What’s Wrong with IT?
By: Sam Russek
Stephen King’s novel It was published in 1986 and was met with rapid critical acclaim, which led to its first cinematic adaptation in 1990. Now, 27 years later, director Andy Muschietti and Warner Bros have taken another crack at adapting the eponymous novel to the big screen.
Most reviewers, more than likely swelling with nostalgia, have given the movie a resounding two thumbs up. Rotten Tomatoes and IMBD have averaged the movie at around an 80%, and Roger Ebert’s website gave it three out of three stars. My only problem with these scores isn’t the fact that they enjoyed the movie. On the contrary, I felt for the characters, I laughed, I appreciated the movie for what it was, but it isn’t what anyone is cracking it up to be.
It is a quintessential example of a 2017 movie: it relies more on nostalgia and reminding the audience of times and movies past than on the story itself. If you don’t believe that this is a trend, check out the new Ghostbusters, or maybe the upcoming Alien. If you’re still not convinced, how about Star Wars, Jurassic World, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers—the list goes on.
Yes, Stephen King’s novel was set in the 1980’s; and yes, I understand they wanted to capture the time period in which the book was written. However, that doesn’t mean that reminders of the fact that they are, in fact, living in the 1980’s have to be injected into the dialogue every other minute. If cast and crew were confident in their ability to capture the time period, they wouldn’t feel the need to tell the audience every chance they got. Time period should be more of a pastiche, and less of a selling point.
This isn’t to say that the movie didn’t have its high points. Child actors Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) and Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben) did an excellent job and I enjoyed their characters. Same with Sophia Lillis (Beverly) and Jaeden Lieberher (Bill); each of these actors (or actresses) were believable and easy to root for. Without saying overtly what happened to her, Sophia Lillis in particular sold her character’s back-story.
My only qualm as far as acting goes is with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard. As he has already proven himself in yet another 80’s inspired show, it was clear whoever cast him was looking for that immediate identification with the audience; and, for me at least, it didn’t work out. It wasn’t that his character was insufferable (though, in many instances, he was); I had more of a problem with the role he was chosen to play. Every 80’s kids movie had a wise-ass, someone witty, maybe a bit of a scumbag, but despite his quirks and his dirty jokes he was loveable (see Mouth from The Goonies). The whole group dynamic from then on felt so ham fisted, so forced, that every time his character spoke I could practically feel the stale air in the corporate office where the writers sat and strained to finish the script.
Maybe that’s too harsh. In writing this review, I’ve fallen into the same trap I was trying to avoid. I’m comparing this movie to movies past, trying to place Muschietti’s film next to the film he’s trying to refresh and give to a new, younger audience. That’s the problem, though, with these revamps, updates, and decade-late sequels. One can’t help but compare these movies to what they’ve seen before; and now, rather than fight that, Hollywood has decided it’s better to acknowledge it, torpedo straight into the tropes, accept the ham-fistedness of the script, the actors, and the story itself, and play it all off as nostalgia. The problem with that is, these movies are remembered so well because they were a break from the old formula; they were in themselves a refresher from movies of the time. By playing into nostalgia and allowing themselves to fall into a formula, Hollywood is only ensuring their reboots will collect a sizeable paycheck and be forgotten, rather than live on and continue the movie’s legacy with a new generation.