From The Dark Tower to IT

I have a confession to make. I was a very big Stephen King fan back in high school and college. Some of the first real books (a.k.a not storybooks) I read were his novels. My personal favorites are Salem’s Lot, The Dark Half (I had nightmares while reading this book!), The Stand, Different Seasons (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method), Needful Things, The Dead Zone, The Tommyknockers, and The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1). I had a copy of Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower IV), but I wasn’t able to read it.

I still love Stephen King and his stories today, although the books I read now are more of the mystery/thriller genre (James Patterson, David Baldacci, Mary Higgins Clark, & Phillip Margolin).

When I first heard that The Dark Tower and IT were to be given movie adaptations, I was naturally excited. And then I got a bit worried because translating a Stephen King book into a movie can be quite challenging. But still, I looked forward to watching both films when they were shown in the cinemas.

So when I had the chance to watch both movies, I grabbed the opportunity.

The first to come out in cinemas was The Dark Tower. About two weeks later, I found myself inside Centrio Cinema again, this time for IT. The level of excitement for both movies was the same, but the viewing experiences are quite different.

The Dark Tower

Honestly, I did not know what to expect when my husband and I went inside the movie house. All I knew was that I was ready, so ready, to see the Gunslinger onscreen. The first time I met him (in the book), I was intrigued by his character. He was a mystery to me and I wanted to get that same feeling when I see him come out onscreen for the first time.

Well, I wasn’t that intrigued when he did come out. But I felt the electricity of Idris Elba’s performance. His eyes spoke a lot even when he wasn’t saying anything. He was the Gunslinger.

I got the same vibe from Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. And the boy who played Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) did really well. Sadly though, the movie was not able to give viewers (especially those who haven’t read the books) a good visual explanation of what The Dark Tower was all about.

Basically, the story of The Dark Tower takes place in the post-apocalyptic Mid-World where Rolan Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is on a mission. His goal was to find Walter Padick, also known as the Man in Black, who killed his father.  Deschain meets the young boy Jake, who has been dreaming about him. The

The Gunslinger tells the young boy how Padick has been abducting psychic kids (like Jake) in order to destroy The Dark Tower. This tower is a structure situated at the center of the universe. It keeps the universe in balance and once it destructs, monsters from the outside world will be able to get in and destroy reality. The Gunslinger and Jake work together to stop this from happening.

While the movie was well-made in terms of technical qualities, it doesn’t really explore the Mid-World that much. It gave us glimpses of the Gunslinger and the Man in Black, but it wasn’t enough to fully explain what pushed them to where they were at the start of the movie. I think the main reason for this is the fact that the movie featured several elements from all the eight books in the series. It didn’t really dwell on a back story or, as it is in books, on a preface. It went straight into the battle. And, well, it was only 95 minutes long; not enough time for the entire story to unravel naturally.

Overall though, I was glad I watched The Dark Tower. It made me remember just how excited I was to get to know the Gunslinger and the Mid-World. It also brought back my interest in the book series.

What the movie was able to do, in my opinion, is spark interest in the Gunslinger/The Dark Tower series. At least now, more people are aware that such an epic masterpiece is available for reading. Also, I like how the movie portrayed the relationship between the Gunslinger and Jake. Likewise, I enjoyed most of the action.

Best of all, I like how the connected KINGdoms, or Stephen King’s multiverse, were played well into the movie. Everytime I spotted one, I’d marvel at how beautifully creative the author’s mind is!

 

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel

Actors: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Haysbert, Abbey Lee, Nicholas Hamilton, Katheryn Winnick, José Zuñiga, Victoria Nowak, Ben Gavin, Michael Barbieri, and Andre Robinson.

Running Time: 95 minutes

MTRCB Rating: PG (Parental Guidance)

IT

Two weeks after The Dark Tower, my husband and I went back to Centrio Cinema to watch another movie based on a Stephen King novel: IT.

Although I haven’t read the book (yet), I watched (several times) the 1990 TV adaptation of this movie. I remember Tim Curry’s Pennywise very well. And I also remember how some of my friends started getting scared of clowns after watching the TV mini series.

The 2017 version, in my opinion, is just how Stephen King would want his iconic clown story to be presented to moviegoers. There are 10 reasons why I love this movie:

1.It’s not your typical horror movie.

If you like jump scares, this isn’t the movie for you. You’ll be better off watching horror flicks like Blair Witch 2016 and the first Anabelle movie (the 2nd one is way better).

The kind of scare that IT delivers is difficult to find in movies nowadays. It’s the kind of scare that builds up. You start to become tense, then you grow anxious, and as the scene develops, your fear escalates. It’s the creepy kind of scare, too. There are no “Boo! I got you!” moments in the movie. Everything is just plain terror.

And the terror does not only come from Pennywise the clown, or from the fact that a number of children have been missing in Derry, Maine for years. The terror also comes from the people who are not doing anything about these mysterious disappearances. The terror also comes from the parents of The Losers Club, especially Beverly’s dad.

2. It’s thought-provoking.

This version’s story focuses on The Losers Club, seven adolescent misfits in the America of the 80s (1988-89, to be exact), and their search for whatever or whoever it was that took Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) away from his brother Bill (who speaks with a stutter) one rainy day. Since nobody in Derry seemed to know – or they simply refused to know – that a number of children have started going missing, the misfits take it upon themselves to investigate.

In the course of their investigation, Pennywise starts playing his mind games on them and their fears begin to grow stronger.

There are scenes that will make you think about your own fears; how you’ll handle or control them and how much of these fears you have allowed to ruin your life. It makes you question yourself. And it makes you wish you were as brave as The Losers Club.

The kids’ relationship with their parents is also worth exploring. In some ways, I looked at them as weird individuals. You’ll realize there are hidden meanings in parent-child scenes when you notice the camera placement. It’s as if the parents are seen through the eyes of a child, with the camera looking up and the parent appearing giant-like.

3. It’s funny.

It’s not easy to make people laugh in a horror film. But Director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) successfully does this. Most of the funny moments are delivered by Richie, the trash-talker Losers Club member played by Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”. His lines are brilliantly and seamlessly incorporated into the scenes, so you’ll never really know when he’ll strike again!

4. It touches the heart.

The love that Bill has for his brother Georgie is beyond measure. Long after the little boy disappeared, Bill continued to believe and hope that his brother was still alive; missing but alive. Even when he stutters, you can hear the pain in his voice.

This love is what drives him to convince his friends to join his search for Pennywise.

5. It’s frightening.

It’s frightening because what happens to the children in this movie can happen to anyone. We may not have a Pennywise in our midst, but we have quite a lot of Pennywise-like characters lurking practically everywhere.

And the fact that Stephen King uses a clown to symbolize such a scary character does not help a bit.

6. It’s profound.

Without deliberately showing it, King uses the story to highlight several issues that still hound a lot of people nowadays. Racism, abuse (by a parent), and bullying are just some of those that the author uses to build the characters of the story. Even the fact that Bill stutters has a reason.

It’s very rare to see horror movies that touch on serious issues such as the above-mentioned ones. Most of the new breed of scary movies typically feature a heroine in distress, a knight in shining armor, and a supernatural element (or a crazed human being) bent on destroying the heroine’s life.

This is another reason that makes IT a true horror movie.

7. The Losers Club kids and the actors portraying them.

They carry the movie. They make the movie. They complete the movie.

Jaden Lieberher (Bill), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), Sophia Lillis (Beverly), Finn Wolfhard (Richie), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie), Chosen Jacobs (Mike), and Wyatt Oleff (Stan) all give superb performances. Their chemistry and camaraderie shine through every scene.

8. The dialogues.

The Losers Club has a lot of good dialogue. Richie’s funny quips are witty and well-timed. Pennywise’s lines never fail to give you the creepy feels. Georgie’s lines while talking to Pennywise are brilliantly woven. This is one movie where you’ll love listening to the dialogues over and over.

9. Pennywise.

As a college student, Tim Curry scared me with his Pennywise characterization. But Bill Skarsgard’s version for this movie is simply a cut above the rest. His take on the mind-controlling scary clown will haunt you long after the last scenes of the film.

Let me just quote a portion of a review by Christy Lemire on rogerebert.com:

“But what Bill Skarsgard does with the role works well precisely because he doesn’t appear to be laboring so hard to frighten us. He doesn’t vamp it up. He’s coy—he toys with these kids—making his sudden bursts of insane clown hostility that much more shocking.”

I liked the Tim Curry Pennywise, but I’m more afraid of the Bill Skarsgard Pennywise.

10. It’s Stephen King.

Nobody knows how to weave horror (or weird) stories like Stephen King. Nobody. He is, after all, the “King of Horror”.

 

There you have it. Ten reasons why IT should be on top of your list right now. If you were a bit disappointed by The Dark Tower, let IT turn your world around!

On the other hand, if you have yet to watch a Stephen King movie, make it IT. Catch it while it’s still showing in theaters.

If you like YouTube movie reviews, check out what my favorite reviewer Chris Stuckmann has to say about IT.

 

Director: Andy Muschietti

Based on the novel by Stephen King

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman, Chase Palmer, and Cary Fukunaga

Actors: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Owen Teague, Logan Thompson, Jake Sim, Jackson Robert Scott, Steven Williams, and Javier Botet.

Running Time: 135 minutes

MTRCB Rating: R-13

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