Well…. It has ended. The final chapter in the remake of the Stephen King novel has been released to theaters meaning this is likely the last we see of Pennywise. (Unless there is another remake, or a prequel).
And with the movie released the early reviews are in from critics. Not thrilled. While the critics were less than thrilled, the audience and fans seemed to like it for the most part.
First thing is first with this movie though. It is too long. We all know it. Even the most ardent supporters of the movie can agree. The run time listed at 169 minutes (2 hours, 49 minutes) makes the movie lag a little and creates certain points in the movie where you end up doing the time check on your phone. There is no doubt that is a big negative for a movie that should have probably shaved 20-25 minutes off it. The stories are tough to fit into a smaller window while keeping the buildup, but there are parts that could be trimmed.
Once you get past the length though, the movie has some massive selling points. The best part about the entire movie was the casting. A+ as the actors not only look similar, but are all really good performance wise. Specifically though Bill Hader and James Ransone absolutely kill it. Hader is funny, awkward, and emotional throughout proving he is among the best actors around. He is a home run in Richie Tozier’s role. It doesn’t hurt he looks like Finn Wolfhard grown up either.
Not to be outdone though James Ransone is fantastic in his role as Eddie Kaspbrak. You can feel the fear he portrays through the screen and he nails the character growth in a short time that makes it believable. Hader should and will likely be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but Ransone should as well. Jessica Chastain should also get minor props. She was believable and a strong character. Unfortunately she just gets overshadowed.
Another performance that I enjoyed was Bill Skarsgard, who plays Pennywise. Skarsgard does a really good job with the creepy voice which is good because you see a lot of him. Although the scene was in the trailer, the scene with Skarsgard having the blood run down his face is really great. I wish it wasn’t in the trailer. If anyone needs a lesson in casting follow this movie.
Aside from casting, they did a good job making the stories shorter involving flashbacks to their youth. In the previous iteration of It the stories dragged on. These were much quicker and sharper.
One of the most horrifying scenes no doubt though is when the girl goes under the bleachers and sees Pennywise. That scene really nails it from the lighting, conversation, and raising of the volume just before the terrifying ending to it. Very well done.
In that same vein, the scene where they put their fortunes together is really solid writing. It pops and really dives right into the mindset you want for a horror movie. Unfortunately that is followed by a scene that is unsatisfying, not scary, and just bad when the fortune cookies turn into illusions of eyeballs, spiders and other things. Big miss there after a very good start.
Some other negatives that weigh this movie down, even past the length. For all its funny spots, the movie has trouble picking the right spots for jokes and some of them just are misses. There was some good humor in the movie which lightens it and makes it more enjoyable, but there are some misses.
Moreover the writing also wasn’t the best. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book. This is based on just the cinema experience) I felt the ending was not great and kind of a letdown after the buildup that helped pump up excitement. It unfortunately felt predictable and stale from other past movies. Think they really missed a chance to capitalize on some excellent fear buildup, especially after seeing Pennywise become gigantic. However, I do think the fact they had Eddie get hurt and ultimately not make it out alive really left you feeling much better about the ending. It really punctuated the excellent performances of the aforementioned Hader and Ransone. It would have been unrealistic to not have anyone hurt in a battle when Pennywise grew gigantic.
Criteria - 87%
Overall this movie failed to live up to its monstrous expectations, but still absolutely provided some scares, laughs, chills and real enjoyment. I really enjoyed the film as a whole and think some critics missed the boat a little. The movie is not great, but it is a solid to good, and just misses very good. The casting, peformances, visuals, and most lighting really all nail what they want to accomplish. Yes the movie is too long, but it still delivers on what you want to see. Go for the horror scenes. Stay for the unreal performances by Hader and Ransone.