his son to follow in his footsteps at an early age, by making him help kill the animals and deliver the meat to local stores on his bike. This is quite a contrast to the erudite Mike of the original, who was the historian in the group and the first to notice the recurring pattern of tragedy every thirty years in Derry. While the leader of the group Billy (Jaeden Lieberher), Jewish empiricist Stan (Wyatt Oleff), and mama’s boy Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) remain essentially the same, Ben, Beverly, and Richie are portrayed much differently. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is now given Mike’s role of historian, and is not the builder and designer that the original Ben was. He is a lot plumper and more introverted than the original Ben who knew how to build things. Beverly (Sophia Lillis) is portrayed as a social outcast and called names like “slut” by other girls at the school rather than as an ordinary classmate who is reaching out to boys to escape from her creepy father. Richie (Finn Wolfhart) has a diminished role in the new version also. Rather than deliver comedic lines or do outrageous things that would get him (and the others) into trouble and be typical of a future comedian, he mostly babbles in an annoying manner in this script. Instead of his taped up nerd horn-rimmed glasses he now wears large oval lenses.
Inside the abandoned haunted house, Billy and the others are threatened by Pennywise.
The essence of the story unfolds in the same manner in both films. We first are made aware of the evil presence of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) when he takes Bill’s younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) by trickery while the boy is chasing after a paper boat in a rainstorm. The town of Derry overall is suffering from a series of instances where children go missing. Pennywise has the ability to create visions of horror for children who he comes across. All of the seven lead characters suffer graphic scenes of this horror at different times in the film. If he can trick them into coming too close to him, Pennywise can capture and kill them. Even the town bullies are vulnerable as we see in one scene where Patrick (Owen Teague) enters a culvert and is trapped by horrific monsters. The main town bully Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) has it in for the kids of the Loser’s Club, as he calls them. The confrontations that he has with Mike and Ben do have an impact on the club members, who learn that if they work in a group, they have the power to defeat Henry and his cronies, and eventually can go up against the evil force of Pennywise the Clown.
Beverly galvanizes the others into action.
The new version of It has the advantage of the latest in CGI techniques which are used to make the horrific vision scenes quite terrifying. As a result the film is meant for older viewers. This is ironic because this It is entirely kid-focused. The original It was more of a family event and shows things through the eyes of the characters as adults, although much of it would be disturbing to younger viewers. With the newer film, you only see the kids, and not how they turned out as adults. Of the new cast, Jaeden Leiberher and Sophia Tillis are the standouts. Jaeden has given especially fine performances in 2017; along with his work in It he was also great in The Book of Henry, released earlier in the year. Sophia's performance was also very strong in this film, her first major feature. The film itself, with all of the adult material cut, seems a little on the long side at 135 minutes. There is definitely a hint of a sequel at the end, so maybe the adult story will get retold in the future. Certainly the new version of It will give you some good scares. If you like this genre, check it out. The original It is a better story because it took the time to tell all of it. At the time, the making of It was a big deal in the television world. The producers hired top talent from popular television shows at the time, so the adult line up included Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O'Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, and Richard Thomas. The decisions and actions of those kids made more sense once you see their actions as adult flashbacks, thirty years later. Click here to see our review of the first It.
Scene from the final battle with Pennywise the Clown.
Bill riding his bicycle.
Unlike the original It, which was a tour de force for chucks, only two characters wear them in the 2017 version. Jaeden Lieberher (Billy) wears optical white high tops and Chosen Jacobs (Mike) wears black high tops. The camera work isn’t particularly chucks-friendly. The best scenes with Billy are when he is riding his bike. The best scene with Mike is when he is struggling to escape from the clutches of Pennywise.
Mike struggling with Pennywise.
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