Who is IT? Tim Curry or Bill Skarsgård?
2017 was no doubt a banner year for horror movies that managed to make it big beyond its strict target demographics (read: horror fans).
Among such genre movies that achieved the feat was the big-screen version of "It", which was adapted from one of Stephen King's longest horror novels to date at 1,138 pages.
The movie turned out to be both a critical and financial success, while effectively making Stephen King a hot commodity again on the big screen.
Now, following the cliffhanger of the first "It" movie, the much-anticipated "It: Chapter Two" will be terrorising our local cinemas this week!
To coincide with the release of the upcoming sequel, it's time to recap the 1990 TV miniseries and the 2017 feature-length version.
Tim Curry plays the iconic antagonist role of Pennywise in the two-part TV miniseries, "It".
For those who lived through the 1990s, they probably would have seen or at least heard about the "It" miniseries on television, a made-for-TV adaptation from Stephen King's 1986 horror novel of the same name.
Originally aired in late 1990, "It" focuses on two different eras that take place in the fictional small town of Derry, with the first half of the miniseries set in the 1960s, where a group of seven pre-teen buddies a.k.a. "The Losers Club", face a child-eating clown nicknamed Pennywise (Tim Curry) who lives in the sewer. The second half of the miniseries is then followed by the present-day 1990 setting with all the kids grown up (Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid and Richard Masur) and are now forced to return to their hometown and deal with Pennywise once and for all.
While the novel itself is a massive page turner, the two-part "It" miniseries was unsurprisingly condensed into three-hours - 192 minutes, to be exact - and sacrificed some of the novel's more bizarre/extreme plot points that were deemed too offensive for the standard guidelines of a network's content restrictions. Even so, director Tommy Lee Wallace - whose previous directing credits including the much-misunderstood 1982's "Halloween III: Season Of The Witch" and popular TV series like "Tour Of Duty" and "The Twilight Zone" - did a better-than-expected job for seamlessly integrating two alternate timelines (both 1960 and 1990) while retaining all the core elements of the novel's source material.
The adult protagonists reunite to face their demons once and for all in the TV miniseries, "It".
Whereas both the younger and older cast members gave a respectively solid yet believable performance as the kid and adult versions of the seven traumatised protagonists, part of what made the "It" miniseries such a pop-culture milestone in the history of television is Tim Curry's unforgettable portrayal as Pennywise. He is the kind of clown that gave us nightmares as Curry nails his iconic role wholeheartedly. Although it is close to 29 years since its initial release, Tim Curry's creepy-antagonist performance remains as one of the best scary clowns of its kind.
Despite the fact that the "It" miniseries delivered most of the goods, it is still hard to ignore the obvious flaws that commonly plague made-for-TV productions of the 90s era. This is particularly evident with the noticeable budget constraint, where heavily-dependable scenes that required extensive special effects work are either unconvincing or unintentionally laughable.
Bill Skarsgård plays the big-screen version of Pennywise in "It".
Believe it or not, it took an astonishing 27 years for "It" to finally receive its long-overdue big-screen adaptation, but it was well worth the wait. Director Andy Muschietti alongside screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman made the right choice to not condense the book into one movie. Instead, they chose to adapt the first half of the novel by focusing entirely on the seven kids in Derry (Jaeden Martell's Bill, Jeremy Ray Taylor's Ben, Sophia Lillis' Beverly, Finn Wolfhard's Richie, Wyatt Oleff's Stanley, Chosen Jacobs' Mike and Jack Dylan Grazer's Eddie), where they first encounter Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).
Here's an interesting trivia: Co-writer Cary Fukunaga was originally enlisted as the director of the movie but subsequently backed out due to "creative differences" - a popular Hollywood term commonly referred to different artistic visions between the filmmaker and studio executives).
With obviously better resources and a bigger budget (USD35 million against the original two-part miniseries' reported USD12 million) at their disposal, the big-screen version was given free rein - though, not entirely - to insert elements previously considered offensive by the network television's standard. Since "It" was granted an R-rating, the movie spares no expense when comes to showcasing the graphic display of gore and violence. This, of course, can be evidently seen in the shocking opening scene involving little Georgie's (Jackson Robert Scott) ill-fated encounter with Pennywise at the storm drain.
(L-R) Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Martell, and Jack Dylan Grazer in "It".
While the kids did a great job playing their respective roles, all eyes were actually on Bill Skarsgård to see whether he was able to pull off the iconic Pennywise role previously immortalised by Tim Curry. Luckily, the then 27-year-old Swedish actor proved to be worthy of carrying the antagonist role. Comparisons aside, Skarsgård's overall performance is suitably creepy and he manages to make the Pennywise character entirely his own.
The story is mostly well-written, with the radical decision of transplanting the novel's original 1950s timeline to a more nostalgia-friendly 1980 setting proving to be a smart idea. Kudos also go to the screenwriting trio for allowing ample rooms for all the seven kid protagonists to establish their characters while the movie's overall coming-of-age storyline evokes the Amblin-like productions feel of Steven Spielberg-esque during his prime era.
"It" proved to be a bigger-than-expected hit at the worldwide box office, raking a whopping USD700.4 million in total. Whereas in the stateside alone, it managed to earn a blockbuster-sized total of USD327.4 million that has since beat M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" box-office record as Hollywood's highest-grossing horror film of all time. Whether or not the upcoming "It Chapter Two" is able to overtake or at least match its predecessor's financial success remains to be seen.
Cinema Online, 04 September 2019