Stephen King’s horror novel It was announced today as the latest King to hit the big screen. After October’s release of Carrie failed to catch on with critics or ticket buyers, a major motion picture of It seems like a dubious prospect. Will audiences flock to an adaptation of a 1986 clown-fest?
Make that two adaptations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Cary Fukunaga and co-writer Chase Palmer will create two movies out of It—another questionable decision.
I understand the appeal of two films. Ever since Warner Bros. divided Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two parts, studios are mad for splitting books in half. The Hunger Games‘ final chapter Mockingbird is only 400 pages, in larger YA type. But damned if it’s not hitting multiplexes as two separate entities. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit was initially announced for two films, but An Incredible Journey made over $1 billion worldwide. So the Warner Bros. empire struck back by financing three films total!
From my critical vantage, stepping away from dollars consumed, the modern blockbuster is already overlong. Perhaps the event status of Jackson’s 2001-2003 The Lord of the Rings trilogy holds some blame for movie bloat. How did younger children sit through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for its full 162 minutes? Surely Warner Bros. would make more money on shorter movies; they could add an extra showing each day. Dividing the last entry in any major franchise prolongs the inevitable. What is gained in character richness is sacrificed in momentum.
Another theory: Movies are long because blockbuster directors are given free rein. If Jackson demands to hire back every celebrity from The Return of the King, why let the studio tamp down his artistry? The current “dark superhero” movie (we’ll credit this trend to Christopher Nolan) is more serious, even more Oscar-worthy, at an expanded length.
Stephen King’s It has two clear reasons for a double feature. It’s over 1,100 pages, and the story is split in two time periods: the younger characters in the 1950s grow up to be adults in the ’80s, reliving their childhood terror. But I’m talking dollars and patience here. Rarely do non-franchise films get two consecutive parts; Kill Bill comes to mind. And if the first film pulls a Carrie, what does the studio do with Part 2? Can I get in for free with my Part 1 ticket stub?
Maybe it’s time for Netflix to get involved. Today’s box office bust is tomorrow’s Instant Queue sensation.