Rating: 2 Stars
And to be honest, it’s a generous two stars. I give out relatively few 1 stars (probably less than 5 over the last couple of years). It has to be boringly bad at an almost infuriating level for me to give it a 1.
So, it’s not that bad. Or should I say It’s not that bad? Which leads me to comment number one. Who the fuck calls a monster It? Do you not know how the English language works? Every time, you have to check the capitalization of the word ‘it’ to determine if King’s referring to the monster or is just using the innocent pronoun. If ‘it’ happens to be the first word in the sentence, you’re kind of fucked.
I watched the film about a month ago or so. I found the film problematic, primarily because you have to fit in seven character’s plot arcs in a two hour movie. There is just no way that that can be done successfully in such a short period of time, so there were times when I got confused about which character is actually involved (the asthmatic one? the mouthy one? the fat one?).
I figured that the novel has to be way better. The canvas is so much more broader and King, who as we all know isn’t big on succinctness, will have the time and space to tell all of his characters’ stories. It (arrggghhh!!) is over 1000 pages, so this shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Still a problem. The main characters are still, at the end of the day, pretty generic kids. The kids’ names are (let’s see if I can do this from memory): Bill, Ed, Mike, Ben, Bev, Stan, and Richie. They are, respectively, the stutterer, the hypochondriac, the black kid, the fat kid, the girl, the Jewish kid and the mouthy kid. And that’s kind of how they’re known. They have one character trait that differentiates them. Even Bev, the girl, is basically just one of the boys. Bill has the most character development, being the main protagonist, but still, pretty generic. Even after reading many hundreds of pages, when one of the characters was called out, I’d have to take a second and think, OK, this is Ben, he’s the fat one, OK, got it.
Each character had several episodes that you had to wade through, both as children and as adults. It’s still too many characters to care about and I stopped caring midway through the book.
So, what’s the thing about clowns? It’s never explained. It (dammit!) can manifest itself (…sigh…) into any shape (aiming for those shapes that terrify, It seemingly feeds on fear). For some reason, across history, It inevitably manifests itself as a clown (there are old pictures / stories about a strange clown hanging around the periphery during times of violence and horror). Clowns haven’t been scary throughout all time have they? Why does It keep coming back to it?
And in battles when they first wound …sigh…It and then later, as adults, when they kill …It, it (the pronoun, not the monster) becomes some weird end of 2001 Space Odyssey trip to infinity and back. Apparently there’s some superior force of creation that’s an impossibly ancient yet somehow wise tortoise that exists in opposition to It and the two have some kind of ying-yang relationship but then when the kids come back as adults the tortoise might be dead but there might be an even larger creative force beyond even the tortoise serving as perhaps the least impressive god-like force ever. The book was published in 1987. Those of us who were alive and conscious during that time remember Joseph Campbell and all of his philosophizing on myths. It appears that King took Campbell’s ideas, word scrambled them, and served them up fresh.
And finally, these seven kids are all around eleven years old. Beverly, the girl, is 11 years old. Eleven years old. Not even a teenager. King, in several places, writes about her body in what can only be described as in an uncomfortably sexual manner. I’m not talking about the feelings that she’s developing or anything like. No, he writes about her fresh skin, luxurious hair, long legs, and budding breasts. It’s frankly uncomfortable. And then there’s the subplot where her father, although not overtly sexually abusing her (at least until he gets possessed by…yes…It), is clearly having impure thoughts about his daughter. Not to mention the fact that, key to the plot (and I apologize if this is a spoiler, but it’s a thirty year old novel), she pulls a fucking train with all of the eleven year old boys. Seriously, WTF? They gather their collective power to fight It by grasping hands in a circle. OK, fine, but then they get lost in the tunnels and she decides that the only way to really bring all of the power is to have an orgy with her fellow eleven year old friends? My life was certainly improved by the description of an eleven year old girl’s orgasm.
For some reason, the movie version somehow decided to bypass this little scene.
I’m not a Stephen King hater. I’ve read many of his novels and have enjoyed them (I remember being particularly creeped out by Pet Semetary). Clearly he has writing chops and can tell a story. But lordy, It (fuck!) was a book that was both boring and creepy.