It of­fers only pre­dictable things

Marlborough Express - - ENTERTAINMENT -

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.

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