So I have read this book a number of times starting in 5th grade when I was the same age as the kids. I am almost the same age as the adults, so this is interesting to me.
I also recently saw the movie, and it was fine. But it had the same problem any movie version of any book that greatly outdistances its adaptation has: it just can’t take the time it needs to do the job correctly.
Things I liked about the movie:
The cast was great.
The revised time/setting worked great (I don’t know that fixed a problem that needed fixing, but it worked)
The practical effects and CGI were solid.
The lair was well done.
Things I didn’t like:
The pacing was too fast.
Pennywise was too fast.
There was almost no work put into building context that made sense.
Pennywise is not a monster, and never has been. It’s a primordial evil….a kind of brain tumor that seeps into every crevice of the town of Derry.
Derry is evil, Derry is IT, and Derry is the character that needs the most development.
Adults are complicit in this evil and that needs to be shown.
It makes nods to the book at time where it needs to actual portray – IE The Dead Lights…..they’re not gonna talk about them.
One of the things that book really shows is that in the US, if you are vulnerable as a product of the American system: kids, Black, Jewish, Disabled, Gay, or a woman (more would be true but it doesn’t get there) you understand what’s completely evil about Derry. It functions along the same parallels are is true about America today….so when the kids start growing up and they leave the kids part behind and become less economically vulnerable, they lose their memories of the events from their childhood. So when it all comes rushing back it’s overwhelming and terrifying. It’s a kind of snapping out of privilege….this could be a kind of angle to work….it’s even why Mike is the only one who stays behind and keeps track of it. He’s the only one (besides Bev, who never escapes her abuse) (Stan is vulnerable as Jewish, but he is a little protected by a welcome community as an adult) who always remembers.
Ok, so what it needs is a 12 episode mini-series. It wouldn’t even have to be super expensive. Practical effects, make-up is all you need. It would have two locations, but I swear it would work just fine and be perfectly cheap.
So Episode 1:
Start with the Georgie murder.
Move to Canal Days.
Move to Mike making the calls: start, don’t end with Stan: Stan needs to be called first and die first before meet the kids. This creates a sad kind of dramatic irony throughout the whole 1958 parts. It works.
Each phone call introduce the adults who barely remember what’s going, see who they are as adults, and set the tone.
Begin with Mike doing the research/Derry Interlude to begin building Derry as the context.
Now you introduce the kids as the adults approach. This should take 2-3 episodes.
Slowly tell the story of the summer. And let the cut scenes be “told” to the other kids like happens in the book so that more context can be threaded through. Eddie’s run-in with the syphilitic hobo would actually make sense…and then he would say those words. It’s important to really establish that the town has a magical presence that can create reality out of nothing (based in fear) and so when the kids start using this same kind of power (battery acid in the inhaler….THAT’S what makes the silver work, not the actual silver).
Cut the weird sex stuff. I know kids do all kinds of stuff, but there’s too much uncomfortable 80s feelings psychologizing homosexuality and it shouldn’t make it into the final cut (ie the handjobs in the junk yard).
Put Bev’s mom back in the movie.
Put Richie’s parents in there….they’re strange!
Don’t just make Stan Jewish as his only character trait….make him a bird watched again!
Keep slowly building the summer and bringing the adults together. Play up the Derry Interludes because they are the secret heart of this book. Introduce Henry and Tom and Audra into the mix.
The weird junkyard scene is important but not essential, but you need a scene (before he kills his dad) that really shows Henry has lost it. That’s what the junkyard scene does so you need something.
Final showdown scenes for both kids and adults.
I don’t know how you handle the aether sections…the whole…the showdown takes places in another plane stuff, but I think you need it. I dunno if this means a turtle or not, but looking into how this could be done could be an amazing experience.
Eddie needs to die. The sex scene doesn’t have to happen, but there should be something that brings them together. The memory is vital…the loss of their connections as the book closes is really good.