Critics came into Andy Muschietti's reboot of IT will a great amount of anticipation. Despite a strong early response from those that saw an early glimpse, the reaction has been mixed.
Adapting the Stephen King novel to make The Losers Club another year older and changing the timeline from the 1960s to the late 1980s, this has been an exercise of combining a vintage horror tale that broke many taboos, to a modern blockbuster that had to deal with constraints - even with an R-rating.
Here is what the critics had to say.
Great Use of Character and Time Management
Giving a B+ rating in Collider, Matt Goldberg says that the filmmaker has the patience to establish the world of The Losers Club before rushing into a series of scares straight away.
"Muschietti’s movie is far more concerned with defining its young characters. Although some characters get more definition than others (Stan is basically 'The Jewish kid who is afraid of a painting'), we ultimately care about them as a group and as individuals. We don’t like them simply because they’re underdogs or outcasts; we like them because of their friendship, chemistry, and personalities... There’s an inherent brutality that, at its best, serves to illuminate rather than titillate. But IT stands apart because while it may not be the scariest movie of the year or perhaps even the adaptation that King’s fans wanted, it shows its ambition by where it chooses to show its attention."
Tim Robey issued a 4/5 star critique at The Telegraph to praise Muschietti's adaption of a detailed book.
"Andy Muschietti’s film has a lot to whip through in just over two hours, even though this one is only tackling half the book – bear in mind that the whole thing clocked in at a grueling 1,138 pages."
With Bill Skarsgard delivering the goods for a frightening take on Pennywise, Robey believes that the inclusion of some humor does not mesh well with the tone.
"The gut-grabbing intensity of the film’s attack scenes, if anything, causes a problem: it creates a devil of a time building flow. These episodes are so individually frightening that the chirpier interstitial parts, with their stabs at comic relief, don’t gel."
Arguably The Best King Movie Ever Made
William Bibbiani does not see this as a perfect horror installment at IGN, but for those hoping for a King adaptation that sticks to the script, this is the movie for you.
"IT may not be the best Stephen King movie (even though it comes impressively close), but it’s probably the MOST Stephen King movie," he argues. "Director Andy Muschietti evokes the horror author’s effortless melodrama and in-your-face psychological torments simultaneously, because he seems to understand that these sensibilities bring out the best and, by definition, the worst in one another. Nightmares are scarier when they emerge from happy dreams, and happy endings mean a heck of a lot more when unthinkable horror precedes them. And of course, everything is creepier with a scary clown in it."
Finally for Jake Wilson at The Sydney Morning Herald, the film is a bit on the nose in his 3/5 star review. While it manages to break a few cinematic taboos along the way like child murder, the constant nostalgia trips diminish from the reboot.
"The malign yet fascinating Pennywise represents all the murky aspects of life that these barely adolescent characters are in the process of awakening to, sexuality included. The children swear plentifully and make constant dirty jokes, which is typical King, but not something you see often nowadays in mainstream American cinema... The film is hindered more than it's helped by its constant explicit pop-cultural references, which come off as nudging reminders to older viewers not to view the whole thing too seriously, and are generally too heavy-handed to pass as wit."
IT opens in theaters across the US this week on September 8.