Having read Stephen King’s novel as a kid and grown up with the 1990s miniseries, I was probably more prepared for the violence and adult horrors in It Chapter 2 than lots of other viewers. That said, plenty of audiences went to the second chapter of Any Muschietti’s brilliant adaptation of one of King’s most frightening novels unprepared for the graphic violence in the opening scene. It’s impossible to talk about it without spoilers, so here’s the warning.
The film opens with a brutal homophobic assault based on the real life attack that inspired King in the first place: the attack and murder of Charlie Howard in 1984 Bangor, Maine. As King’s stated before, the creature in It feeds on fear, and particularly strong violence attracts it. There’s much in the novel to hint that the residents of fictional Derry, Maine feed the monster in their sewers willingly. King’s commentary then on human cruelty and hate running beneath the charming veneer in small towns is especially timely now as such violence escalates. Some viewers have reported that the moment is shocking and inappropriate, but I’d argue it’s especially important to remind viewers that horror comes not just in the form of dancing clowns, but in the form of otherwise seemingly-normal people.
Some people are dissing the movie, but I have to wonder if that’s because of the reveal that Richie is queer. Some people (*cough* Reddit *cough*) are accusing the film of pandering, but Richie’s queerness was written into the book. King may not have done it consciously, but he approved of the reading way back in the 80s and 90s. People complaining about this are missing the point of Richie’s character as another example of the comedian who hides his pain behind humor, internally suffering. He hasn’t come out, as far as we know, and that’s entirely understandable given the background against which he grew up: the 80s, homophobia, the AIDS scare, and of course small town Derry. Like all the Losers, he has to overcome the monster of his past before he can move on and begin healing. Money and success in adulthood have not solved the internal problems of facing how own fears. I’m honestly confused why people find this jarring or weird.
Others are complaining about the CGI, but they’re missing the story additives in the film. For every CGI moment, there are plenty of character development moments that stand out and enhance. As a longtime fan, it was amazing seeing so many of the scenes come to life with deeper characterization and conversations than in the 90s miniseries. Even the Jade of the Orient scene is fantastic despite the reliance on CGI. Only time will tell if they hold up, but they’re pretty solid additions for an already surreal film.
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