It’s All Grown Up: Monster Stephen King novel takes a Scary Jump into Adulthood…
This week, the most anticipated horror movie of the year finally hits theaters. “IT: Chapter 2” is the sequel to Warner Brother’s 2017 blockbuster hit, “IT”, but audiences already know that the film will not be the most conventional of sequels, particularly based on the timeline and source material that it grapples with.
Based on Stephen King’s epic 1986 novel, the two “IT” movies, both directed by Andrés Muschietti, try to translate the over-one-thousand-page book into film. Thus, the project was pretty much always bound to be more than just one movie.
A pre-planned franchise is nothing new to Hollywood. More interesting is the way that Warner Brothers and Muschietti plan on adapting the novel’s intricate narrative structure. Over hundreds of pages, King’s original book switches back and forth between the main characters’ present lives and their childhoods.
It seems that the modern films have decided to take a more linear approach, though, with the first It focusing entirely on the characters as children and “IT: Chapter Two” telling their adult story.
Liberties taken Could be the Ticket to Clarity
This may be a wise decision on Muschietti and Warner Brothers’ part, for a previous adaptation of “IT”—the miniseries that aired on ABC in 1990—attempted to follow King’s original structure and ultimately ended up congested and ill-paced.
Splitting the extensive story into two chronological films will likely be a more enthralling and digestible way to appreciate It, even if it does deviate from King’s literary form. Therefore, what makes this film an anomaly in the world of direct sequels, is that it takes place twenty-seven years after the events of the first film.
Of course, the “distant sequel” has been somewhat of a trend in Hollywood lately, with classic franchises like Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Men in Black (amongst others) all returning to the big screen within the past few years after decades-long hiatuses.
However, these distant sequels are effective in part because the temporal gap between them and their predecessors is usually mirrored in real time. Seeing beloved characters and settings come back on camera after such long absences can evoke a strong senses of nostalgia, and lure in wistful audiences, also introducing the stories to new generations.
“IT: Chapter Two”, however, has skipped the “real time” gap and instead simply re-casted the characters as adults. It also helps that first film took place in 1989, which causes the twenty-seven year gap to land the sequel right in modern times.
Grown-ups of the Present Day vs. Kids of our Memories
This may allow the sequel to have more contemporary relevance, the relatively short time since the 2017 original allows Warner Brothers to capitalize on the current fanaticism around the first film.
At the same time, though, it sacrifices a sense of authentic nostalgia, and given the amount of mileage the first film got out of retro 1980s references, the lack of nostalgia may put Chapter Two at a critical disadvantage.
Similar to they way that the childhood storyline from Stephen King’s novel took place in the 1950s and made references to the era’s classic horror movies, the first It movie exploited 1980s nostalgia, with music queues, cultural references, and cinematic troupes that brought viewers back to the thriller-filled decade of Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, and Friday the 13th, but also the blissful bildungsroman blockbuster era of Stand By Me and ET.
This was evident from the first movie’s marketing alone—the opening line of the 2017 trailer being “when you’re a kid, you think the universe revolves around you,” over shots of the tween-aged characters biking around town and jumping into swimming holes.
The trailers for Chapter Two — which is all we have to go on until the film opens — do not have the same 1980s nostalgic flavor.
It seems like the sequel will keep a small foot in that door through flashbacks, but the bulk of the movie will have to stand on its own unconventional two legs as a modern-day adaptation of a beloved thirty-year old horror novel.
Expectations are high and the trailers imply that “IT: Chapter Two” will deliver on scariness and epic-ness, but without the Kevlar of nostalgic charm that truly made the 2017 movie stand out, audiences will have to see if Chapter Two compensates those lost strengths.
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