‘It’ Worth the Trip to the Movie Theater

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Following the worst summer box office in over a decade, it is honest to say that no one expected the frankly enormous opening weekend for Andy Muschietti’s reboot of Stephen King’s classic It. The terrifying clown raked in over $123 million in its opening weekend and additional $57 million in the following days. However, the real question is, did the film live up to its hype?

The answer to that question is not so clear cut. The average filmgoer nowadays is less concerned with quality as they once were, with great cinematography and thought-provoking stories being passed over for lucrative summer blockbuster remakes. Instead, generally other facets like action and nostalgia have become more sought after in today’s cinemas. This film definitely hit the latter right on the nose for many people. The decision to shift the original time period for the kids’ adventure to the 80s is pretty much the main reason for this film’s success. Recent hits like the Netflix series Stranger Things benefitted this film enormously. Carrying on the idea of the “outcast kids against the world,” It uses many 80s coming-of-age-film tropes that audiences have been eating up for the last few years.

The plot revolves around a group of outcast kids in a small town called Derry, Maine. When one of them has a brother go missing, the kids band together to face their worst nightmares. An ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges every 27 years is the enemy, and over the course of one terrifying summer the kids battle the malevolent, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.  

To its credit, It does expand on the style of Stranger Things in one incredibly important way: the dialogue. Up to this point, no other film had really hit the mark on the way teenagers communicate with one another. It, on the other hand, understood the actual manner in which teens converse, employing the vulgarity and wittiness that a real teenage boy would use in regular conversation with his friends. This idea is perfectly encapsulated in Finn Wolfhard’s (of Stranger Things fame) character, Richie. His lack of filter and affinity for sexual quips steals the show, despite being probably the least developed character of the bunch. Plus, Bill Skarsgård’s rendition of Pennywise was legitimately terrifying. His overall creepiness made the character completely inhuman and supernatural, and in my opinion was highly effective.

The problem with this however is that it allowed the average moviegoer to look past the various faults in the film and decide that this is a great film (in terms of the horror genre, I would agree, yet that is not saying much regarding how bad the genre has been for years). I would say this film, in my opinion, is slightly overrated, and has had some its misdeeds overlooked in both the cinephile community and the mass of average moviegoers.

For starters, the film is a bit of a slog. The 135 minute runtime often times had me checking the time and feeling a bit bored as the film went on. Frankly, there’s a lot of exposition and a good deal of character set ups that slightly overextend and push the runtime past where it should have been.

In addition, the character development solely consisted of one thing: what each character in the group feared the most. That was pretty much it. I understand that there’s a significant amount of characters to get through, but the characters just seemed to come out as a bit shallow in hindsight. Plus, it would seem necessary to fully develop at least some characters, considering there will be a sequel that will take place 27 years later. In the universe the way it is now, the only thing that will have to remain consistent are the things that each character feared, and the character will have no noticeable underlying qualities that will need to be carried on over the years.

On the topic of the characters, there is one character who stood out, and not in an interesting way. To me, there was absolutely nothing interesting about the character of Beverley. To be honest, the character was pretty annoying to watch. I know this an unpopular opinion, however this character trope has been forced on audiences for decades. The rebel high school girl who is quirky and develops some sort of relationship with an outcast boy (or in the case multiple boys) and brings out all the qualities that they kept inside. Think Molly Ringwald from The Breakfast Club and Nancy from Stranger Things. The innocent, pretty girl who does what’s right and is quirky in a cool way from the perspective of the audience. However, the difference between these characters and that of Bev is that we learn, as the story progresses, that there are some internal demons there and the innocence is not really there. With Beverley, it seems as if she has no character flaws whatsoever. She is a tortured girl who happens to know the emotions of everyone around her and is able to be kind and warm to everyone at all times. She is also portrayed as a cool, attractive, and independent girl who does what she wants and doesn’t care about what people think. There is nothing wrong with having any of these traits. It is just frankly uninteresting that there is apparently so much conflict in her life, yet she is, in the nostalgic mind, a perfect character lacking any flaws. You would think that a creepy/borderline abusive father (by the way, Bev’s dad is probably the creepiest villain in this movie by far) and widespread rumors would cause some internal demons that would smooth over as her interactions with the group of kids helped her get through those things. However, the film decides that when around the boys, she would be perfect and help the boys get through their own demons when around them. By the end of the film, it just seems as if every character changed as a result of their conquest, except Bev.

Out of all this though, the most annoying recurring problem of this film were the repetitive horror film tropes. Time and time again, characters would walk off on their own from the group in a scary place, or trip and fall while running away from something, or Pennywise would have an easy opportunity to kill one of the kids and just scare them instead (his goal is literally to kill children, but apparently he wants them to know what he is and to be scared of him first). The fact that this happened over and over and over again got annoying pretty quickly. Maybe, by now, this should just be expected of every horror film, but no film should have to have these things happen repeatedly in order to keep the plot going.

Last but not least, the horror set pieces were pretty lackluster across the board. I thought It was very successful in the moments it was just going for overall creepiness, but was unsuccessful in its attempts at legitimately frightening moments. Instead of going for really scary set pieces, it instead just kind of got really loud, as if to say “this part is scary now!” and just hope that the audience agreed. Don’t get me wrong, there was some legitimately scary stuff in there, but overall it wasn’t entirely effective in that particular field.

Overall, I can’t deny that this film was incredibly successful and generated a lot of buzz in both critics and moviegoers alike. While I would say that this film did not exactly hit the mark in the way most people said that it did, I can certainly see why It was so successful. Not since the Paranormal Activity films has a horror film like this one had so many people talking. I would still recommend to go and see this film, as it does do right what a lot of content in its genre or style does not. Definitely do not try to see it more than once however, as it is frankly a slog to get through more than once and might give you a headache halfway through.

As of right now, It has around an 80%+ range on Rotten Tomatoes. For me, I would drop that down to 60% range. Certainly watchable and very entertaining in some parts, yet missed the mark in other ways that cloud the film as a whole.

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