Pennywise suffered a brutal defeat at the hands of the Losers’ Club at the end of IT, in 2017, but don’t count him out just yet. The shape-shifting demon returns for revenge in IT CHAPTER TWO. Set 27 years after the first movie, this Stephen King sequel features Bill, Beverly, Ben and the rest of the Losers’ Club, now grown as they seek to stop Pennywise as it goes on a new rampage in their idyllic town.
IT CHAPTER TWO, opening on September 6, concludes the second adaptation of Stephen King’s goosebump-inducing story. Pennywise’s first foray into the minds of mainstream audiences came via ABC’s “It” in 1990. The mini-series enjoyed solid success at the time and developed a devoted fanbase over the years — ultimately cementing Pennywise as a horror icon. As the new film version comes to a close, we look back at the two versions of IT, to see how each one tackled King’s epic novel.
Because the original version of IT was made for television in 1990, tone is one of the key differences between the two adaptations. The “It” mini-series treated horror with a restrained sensibility. The 2017 film, meanwhile, was free to revel in a grim atmosphere and shocking scenes that went beyond what a TV production could show in 1990.
It’s not just that the movies can go further with horror — it’s that, in doing so, they are able to stay more faithful to King’s text. Take the depiction of Pennywise’s influence on Derry. The ’90s TV series had little time for meaningful buildup when showing the influence of evil on the small town; it all felt a bit abrupt. 2017’s IT featured more detail, and a more compelling (and more frightening) depiction of townspeople falling under the pall of Pennywise.
All signs suggest that IT CHAPTER TWO will continue the faithful and freaky adaptation. Director Andy Muschietti has promised that the IT sequel amps the scary factor up to 11.
They may be the same character, but there are notable differences between the ‘90s and modern versions of the creature which wakes to terrorize a small Maine town every 27 years. While the mini-series featured its major monster in a few unnerving scenarios, it relied primarily on the significant charms of actor Tim Curry to convey the creature’s eerie powers. On film, the Pennywise played by Bill Skarsgård is more gruesome and animalistic.
King wrote Pennywise as a clown because he believed that all children are afraid of clowns on some level. No matter which incarnation you’re facing, on the page or the screen, the demon always exudes a certain twisted sense of humor. It may not have been a clown when it came into being centuries ago, but Pennywise always has a joke in his eyes, even if it is a malicious one. On the small screen, the clown is more likely to use that dark sense of humor to lure and torment his victims. The 2017 version, on the other hand, preferred to frighten his victims into submission.
Even with all the differences between the two versions, the mini-series and movies all put a great deal of focus on the relationship between the main characters. Sure, the TV Losers exist in the 1960s, which puts them closer to the characters in King’s book than the 1980s children of the movie, but they are fundamentally the same characters.
Andy Muschietti’s film did have more time to establish a strong relationship between the seven kids who ultimately band together to push back against Pennywise. We see them build their bonds, and experience their joys and terrors.
There may be some surprises in IT CHAPTER TWO, however. Bill Hader, who plays adult Richie Tozier, said that fans can expect new takes on the adult personas of some characters. Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs as a child and Isaiah Mustafa as an adult, has stayed in Derry, which means he bears more of the weight of Pennywise’s evil. That’s consistent with the book and mini-series. But in CHAPTER TWO, we’ll see that Mike has dealt with his burden in a different way than previous incarnations of the character.
Every hero needs a villain, and for Bill, Beverly and company, their opposite is Henry Bowers. Derry’s resident bully plays a major role in both versions of the story, and the two adaptations differ greatly in how they tackle the character. In the mini-series, Bowers is just a mean kid with a gang and a penchant for violence. The 2017 film took a page out of Stephen King’s novel by depicting the abusive home life that turned Henry into a menace.
The future of Henry Bowers is uncertain in the sequel movie. The character seemed to perish in 2017’s IT, which might close off the adult chapter of his story, as seen in both the novel and mini-series. But we never saw his body — perhaps he’s still alive, or maybe Pennywise will conjure an illusory Bowers to torment the Losers once more.
We’re excited to see how IT ends on the big screen. The mini-series changed the novel’s climax in significant ways. In the book, much of the final battle between Losers and demon takes place in the realm of imagination, with some very cosmic ideas woven into their showdown. On television, that was all rendered into a not-too-satisfying battle with a big spider.
The novel resolves the battle between Pennywise and the Losers with some pretty weird action, and we don't know if that's what we'll see at the end of IT CHAPTER TWO. Given that so much of Andy Muschietti’s adaptation has been quite faithful so far, we’re optimistic that Pennywise will get the truly memorable send-off he deserves — even if it comes at a terrible cost to the Losers we love so much.
All images courtesy of New Line / Warner Bros.