Reviews In The Machine, Stephen King’s IT, part one
My introduction to IT came in the form of Tim Curry. Thanks goes to him for a childhood packed with nightmares and inability to walk slowly past air ducts and storm drains. I know that the current generation of movie goers, spoiled with all of their precious digital effects look back on a movie like this and dismiss it as cheesy tripe.
Still, it scared all holy hell out of me. So what was my natural reaction to this experience?
Well, of course I had to read the book.
From the start, I immediately knew that this was going to be a completely different experience from what I had watched in that miniseries. In truth, the movie just barely scratched the narrative surface of what exists there and if there is anything I have learned from all the subsequent readings of this, it is that IT is quite possibly one of the least ideal books to be adapted for the big screen. And I am not one of the type who bemoans every movie and how much they ruined or destroyed the book that I loved so much. I understand that there are always going to be necessary changes to a book when it makes the transition into a different format. But in the case of IT, I think that expecting a movie to carry that much weight is like taking a twelve course meal from a renowned chef and condensing the entire experience down into a few bites. Sure, you can capture the broad strokes of the story, recreate the bare bones, but there is so much more richness and complexity to the story that I think you miss out on.
Unless you read the book.
IT is ultimately a story about friendship. It’s a story about growing up and losing touch with the things that make us powerful and unique. It’s a story about standing up to the things that frighten us and vanquishing them with the most powerful tool we have at our disposal, each other. In the days we live in now, it’s heartening to see it suggested in a story that the confrontation of evil can only be enhanced and strengthened when it is filtered through our love of each other. It is a story about the loss of innocence, the rediscovery and repeated loss of that same innocence. Put simply, the book is a masterpiece on all fronts and if I had to scrap every single Stephen King book in my collection, save for one, this would be the one.
IT takes place over two time periods. One is set in the present day or, what was the present day at the time it was written. The heroes of the story, the Loser’s Club, sit at the center and in the present day we see them as adults. We see them in the course of their day to day lives when out of the blue, they receive a phone call from home, a call from an old friend they had actually forgotten about even existing. The message from their friend and their past is simple.
They have to come home.
The second part of the story takes place around the same seven characters, but in the past as children. In both timelines, the Loser’s Club is forced to face down an ancient and powerful evil, one set on the domination and destruction of the town of Derry, Maine.
The Loser’s Club is the ultimate gathering of archetypes in my opinion. If you have ever felt like an outsider for any reason, there is likely at least one if not multiple characters in the Loser’s Club that you are going to relate with. Like Ben Hascomb, I have had issues with weight for most of my life. As with Eddie Kasparack, I have suffered on and off with asthma. And while I have never had a stutter, like Bill Denborough, I have had to live with the stigma of Tourette’s Syndrome and know full well what it feels like to have people staring at you like you are an “other” or a “freak”. I think that IT is designed to make you immediately relate to and root for the characters. You can see yourself in their shoes and find yourself wondering how you would react, given the same situation. What do you do when all the things you never thought possible start happening and the only ones you can turn to are the loser friends who claim to be seeing the same things as you?
Stephen King has always had a knack for writing characters who are children. IT is one book in particular where he shines in this regard. His love for rock and roll is also something which comes through clearly in the flashback portions of the book. Based on the amount of time he spends on the younger versions, they certainly seem to be the ones he cares about the most and is the most invested in revealing.
IT is a book about losing touch with things, losing touch with your childhood, losing touch with your own memories of yourself and those around you. It’s a book about losing touch with your core being. Some of the most powerfully tragic aspects of this book is seeing the adult versions of these characters coming back together and clearly having difficulty fitting each other back into their lives. For a group that was so powerful, largely due to the emotional connections with each other, it is hard to see them acting almost like strangers as they answer the call and return to Derry for one last confrontation with the worst childhood fear imaginable.
And for more on that childhood fear, come on back tomorrow for the second part of this review. Until then, stay safe and stay sane.