It offers only predictable things
It (R16, 135 mins), Directed by Andres Muschietti,
Welcome to Stephen King World, circa the 1980s.
We’re in small town Maine, of course. It’s a landscape of weathered white clapboard houses, Momand Pop convenience stores and pharmacies, movie houses showing only films that contain some jokey reference to another Stephen King adaptation and where groups of friends get around in gangs of four, preferably on BMXbikes, while fleeing from the neighbourhood bullies.
Put like that, It never was much more than a horror rewrite and expansion of King’s The Body – the novella which was adapted for the screen as Stand By Me – but with the insight and nuance of the earlier book replaced by a psychopathic clown who dwells in the sewers of the town.
Eighties King was never exactly subtle in his metaphors.
On the page, It is an engrossing enough character study of four middle-aged men looking back to the horrific events of 27 years earlier, when a host of school-age children went missing at the hands of said clown.
The book has been adapted once before, in 1990, as a four-hour miniseries of fluctuating quality. The series retained the present/past format, but discarded most of of the 1100-page novel’s sub-plots. I do like the symmetry with which this second adaptation of It has been released, 27 years after the TV series. But there most of my admiration for this film ends.
Director Andres Muschietti ( Mama) and his writers – including the terrifically talented Carey Fukunaga ( Beasts of No Nation) – have also thrown out most of what in the book memorable, ie the relationships between the characters, in favour of a collection of set pieces during which a kid either does or doesn’t get killed.
The film deals only with the childhood-set part of the book – which is probably wise – but never really establishes the cast as anything other than a small selection of over-familiar Stephen King regulars. There’s the nerd, the fat kid, the troubled orphan and, inevitably, the slightly older and more worldly girl who the boys are left free to objectify and project their fantasies on to.
After the stupendously good series Stranger Things – which paid homage to King as much as it did Steven Spielberg – It seems more than a little redundant. While Stranger Things knew exactly how and when to update and gently mock its inspirations, this It just puts a bullet-point reading of half of the book onscreen without comment or insight.
While It contains a number of effective set-pieces and scares (although not nearly as many as last month’s Annabelle: Creation managed in a shorter running time), it really doesn’t hang together as a narrative. The gang meet up, get into a scrape with the clown, run away and then meet again a week or a month later to repeat the sequence.
One thing happens after another in a more or less coherent sequence, but that’s a pretty undemanding definition of a plot.
It is probably just about enough of a movie to send you home after the screening not quite grumbling that you’ve wasted your money. But, surely this book was – and always has been – crying out for the full 12-part TV series treatment, with every character arc and nuance of story treated with respect and developed to the full.
Knowing that will probably now never happen made it impossible for me to really enjoy It much at all. Still, Stranger Things’ second season starts soon. Looking forward to that.
– Graeme Tuckett
Paula 8.30pm, Friday, TVNZ1
New three-part British thriller in which the life of a young chemistry teacher is ripped apart after she has a one-night stand with a good-looking but dangerous handyman. ‘‘Every scene is dark, claustrophobic and menacing and the whole thing has a slight air of suppressed insanity about it,’’ wrote The Guardian‘ s Lucy Mangan.
Poi E 8.30pm, Sunday, Maori TV
Poi E might have seemed like something of a novelty record when it first hit the airwaves in 1983, but the mix of lyrics mysterious to most New Zealanders and a cutting-edge hiphop beat soon made it a favourite in lounges, schoolyards and on dancefloors across the nation. Christchurch-born director Tearepa Kahi’s ( Mt Zion) lovingly crafted, intimate 2016 documentary captures the anarchic spirit of the song and its creator Dalvanius Prime.
The Martian 8.30pm, Sunday, Three
With its Matt Damon-stuck-on- a-planet conceit, Jessica Chastain in charge of the rescue mission and commitment to getting the science right, it’s easy to see why comparisons have been made between this 2015 tale and 2014’s Interstellar. But in truth, director Ridley Scott’s film has more in common with that other Damon ‘‘mission is the man’’ movie Saving Private Ryan – only told from Ryan’s perspective. After the excess bombast of Exodus: Gods and Monsters, it was nice to have a low-key, stripped back sci-fi tale from the man who gave us Blade Runner and Alien.
Little Boy Blue 8.30pm, Sunday, Rialto
New four-part ITV drama which looks at the 2007 murder of 11-year old Rhys Jones in Croxteth, Liverpool and the effect it had on his parents, the police and the community at large. ‘‘Jeff Pope’s dramatisation excelled at turning bad news into good drama,’’ wrote The Guardian‘ s Sam Wollaston.
Grand Designs NZ 7.30pm, Tuesday, Three
Architect Chris Moller hosts the third instalment of the Kiwi version of this popular British reality series. This season sees beautiful houses being built in vast locations ranging from forests and inner-city dwellings, to private island escapes and tree canopy hideaways.
Lost & Found 8.30pm, Tuesday, Three
Hosted by David Lomas, this third season of the popular Kiwi reality series features complicated cases in which family members have been abandoned, stolen or torn apart from loved ones. The subjects in each episode try to find closure and answers, with some also after an understanding about their cultural heritage.
Pennywise? You’ll feel more like pound foolish with regards to It as an investment of your time and money.
Matt Damon finds himself stranded on the red planet in The Martian.