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It (2017)

Warner Home Video
4K UHD Released: 1/9/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/4/2018

On a recent episode of Jeopardy!, the following question was asked, "In a 2011 slate.com survey of movie credits, of the top 25 most adapted writers, this novelist is the only one living." None of the three contestants were able to answer it correctly. Really? Stephen King is so obvious. Do they not think of him as an author? Granted, King doesn't rule the multi-plex and the TV mini-series as he did throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but there are still plenty of King movies and televisions shows arriving on a regular basis. And if the success of It is any indication, King is still the king.

It's the summer of 1989 and the kids in the small town of Derry, Maine are on edge. Months earlier, Bill's (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother had disappeared, as had several other children. As the last day of school arrives, the town is under a curfew and Bill's friends -- Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) -- are trying to decide how they want to spend their time. A sinister force decides for them, as a clown who calls himself Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), begins to stalk the boys, sometimes taking on different forms. Soon, the boys are joined by Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs), fellow kids who have also seen spooky things. The group decides that it is up to them to face Pennywise and save the town.

It is based on King's gargantuan 1986 novel which focused on the Derry characters as children in the 1950s and as adults in the 1980s. The 1990 television mini-series took this same approach, as it had several hours with which to work. For this new feature-film version, the time frame was changed to the late 80s (so that the presumed sequel could be set in our times) and the decision was made to focus squarely on the childrens' story. This certainly streamlined the story (to an extent) and it does away with the switching back and forth between timelines. But, adapting half of a giant book is still a challenge, and the movie is lacking in character development. The characters are strictly stereotypes (especially Stanley) and Mike is barely in the movie. Also, the movie relies too heavily on Pennywise, and we don't get enough of the shape-shifting seen in the novel.

Having said that, It is an enjoyable watch. For starters, the movie hits the ground running and has a great pace. Director Andy Muschietti, who showed impressive chops with his 2013 feature film debut Mama, keeps things moving along well. This pace is matched by the film's ferocity. The opening scene lets us know that It is not messing around. From there, the film presents scene-after-scene which offers a generous amount of jump scares and freaky imagery. The movie isn't a game-changer and there's nothing overtly shocking here, but for a big-budget Hollywood movie, there's some strong stuff.

And this may explain why the movie was such a hit, especially with millennials. Many of them aren't well-versed enough in wacky horror movies to have seen something as intense as It. But, taking a honest look at the film's pacing and tone reveals some problems. Again, the story and characters have been broken down to the basics, so what we have is basically a shock machine which features one scary scene after another. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing compared to some of the dreadfully boring horror movies out there, but it does make the film look shallow. And, as noted above, there is too much Pennywise. I'm sure that many will disagree with this, but after two hours, the character simply isn't scary. These shortcomings aside, the movie's serious tone keeps it from wandering into the cheesy and silly territory which has haunted many King adaptations in the past. The movie's success and the fact that it ends with a re-christening of "Chapter 1" pretty much ensures a continuation of the story and I'm looking forward to it.

It did nothing to increase my urge to visit Maine on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at 30 Mbps, which is fairly low for a 4K UHD. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the reds and greens. This is a dark movie and the transfer handles the dark scenes fairly well, although there was some mild flickering. The depth is very good and the level of detail is notable. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a powerful track which delivers an abundance of deep subwoofer effects during the "shock" sequences. We also get nicely balanced stereo and surround sound effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen and offer nicely detailed sounds in some places.

The extra features for It can be found on the Blu-ray Disc which is included here. "Pennywise Lives!" (16 minutes) focuses on the film's villain, including the look and design of the character. We get interviews with Skarsgard, who talks about his performance, and the other actors who talk about their reaction, and we learn that Pennywise was hidden from the young cast. "The Losers' Club" (16 minutes) turns its attention to the group of young actors who are at the center of the film. We hear comments from them as well as details on how the cast was chosen. "Author of Fear" (14 minutes) offers an interview with Stephen King, who provides some information on where the ideas for It came from, but he doesn't go as in-depth as I would have liked. Of course, he was being asked to remember a 1000-page book which he wrote 40 years ago. The Disc offers 11 DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes. This includes one parody scene and a new coda, but no other truly new or interesting moments.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long