Wednesday, March 29, 2017

We Who WILL Watch: It (2017)

Aaron: Despite the lack of visible activity on this blog (we're working on it, we swear!), 2017 continues to promise a veritable smörgåsbord of high quality Stephen King adaptations. On the television front, we not only have the mysterious Castle Rock project for Hulu (previously discussed on this very site) but we can also look forward to Mr. Mercedes, a series based on the first book in a trilogy following retired police detective Bill Hodges, and a television adaptation of The Mist, previously brought to the big screen (and fairly successfully at that) by Frank Darabont. Yet the big news still belongs to the big screen, as two of Stephen King's most high profile titles and most long awaited adaptations are nearing their release dates in theatres: The Dark Tower, and It. And, uhm, something called C.U.J.O.: Canine Unit Joint Operations, which is a title I don't even want to begin to parse at this time.

It was previously filmed in 1990 as an ABC mini-series that not surprisingly lost a lot of the depth and history of the novel, while The Dark Tower has long been considered a fan's pipe dream: something that no studio in their right mind would ever greenlight in a way that would adequately convey seven books (along with several novellas and spinoff novels) into a feature film, or series of films. The Dark Tower has been in some form of production for a few years now, with Ron Howard moving the ball forward with an ambitious plan to release a series of tentpole feature films with a television series to fill in the gaps between theatrical releases. I think everyone pretty quickly assumed that would never happen, and I know for myself I immediately assumed the project would fade back into development hell. And yet here it is 2017, and The Dark Tower is now in post-production, featuring a pretty exciting looking cast and a fairly eye-catching poster:

Today's big news, probably already known by people visiting this site, is the release of a teaser trailer for It. This is news that was actually announced yesterday, with a short "teaser for the teaser," because that's how advertising for a movie works on the internet these days. The teaser doesn't offer much, but it is full of all the classic It signifiers: the sewer, the talk of clowns, "we all float down here".

Promptly this morning the full trailer was released to the world, and it's full of everything you could possibly want from an It trailer: 

It's hard to imagine many people being disappointed by what's on display here, as it looks to be a supremely faithful, and supremely creepy, adaptation. I understand many fans were upset about the updating of events for the movie, changing the two settings from the 1950s and 1980s to the '80s and present day, but for several reasons that doesn't bother me. I know '80s nostalgia is all the rage these days (as it has been for, seemingly, three decades), and it could seem like cheap nostalgia, but that's pretty much the same argument that could have been made about the '50s when the novel first came out. Beyond that, it allows the segments following the characters as adults to take place firmly in the recognizable present.

Rik: I will say that I was not aware previously that there are supposedly going to be two separate films – one focusing on the kids experience in the '80s and the other based on their adult selves dealing in the present day – but watching the trailer, I noticed how it was all kids, all the time. Made me wonder where the adults were, and the notion that maybe they were doing two films crossed my mind. Their omission from the trailer does not automatically mean that the adult versions of the children are not in the film itself, and it is also likely that the producers were just attempting to cash in on the current success of Stranger Things. But also likely is the fact that the grown-up versions of the kids will mostly be played by some recognizable name talent, to help put butts in seats beyond the King crowd, and so if it were nothing but a self-contained, single story film, anything more than a brief glimpse of the second half of the book would have the trailer speed-flashing through a series of worried adult faces somewhere deep in its running time.

The problem is that I am having trouble finding a more current article than summer 2016 (Variety) and a couple of also not current mentions on the Wikipedia pages for both the film and the book that the two-film production is still a thing. To be fair, I have not dug really deep into my normal research style, because the truth is that I have a lot of bigger fish to fry right now (which is part of the problem of why this website has not updated as frequently as we would wish, including the last couple parts of the ALL CARRIE coverage we promised back in October).

One other thing... about that poster for The Dark Tower... all I can think about when seeing it is... Inception. But then again, that is what I was thinking when I first saw the trailer for Doctor Strange.

Aaron: I also flashed on Inception when I saw that poster, but what quickly replaced my initial feeling of familiarity was enjoyment at how the negative space in the poster makes an image of the Tower itself. That, and if you look closely you can see a tiny Matthew McConaughey walking upside down. 

I was also unaware of the two film plan, though I think I, too, read something about it awhile back. I tend to not read a lot of press materials these days, or read casting announcements or interviews detailing plots. Not that I'm worried about spoilers, I just prefer to discover these things as I watch the film, and then go back later to find out the behind the scenes details if I'm still interested. What I did find most amusing about the time frame is that Finn Wolfhard (who played Mike in Stranger Things and will play the young Richie Tozier in It) is apparently having trouble escaping the '80s.

One more note, because we really should save this for when we actually cover the book and movie, is my initial thoughts on Pennywise. Pennywise isn't actually shown very much in this trailer, beyond a couple quick glimpses, a white glove with claws coming out, and that jump-scare shot at the end, but here's a full image of what he's going to look like:

It took me awhile to come around on the costume, and I'm still not entirely sold on it. I'm also still not sold on Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, who I primarily know from his work on Hemlock Grove. That may not be the best work to judge his abilities on, though, as I imagine it would have been impossible for even the greatest actors to make that show compelling. But this trailer has gone a long way towards allaying my fears about the tone of this film, so I'm willing to go with it and say that I am solidly optimistic about this film.

Rik: I must say, having avoided Hemlock Grove on your advice (which doesn't mean I will necessarily avoid it in the future if I am bored, and other friends take note... Aaron is one of the few people in the world from whom I take movie or television recommendations. At least, seriously...), I have looked into Mr. Skarsgård's fairly short filmography and found that I am severely lacking in having seen anything he has ever done. This is something I cannot say of either his father Stellan or his brothers Alexander and Gustaf, though I can say it of his other brothers Sam and Valter. (But not of his brother Darrell or his other brother Darrell...) As a result, I have nothing on which to base an opinion of him, though as you mentioned, he is barely seen in the trailer.

As to the costume, I rather like it. It has an older European circus aesthetic to it, and may be a good choice since our country is littered with fake (and potentially real) evil clowns dressed in what has become acceptable as de rigueur in American clown cosplay. Pennywise is fine and all (and the only reason I even like Pennywise from the merely decent to only OK mini-series is the fact that Tim Curry played him), but what I am more interested in anyway – being a non-human monster guy – is what the spider will look like. Give me a call when that is revealed...

I will say that this trailer has me excited about the finished product. I am not the biggest fan of the book, mostly owing to the creepy and tone-deaf child orgy scene (my opinion, but it is what took me out of the book for the remainder of the story, though I did finish it). As a result, I was only slightly excited to see the mini-series. I remember that I almost missed out on recording it at the time of its airing but one of my friends reminded me of it the hour before it aired. And as I mentioned in the last paragraph, my opinion of the TV version runs pretty lukewarm except for a couple of excellent performances in it. I am looking forward to giving the book another shot, this time with even more mature eyes and brain, and think it is pretty swell they are (potentially) breaking the film up into two parts to give the story and characters room to breathe and grow.

Aaron: I have plenty to say in response to your revelations within those last two paragraphs, but I think they'll have to wait for now. What I will point out is that Entertainment Weekly ran an interview with Janie Bryant, the designer of the new costume, and she goes into great detail about her intentions in designing the new look. You can click here for the link, but be warned that the EW website is a huge mess. One takeaway I enjoyed was the idea that a lot of choices in the profile of the costume are to suggest the shape of an insect's cephalothorax. I do have to admit that some of my uncertainty about the look comes from how... bizarre and wrong it all feels. Our collective thoughts on the two It films will certainly be shared later this year when the film hits theatres; we wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves. And yet all these announcements have us pretty excited for at least one aspect of 2017. We hope you'll stick with us as we bring this site back up to speed and join us on all the creepy good times ahead.

[One final note: It, directed by Andrés Muschietti (who previously helmed the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Mama in 2013) will arrive in American theatres on September 8th.]

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