Stephen King’s ‘It’ 2017: How Does New ‘It’ Stack Up Against the 1990 Mini-Series And The Book? [Opinion]

When Stephen King’s It was published in the fall of 1986, it was perhaps the most horrifying book of its day. Its 1,138 pages may as well have been printed in blood. King’s book was an utter gore fest, with no shortage of suspense or psychological terror either.

Stephen King’s It was riveting to avid readers, but to some, its 1,138 pages were daunting. Still, there was no shortage of Stephen King fans who seemed to have a deep need to explain and discuss the book at great length with anyone willing to listen. Storytelling was definitely available for non-readers in those days.

Stephen King’s It is the story of a group of seven somewhat geeky and perpetually bullied pre-teen kids who chose the name “Loser’s Club” for their gang of friends. They live in Stephen’s favorite state, Maine, in a town called Deery.

Stephen King’s bold imagination produced a horrifying monster for It. Pennywise, the shape-shifting clown, can take on the form of anyone’s deepest fears. Is Pennywise a clown at all? Readers had to read pretty carefully for over 1,000 pages to find out.

Stephen King’s novel It and the miniseries were both set in two distinct time periods. “The Loser’s Club’s” childhood in the 1960s and their adulthood in 1990. The “Losers” had to take on Pennywise twice.

By 1990 when Stephen King’s It became a primetime miniseries, there was a tremendous interest. If the love of the story wasn’t enough, Richard Thomas, who portrayed John Boy on the Waltons, John Ritter, of Three’s Company, and Tim Curry, best known for his role in Rocky Horror Picture Show, were all cast in leading roles for Stephen King’s It.

Making Stephen King’s It suitable for prime time TV in 1990 must have been extremely difficult for director Mary Lambert. Stephen King’s It was tamed down considerably for television, still, the miniseries delivered and has become a classic favorite for horror fans.

The Stephen King miniseries It, now available on DVD, has a runtime of 192 minutes, but it wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the complexly nuanced plot of Stephen King’s novel It. Runtime is definitely going to be a problem when addressing a novel in excess of 1,000 pages.

Fast forwarding, Stephen King’s It is a brand new 2017 movie just recently released. It has a runtime of only 135 minutes. Time was not on the side of 2017 It director Andy Muschietti. Muschietti had some tough choices to make, and yes there were sacrifices, but the movie is, in most ways, just as masterful as the book and the miniseries, and doesn’t stray too far from either.

Stephen King’s It for 2017, however, is, in fairness, only half the story. It will require a sequel.

Bill Skarsgard The new Pennywise
Bill Skarsgard The new Pennywise by Neilson Barnard Getty

The 2017 version of Stephen King’s It only shows the children’s experiences with Pennywise, not the encounter they have as adults. By contrast, the 1990 miniseries based on Stephen King’s It featured the adult encounter but with many flashbacks to the childhood “Losers.”

Stephen King’s It for 2017 is an amazingly versatile and nostalgic movie set in the 1980s. It is designed unashamedly to require a sequel if not a franchise of several. Variety explains the rapid change of moods in the 2017 version of Stephen King’s It.

It is also a lot of different things. Focusing entirely on the childhood-set portions of King’s book, it’s a collection of alternately terrifying, hallucinatory, and ludicrous nightmare imagery; a sometimes jarring pile up of moods, ranging from haunted house horror to nostalgic hang out humor; a popcorn movie about gruesome child murders.”

Stephen King’s It for 2017 suffers from insufficient character development for a few of the seven main characters. Those not familiar with the book and movie may find that a few of them get lost in the shuffle, without nearly as much screen time as the characters merit.

Tim Curry original Pennywise
Tim Curry original Pennywise by Peter Kramer

Similarly, the child actors in Stephen King’s It the miniseries also lost out on being the focus. Still, the 1990 Stephen King miniseries was a masterpiece, largely due to Tim Curry’s Pennywise, but also Richard Thomas, John Ritter and the rest of the cast.

Stephen King’s It 2017 is true to both the book and the miniseries in most ways, but it isn’t nearly as horrifying as the book and contains more laughs than either the book or the miniseries, as pointed out by Vulture.

“There’s more development and depth here — and more laughs as well — than there was for any of their 1990 counterparts.”

Stephen King’s 2017 It is in most ways a remake. It benefited from the privilege of an R rating, as well as the decision to appeal to an entirely new generation by changing the time periods.

While Stephen King’s It was amazing as a novel and the 1990 miniseries was unforgettable, the new It for 2017 is a worthy update of the original.

[Featured Image by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images]