Well, the results are in – IT cleaned up at the box office this weekend, earning over $50 million since its debut in theaters. Sure, it’s not superhero movie money, but for a scary film, and during a particularly lackluster summer blockbuster season, it’s a pretty solid result that everyone involved with is very happy about.
With positive word of mouth pushing this movie further, there’s no doubt that the plan for a future sequel, telling the rest of the story from Stephen King’s original novel, is on the way.
The book winds its way between two stories of the characters, alternating between chapters about the young heroes as pre-teens fighting an evil clown, and chapters focusing on the kids as grown-ups, yet again finding themselves doing battle with Pennywise.
The new movie has a different structure, though – in order to keep things nice and neat, the two narratives have been stripped apart, with the first movie (now in theaters) telling the kids’ tale, while the sequel will tackle the story of their grown-up counterparts.
This is all fair and good, but there’s a problem, albeit a very nice one to have. Audiences really like the child actors and their performances in the first IT movie, so it seems like a waste to throw this all away in favor of a bunch of new actors who might not necessarily win viewers over quite as much.
While the initial plan had been to keep the stories and time settings of the two movies completely separate in each of these films, the success of the first IT means that instead, we’ll likely see little flashback snippets throughout the second movie, bringing back the kids for key scenes in a way that will better match up with the way the book weaves together two different stories to make a commentary on the process of growing up and changing as we become adults.
This is probably not as good an idea as it sounds.
There are a lot of challenges with this structure. For one thing, the problem with using flashbacks to the kids is that all of the important scenes from the novel have already played out in the first film.
Nobody’s after simply watching the same stuff happen again, unless the second movie can give a new perspective on these events, showing us what’s happening from someone else’s point of view in order to provide some new insight into their childhood battle with Pennywise.
This could easily end up feeling unnecessarily complicated and convoluted, especially as one of the important elements of the grown ups’ story is that they no longer have very clear memories about what happened when they were younger.
Another challenge is that this movie hasn’t even begun its initial pre-production in earnest yet. The script has yet to be written, grown up actors need to be cast, and the whole movie needs to be put in motion before anyone can be certain what scenes will feature the kids at all.
You can blame this on studio hesitation to commit to a second IT until they saw how the first one was received – it’s not a wise plan, especially for a movie series that’s using child actors. Put simply, these kids are not going to be pre-teens for very much longer. Puberty is about to hit them hard, if it hasn’t already begun to do so, at which point they’ll no longer be able to play the same innocent children they appear as in the first movie.
This, perhaps, brings up one of the biggest reasons why flashbacks shouldn’t be too big a part of IT: Chapter 2. The movie series has gained a new message by being split into two separate stories. Where the book is about the challenges of growing up and facing your childhood fears, the sequel will inevitably also hammer home the message that you can never return to your youth.
This is present in the novel, but the interwoven story structure has readers constantly travelling back and forward in time. By splitting up the story into two separate movies, there’s a wonderful opportunity for the film to emphasize that the childlike wonder, innocence, and levity of the original movie has been taken away forever, in large part by their experiences with Pennywise.
This message should be one that the movie attempts to hit home as hard as possible, especially considering that the entire two-part saga is an exercise in nostalgia. To completely abandon the Eighties setting and all of its references and Easter Eggs would make the IT sequel feel all the more scary and unnerving, as it would take away all of the comfort that audiences find simply in seeing their childhood recreated on screen.
So while it’ll be nice to have a few callbacks to the original movie, and a few little flashbacks to help tie the story together, IT: Chapter 2 will work a lot better if it’s purely a story of adults overcoming their past, without showing us too much of what we’ve already seen.