The story first drew attention as an 1100+ page book. Now, it’s making headlines in a two-part film lasting over five hours in total. Whether you’re a book person or a movie person, Stephen King’s "It" is a monster of a story to consume. It can be a real challenge to fit 1100 pages (or 1600 pages, depending on the book size) into a few hours of film, but filmmakers took a shot at it first in 2017 and now in 2019. How did they do? Editors Olivia Lawless and Noah Howell provide their perspectives on the book and the movies so you can see how the story is told.
Olivia's Book Rating: 8/10
The book is a lengthy, epic saga that's paced like a full season of a TV show. My copy was a smaller one and thus was about 1600 pages. I worked on it over the course of a week one summer a few years ago, and I had to stop reading it during the night because I started having dreams about Pennywise. (You’d be surprised at how much a book can make your heart pound.)
I want to make this clear: this book contains an awesome story, but it is very long. If you’re a 200-400 page leisure reader, then this may not be a good fit for you. If you can go through 600-800 page books with no problem, then this length is good for you. Reading this book was kind of like watching a whole season of a TV show. Some parts of it are a bit slower than others, but overall, it makes a great story. At times, I was glued to the book for hours. Other times, I was reading through 60 or 70 pages of character history. Those parts were still interesting and connected to the main plot, just not as suspenseful or action-filled.
King tells the story of Pennywise and the Losers gang by interweaving their childhoods with their adulthoods. You’d think that switching between the past and future makes the story hard to follow, but I feel like this method only makes the story more engaging. King creates so many cliff-hangers that way, driving the action right up to a crucial point then abruptly switching from their adulthood to their childhood or vice versa. Switching between childhood and adulthood also provides context to both “timelines” and terrible dramatic irony in some parts of the story when you knew who was going to die or what horrible thing was going to happen next. And the story contained several horrible things, from detailed murders to fights with supernatural creatures.
In most of his books, King goes into great detail when developing characters and their backstories, and this is especially true in "It." On one hand, slotting thirty pages of character descriptions or flashbacks in the middle can make the story feel slow. On the other hand, the awesomely relatable and realistic characters that come from such detail make you really invested in the story. I felt really connected to all the main characters and was a little empty when the adventure was finally over.
Ultimately, this book is creative, horrifying and epic. This is an amazing story if you have the reading endurance for it. The biggest difference between the book and the movies is the nonlinear progression, which is no surprise, because I don’t think the storytelling in the book would work for the film. I’ve only seen the first part and am impressed by it so far. If you liked the movies and aren’t scared by the length of this book, then I highly recommend reading “It.”
Noah's Movie(s) Rating: 8.5/10
"It" and its sequel "It: Chapter Two" tell a gripping story about the Losers Club and their terrifying experience with Pennywise. With the two movies, I think "It" can definitely stand on its own as a film without needing "It: Chapter Two," but the second does certainly enrich the lore and allow viewers to get back into that world for a bit longer. I saw both on the weekends of their respective releases with the same group of friends, which was fitting giving the film’s passage of time with friends.
Going into the first film in 2017, it was my first “real” horror movie — though playing games in the genre certainly helped toughen me up going into it. This is coming from a person that would, before high school, switch the TV channel if a trailer for a horror movie came on. I wouldn’t really call the first "It" horror though; it’s more along the lines of a thriller-adventure hybrid. You can definitely see the inspiration that came from "Stranger Things" (even casting Finn Wolfhard in the film) as it puts a close group of kids through pretty terrifying situations, but still maintains a fun feel to it.
What these two films both absolutely nail is casting. The younger cast plays especially well with each other in the first film, and their adult counterparts 27 years later are the exact same. Whoever did the casting for this film certainly deserves an award. Finn Wolfhard as Richie is hilarious, and Bill Hader carries on the role in an equally strong way in "It: Chapter Two." James McAvoy also continues on Jaeden Lieberher’s Bill perfectly. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise in both films is definitely the highlight though, and to me is one of the best horror-villains in film.
Maybe it’s recency bias, but walking away from "It: Chapter Two," I felt that it had the scariest moments of the two. To me, the first film is much more focused on telling a strong narrative with intense and creepy moments thrown in (which is why I enjoy it more). "It: Chapter Two" feels a bit weirdly paced though, with the gang split off for a good chunk of it and each experiencing their own fears courtesy of Pennywise. The second film also has more humor than the first.
As someone who has not read the book, I think that "It" and "It: Chapter Two" tell an engaging story overall with a good amount of thrills to keep you on your toes. The casting is some of Hollywood’s best, and the music is surprisingly solid as well (which is best described as having a Spielberg-esque whimsical feel). Giving them each individual scores, "It" I would give a 9/10 and "It: Chapter Two" an 8. If reading a 1100+ page book scares you off, then I definitely will recommend both films to you. If you have read the book, then I still think seeing this on-screen adaptation is worth your time.