Did The ‘IT’ Remakes Do The Right Thing Breaking The Story Into Two Chapters?

In 1986, Stephen King published IT. The story revolves around a killer clown that preys off of children’s deepest fears in the small, fictional town of Derry, Maine. Since its publication, IT has been subject to many adaptations that have altered the way the story is brought to life.

Stephen King’s novel has grown to newfound popularity because of its televised film adaptations. In 1990, Stephen King’s IT aired as a two-part special on ABC, featuring Tim Curry as Pennywise. The killer clown’s story was adapted once again 27 years later (matching Pennywise’s own hibernation schedule). This time, the story was broken into two films: IT and IT: Chapter Two. The 2017 and 2019 adaptations starred Bill Skarsgård as the intense and terrifying Pennywise.

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The beloved 1990 adaptation originally aired as two episodes, segmenting the story of IT much like the 2017 and 2019 adaptations. Despite the original release in the 90s, the two-part miniseries was eventually compressed into one long film. To do so, the compression removed the ending of “Part 1” and “Part 2,” which included the scene that reveals Stan’s fate and Bill’s journey to the cemetery. While the cut elements of the drama series don’t take much away from the series as a whole, the change does make the clear differentiation between the remake’s separate parts that much more important. Because the IT story was previously made into two parts and later condensed, was it a smart idea to separate the story into two pieces again?

Bill Skarsgård and Tim Curry as Pennywise

2017’s first chapter centered on the children played by Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff. The first chapter beautifully expands on the struggles between the unlikely group of friends and their initial encounters with Pennywise, as well as their struggles to defeat him. Along the way, their united front is threatened by their own fears and Pennywise’s relentless attempts to single them out.

IT runs for over two hours, giving the children room to have their own individual stories in addition to the larger narrative as a group. This allows each child to recognize and deal with their own fears before attempting to overcome them enough to defeat (or at least starve) Pennywise. Because IT is the first chapter, it also allows the children to learn of the threatening presence in Derry for the first time. In addition to exploring the film’s villain and giving him a tad of backstory (that is somewhat built upon in Chapter Two), IT allows the children to explore their relationships with one another. This allows the core quartet, Bill (Martell), Eddie (Dylan Grazer), Stan (Oleff), and Richie (Wolfhard), to forge their lifelong bond with Mike (Jacobs), Beverley (Lillis), and Ben (Ray Taylor). While the bond may be one that dwindles once they leave Derry, the memories that bond them are things they will unfortunately never be able to forget.

While IT opened the doors for many upcoming actors to solidify their rise to fame, IT: Chapter Two featured notable names to play the children of Derry. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean all made their debuts in the IT franchise, joined by the returning Skarsgård. Despite the film’s impressive cast, Chapter Two fell a bit flat with audience members. Following the first film, the second one failed to elevate the plot by introducing new (or at least crucial) elements to drive the plot forward. Instead, Chapter Two rushed some of the critical elements that were meant to drive the second installment of the story.

Alerted by Mike (Mustafa) of the return of Pennywise, the Losers’ Club trickle back to Derry to start what they hoped they had put an end to 27 years prior. Unfortunately, not all members of the Losers’ Club make it back. Stan (Bean) dies before reuniting with the other members of the Losers’ Club in Derry. Stan’s fear of Pennywise is built up well in the first film, making his ultimate fate a foreseeable ending for his character. However, the Losers’ Club failed to build on Stan’s fate. With the strong bond that Stan had with Bill, Richie, and Eddie in addition to the friends he gained in Ben and Beverley, it would be reasonable to assume that Stan’s loss would’ve weighed heavier on the group.

Chapter Two also rushed the romantic build-up between Beverley and Ben. In fact, the build-up is so rushed that it warrants the belief that Beverley had more of a romantic connection with Bill as opposed to Ben. The confusion over who gave her the Secret Admirer postcard many years ago is the core of Bev’s misconception. IT showcased Ben’s crush on Beverley but failed to build on any form of romantic interest between them. Instead, Beverley seemed to experience it with Bill. Chapter Two doesn’t do much with this aside from making Ben’s identity as the postcard sender known to her.

Another failure of Chapter Two’s plot is the potential connection between Richie and Eddie. While the strong bond between the two was very well demonstrated in Chapter One, the romantic side isn’t built upon strongly in Chapter Two. This could be due to Richie’s closeted status, as it wasn’t something built upon in the film. In the novel, there are a few hints to Richie and Eddie’s feelings toward one another and in the film, these instances are equally as subtle. It isn’t until Chapter Two that any of this is concretely addressed, featuring Pennywise often teasing Richie that he knows his secret. It’s confirmed during Eddie’s death scene and eventually the flashback that reveals Richie carving his and Eddie’s initials into the Derry Kissing Bridge.

By separating the IT story into two films, both children and adult versions of the Losers’ Club will be explored without overwhelming viewers with too many layers at once. The separation was indeed the right choice, but the second chapter needed to be stronger. The original miniseries’ second episode (that centered around the adult versions of the Losers’ Club) was also subjected to criticism in comparison to the first. Because the newest film adaptations ran longer, they had the potential to do more with King’s killer clown story and the first chapter delivered. The second became more of a walk down memory lane instead of facing the large problem at hand. While the problem is not new, the circumstances surrounding them (including their own experiences since have become adults) are, which lends itself to tell the story in a new way. Chapter Two may not capitalize on this in the way many had hoped, but the IT story and all its adaptations have cemented itself as a staple in the horror genre.

Stephen King’s IT (1990) is now streaming on Hulu. IT (2017) and IT: Chapter Two (2019) are now streaming on HBO Max.

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