2017 is going to see its fair share of Stephen King love. With a few book projects due out later this year (Gwendy’s Button Box on May 30, Sleeping Beauties on September 26) and reports of a Firestarter remake as well as a J.J. Abrams-produced television series based in the King-created town of Castle Rock set for release on Hulu at some point in the near future, it’s good to be the King.
It’s the two projects slated for release on the silver screen this year that have garnered the most attention as of late and today, I’ll be discussing both the first trailer for The Dark Tower and the second trailer for It.
I am going to go out on a limb here and state that no film adaptation of Mr. King’s work has ever reached the thrumming level of excitement that Andy Muschietti’s It has generated since images of the recreated Pennywise hit the internet last summer. Following the release of the film’s first trailer earlier this year, we were treated to another trailer during the MTV Movie Awards on May 7.
For fear of sounding like the biggest fanboy ever, I’m going to try to keep my squeals of excitement down when I discuss this latest trailer. I also need to attempt to evenly spread my King enthusiasm throughout this article, as I am also extremely pumped for The Dark Tower, but more on that film later.
Back to the clown.
What I really like about this second trailer is that it doesn’t rely on the scares that promise to be abundant in this movie. It firmly instills the friendships that are going to be created within The Losers Club. We see Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) share a close moment with Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). Richie Tozier (played by Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard) teases Eddie in the Derry sewers. We learn that it truly is these kids versus the world. And a clown. Holy shit, the clown.
After the first trailer introduced us to brief glimpses of Pennywise, we get our first clear cut shot of the maniacal clown at the end of this most recent trailer. The very last scene in the trailer shows Eddie Kaspbrak (played by Jack Dylan Grazer) in utter shock as he turns to look behind him. We see everyone’s favorite clown standing behind a pyramid of blood-red balloons that are standing completely still over the clown’s face. The balloons slowly float upward, revealing Pennywise’s less-than-exuberant glare. When I first saw the image, my skin crawled and I told my wife, “That’s the look of someone prepared to literally kill someone.”
It’s a chilling image and the more I see and read about this adaptation, the more I am supremely confident that Muschietti and his cast and crew are absolutely going to knock this one out of the park. As a huge fan of Muschietti’s Mama, I always felt that the director’s vision and strength in creating a film with a child as the lead would suit this project well. I have not been disappointed yet.
Oh yeah, there’s also going to be a leper that promises to absolutely haunt your dreams in this film. The leper is also a key fright character in the novel and will be played by none other than Javier Botet, who terrified audiences in [REC], The Conjuring 2, and Mama with his wild body contortions. This movie is going to be bonkers.
What makes the novel It so powerful is the fact that it isn’t just a book about a scary clown. The character development of The Loser’s Club, the frightening underbelly of Derry that is created and King’s nostalgic flavor all make for a memorable read, in more ways than one. It just so happens that the tale King weaves also features the world’s most terrifying clown. Forever linked to Tim Curry thanks to his awesome performance in the 1990 mini-series of It, it’s now Bill Skarsgard’s turn to don the white face paint and destroy the sleep patterns of a generation of children. Judging by the trailers we’ve seen so far, ol’ Billy is passing with flying colors.
If you’ve never read the novel that the film is based on, I would highly recommend it before viewing the movie. Of course, you’ll get a whole lot more of the film as far as Easter eggs and the little details go, but you’ll also have a better understanding of where exactly the story will go once the end credits roll on this film. By now, I think just about everyone knows that this is going to be part one of what promises to be a hell of a two-part film project. The biggest obstacle the project faced was seeing if fans would come out in droves and give the studios a reason to make a sequel. It would appear that no longer is a question, as there have already been rumors that It may end up having the highest grossing opening weekend for a horror film in the history of cinema. The film opens on September 8.
Next up, we got our first look at The Dark Tower, the much-maligned and oft-teased film based on King’s epic series of the same name.
Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo ) is tasked with bringing Roland Deschain and The Man in Black to life. No small task for even the most established director, but the obstacle is especially daunting considering how long the film has languished in pre-production purgatory.
Idris Elba plays Roland and Matthew McConaughey will portray the antagonist, The Man in Black. Co-starring Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers and Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre, the cast and crew (and even King himself) have gone out of their way to constantly remind folks that this is not a faithful adaptation of the beloved series, rather a continuation of it. This creative decision has split fans tremendously and the internet has been flooded with thoughts and opinions on the film. Whether it’s wondering how in the heck a – gasp! – black man can play a fictional white character or what will happen to Susannah’s storyline now that Roland is – gasp! – black, the film has certainly kept itself in the relevancy column for quite some time leading up to the movie’s August 4 release.
We are not only introduced to our hero, villain, and the boy who looks to tie them together, but we also learn that there are doorways between the world of the gunslinger and our own. These doorways in the books are beautifully written and described and it appears that they may be nothing more than cool “universe hopping holes” in this film, but—again—we’ve been waiting for this adaptation for so long, if die hard King fans go in expecting more than an action-packed popcorn movie at this point, the internet will never shut up again with howls of disappointment and despair.
This movie reminds me a lot of the adaptation to Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. That was another series saturated in character development and rich storylines that became a fun two-hour comedy/action flick that is always worth a watch when you catch it on TV. I would be just fine if this is the fate of The Dark Tower.
I refuse to spoil anything about my favorite book series of all time, so for those who are either in the middle of completing the journey in paperback or those folks who are preparing to dig into the books before they see the movie, I’ll just leave you with this: There’s no way a two-hour film will be able to pay much respect to the sprawling storyline of Roland Deschain. I enjoyed the trailer visually but I am concerned that there simply isn’t enough meat on the bones to keep casual fans wanting more which, in turn, would mean we may not get to see the studios’ entire plan for this franchise fleshed out. I’d much rather have had a more visually subdued film, focusing on the grittiness of The Gunslinger’s life and the arduous task at hand and filmed accordingly (think Quentin Tarantino-esque) but it is what it is. I will still be there, with popcorn in hand, on opening weekend.
There are rumors that one of these films could end up being the bang that creates the Stephen King cinema universe. There is a nod to both It and The Shining in The Dark Tower’s trailer, but I wonder if those two Easter eggs are nothing more than fan fodder to get a little more excitement built up for this film. I have some concerns about a King Universe being created. It’s going to take some genuinely dedicated filmmakers and some phenomenal scripts to pull that off. Frankly, I don’t see The Dark Tower being able to be that bang.
All things considered, I am looking forward to both of these films and expect one to absolutely smash the box office while I’m worried the other one won’t do enough to earn the chance to become a franchise. If I had to only see one in theaters, it’s a no-brainer in my eyes. You go see that damn clown.