TLDR: Go see this.
Like most people I was skeptical when I heard they were rebooting this. While I had some fond memories of the miniseries people seem to love, it had some serious issues, like not having the space to spread out, or the awful claymation spider. Tim Curry, everyone insists, is unbeatable as Pennywise.
First off, the movie focuses solely on the childhood events--the best part of the book in my view--which gives a good amount of time for the story and more importantly the characters to develop. The childhood timeline has been updated from the 50s to the 80s-- not sure why exactly but it does place their childhood right in the time frame of when my childhood was when I read the book.
The narration adheres pretty closely to the plot and mood of the book opening with the Georgie scene. About Pennywise-- I think Bill Skarsgard did an excellent job of making the role his own, which was good considering people keep talking about how awesome Tim Curry was in the original. After I got back from the theater I rented the original miniseries to compare--here's the thing, it's worse than I remember. Like really bad. Awful overly dramatic music, terrible acting. John Ritter isn't a bad actor but he's acting badly in this movie. Tim Curry was just a bright spot in a bad piece of art. The overall feel of the miniseries is pretty cheesy and laughable.
The movie relies more on creepiness than it does jump scares--pretty refreshing considering how stupid horror movies have gotten. Throwing something at the audience and making a loud BWHWAAAAH! sound effect isn't particularly clever. A lot of the fear in this movie is based on atmosphere, visuals, or this feeling of being unnerved. The wall-eyed seemingly otherworldly clown in the sewer drain talks to Georgie long enough that it's the feeling of unnerving dread you that makes you really uncomfortable, not the feeling of being startled. There are several scares in this movie that did this particularly well. Some things were swapped out from the book--the mummy and the werewolf--which I think makes sense because people tend to not find them scary these days. I thought it was dead-on that Stan had an odd fear of a painting in his father's office that he would block out with his hand when he walked by. That was something I would have done as a child, much like how Georgie is afraid of nothing in particular and huffs it up the stairs like something is chasing him. (Okay I still do the latter thing).
The movie was far more successful than the miniseries in establishing the kids' friendship and the barrens looked EXACTLY like I pictured them. I was initially skeptical of the casting (I thought the kids looked to similar) but I stand corrected. They are what makes this movie. Eddie and Richie's banter is hilarious. And the shit talking and humor that filled the book was conspicuously missing from the miniseries. Ben was so tender and adorable, Beverly was one of the strongest characters and the pain in that love triangle was palpable. One of the thing that It does particularly well is show the callousness of adults. They literally can't see It, but they also turn their heads aside when kids are being bullied right in front of them. The kids are left to face these horrors on their own because nothing else will protect them. Anyone who's been bullied as a child can tell you about that callousness.
While I still overall had a really positive opinion, a couple of omissions were questionable. First the slingshot and the battery-acid inhaler are left out... which means the kids show up at the first confrontation with It unarmed. Mike, at least, has the sense to pack some heat in the final confrontation. Also, in the book, it is blatantly obvious that the reason Mike is hated (by Henry Bowers and others) is because he is black (like, the N-word abounds, which does all the more to flesh out Henry). It's clear that the movie intended to have Mike be the victim of racism . . . but it's never actually spoken. Henry calls him "an outsider" while beating him and tells him to stay out of town. Why dance around it? Just say it. He's black--this is racism. Just say it. Yes, racism still existed in the late eighties. It's even more relevant because of the terrible way his parents died.
The writers made a rational decision and left out that Infamous Scene. When I originally read the book, I never really blinked at that scene--it made sense to me. They're still at that age where sex is mysterious to the level of being mystical-- it is literally referred to as "doing it." Of course it then takes on a magical symbolism. That said, it's not like I wanted to watch that scene and it would have been a really weird, awkward way to end the movie.
I'm looking forward to the next chapter, which hasn't been cast yet. Is there any way they can get Amy Adams, because the current Beverly Marsh looks just like her. Also, Jerry O'Connell as adult Ben.
Looking forward to seeing Mother! next weekend, and hopefully an end to this awful summer of mostly bad movies.