Note – There is one spoiler below. The font has been changed to white so it is only visible if you highlight that section.
The miniseries of It is known as a solid adaptation of a hard to adapt novel. It didn’t take too many liberties with the source material, and what it did change was done with a valid reason for doing so.
2017’s cinematic adaptation of It changes a number of elements from the original book, whilst also having to work to be its own adaptation separate from what came before. Some of this works. Some of this does not.
The biggest change is that the film features only half of the original story. Whilst the novel and miniseries tell the story of the Losers Club fighting It as children in 1958 and as adults about thirty years later, the movie is entirely set in 1988. This is still the story of the children, it has just been modernised so that when the second half of this film comes out they will be fighting It now.
One half of this change works – by updating the setting the story is more accessible to modern audiences and should allow for further changes to chapter 2 that make it a better film. However by only giving half the story it leaves you feeling somewhat dissatisfied. The tale is solid enough, but by the end you can feel that the job is not done and has been set up purely for a second half.
Many of the other changes are to make the forms that It takes surprising and scary to the audience whether they know this tale or not. The replacement to the moving photograph is genuinely alarming, combining some of the scariest moments from The Ring and Signs to deliver a monster scare that left the cinema breathing heavily.
The most famous form of It is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and this has been done superbly. Still with an edge of silly playfulness, every technique in modern practical cinematography is used to add menace to Bill Skarsgård’s performance. In one moment the camera is braced on his head but not his body, his movements are sped up in another, and he is kept partially hidden for a lot of the film.
The Losers Club in this film is slightly older than we’ve previously seen, and that introduces some more thematic elements of romantic feelings and going through puberty. This is played slightly for laughs, yet it turns out to be important so the writers can damsel the one female character, motivating the boys to rescue her and have the final showdown with It. Suffice to say this is not a change the story needed.
There is a world in which we spend the first half of chapter 2 learning about the lives the Losers Club have led, which is an important part of the tale and one of the weaker elements of the miniseries. That would validate the separation of the two stories. But to judge It (Chapter One) now, as a movie on its own… It scares very well, tells a solid story, but ultimately left me hungry for a little more.
I would be very interested to hear the thoughts from someone who did not know the story before seeing this film. Did you enjoy it as its own tale, or did it seem to be missing something?