Stephen King’s novel IT has now been adapted into a two-part miniseries and two theatrical films, and here’s how Pennywise’s adventures stack up. It’s hard to find a universal choice for Stephen King’s most beloved story. Between full-length novels and his acclaimed collections of short fiction, there’s literally hundreds of King tales to choose from. As far as an upper echelon goes though, one would be hard-pressed to find any opposition to IT being one of King’s greatest works.
The story of Derry, Maine’s resident shape-shifting alien monster and its battles with a group of friends known as the Losers’ Club was already iconic long before the recent theatrical IT adaptations, but they only served to introduce even more people to the joys and scares of King’s beloved tale. Pennywise is sure to remain a quintessential horror villain for generations to come, and the Losers’ Club will continue to serve as an example of a friendship pretty much everyone would love to have, minus the whole murderous clown and baffling sewer sex part.
As far as IT adaptations go, King’s book was first turned into a two-part miniseries in 1990, which aired on ABC over two nights. Director Andy Muschietti of course recently helmed the blockbuster films IT in 2017 and IT Chapter Two in 2019. For the purposes of this ranking, the two episodes of the miniseries will be considered separately, as they were designed to be watched that way, even if the current home video releases edit things into one long “movie.”
It’s no secret that IT (the book) suffers from Stephen King’s recurring problem of not knowing how to end what up until that point had been an excellent story. Unfortunately, neither attempt at translating King’s IT to the screen has managed to craft that great a conclusion either. While the IT miniseries’ adult cast of Losers is made up of TV veterans, and isn’t necessarily bad, the script for Part 2 is full of melodramatic moments worthy of eye-rolling, and ridiculous attempts at comedy that sometimes succeed in making Pennywise less of a monster and more of a stand-up comedian that happens to eat people. Plus, IT’s stop-motion spider form is an absolutely terrible looking effect.
Some fans are likely to be surprised at this being ranked lower than Part 1 of the miniseries, but despite having a better cast of Losers and big studio production values, IT Chapter Two falls prey to many of the same pitfalls as Part 2 of the 1990 version. The ending is still a letdown, with lots of wacky jokes that cut the tension to zero, and a way of defeating Pennywise that is the definition of anticlimactic. An ancient monster capable of doing just about anything is literally talked to death. Plus, the changes made to Stan’s suicide motivation are problematic at best, and upsetting at worst, and the 3-hour runtime feels unnecessary for the story being told.
Here’s where things get truly great. While the IT miniseries is limited by broadcast TV content standards and an early 1990s TV budget, Part 1 proves that extreme gore and flashy CGI isn’t needed when everything else is this good. The 1990 cast of child Losers’ Club members is arguably just as talented as those found in the 2017 movie, and never cease to be more engaging than their adult counterparts. Tim Curry is also famously terrific as Pennywise, bringing a great blend of sinister menace and playful clown-like behavior to the role that somehow didn’t manage to maintain this same balance during Part 2. Pennywise isn’t making “Prince Albert in a can” jokes here, instead he’s pretending to be Ben’s dead dad to lure him in, and scaring the hell out of Eddie while the poor kid is just trying to shower.
It wouldn’t really be fair to say that either Bill Skarsgard or Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise is better than the other, as both actors opted to play the character in distinctly different ways. Skarsgard’s Pennywise is just as effective at being scary though, as seen in the first theatrical film. There’s no nonsensical “Angel of the Morning” vomit scenes or monster pomeranians here. Instead Pennywise torments the Losers’ Club with images of their dead relatives, or headless children, or disgusting lepers. IT 2017 also features the best group of Losers, as once again, the kids top their adult counterparts. When it comes to adapting Stephen King’s book, IT doesn’t get any better than this.
Read more: screenrant.com