In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Stephen King writes that the first thing you should do to make your book better is to make it shorter. Even in a book that feels perfectly complete, you can cut out at least 10% without losing the original meaning.
This piece of advice doesn’t seem to apply to King’s own work. His writing style is known for being, for lack of a better word, wordy. Naturally, you can’t expect the 1,300-page novel to fit into two movies, now can you?
As a medium, feature movies are quite different from novels. There’s drastically less time to flesh out the characters, so their arcs should be reduced to a minimum. Often, at the expense of the scenes book fans grew to love.
There’s one more reason to cut scenes from the book, though.
It is not exactly a PG13 movie. It’s rated R in the US, so it’s expected to be frightening and gory. However, the original novel is even less PG13 than the movie.
For starters, the portrayal of sadism and racism in the cinematic version is much less pronounced. The movie doesn’t have the racist slurs present in the novel, and the swastika drawn on the house of the black family. The two bullies, Hocksetter and Bowers, are not nearly as cruel in the movie as they are in the book. In the novel, the two torture animals by starving them to death, and Hocksetter kills his little brother. It seems like the R rating would be too soft for the King’s novel.
The members of the Losers Club find out the truth about the vicious clown in a very controversial way. They get high by hotboxing themselves until they pass out. While in a drug-induced haze, they see Pennywise as an ancient spirit haunting their hometown.
In the movie, this act is replaced with Beverley’s innocent visions. No Native American drug ritual is included in the script.
The family-unfriendly sequence everyone is talking about now is the impromptu orgy the Losers Club engage in after beating Pennywise. While Stephen King himself states, “I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it,” the book does have a scene involving 11-year-olds having group sex to bond. In the movie, however, it’s been changed to a “blood oath”. Novel fans are entitled to their opinion, but this change was necessary to make the movie more appropriate for the theaters.
Making It Simpler
When you buy essay cheap in college, you want to pack as much sense as you can in a small form. That is the same principle movie scriptwriters follow when they’re creating a novel adaptation. You have to cut a lot of things out to make the movie feel the same way the novel does (and make sense, too).
The most obvious thing that’s been changed in the movie is the time period. Stephen King’s It was published back in 1986, so the novel is set in the 1950s. The movie, however, takes place in the modern days, and more specifically, in the 1980s. It’s a great decision not only because of the 1980s craze going on right now but because the 1950s are simply too remote in time for the audiences to relate to.
An integral part of the 1950s atmosphere is the B-rate movie monsters. You probably don’t remember the 1956 Werewolf, do you? And that may explain why Pennywise turning into these monsters has been removed from the movie.
The narration has changed as well. Instead of a plot that goes in and out between two time periods, we get a more streamlined set of events. It’s a perfect choice for the movie because a jumpy timeline would make an art-house film out of it, not a blockbuster.
A lot of scenes and characters were significantly reduced or removed entirely. For instance, the characters get told how to defeat Pennywise the Clown by a giant mythical turtle. It makes sense in the novel since the turtle appears in several other King’s books. In the movie, however, it doesn’t fit at all.
Plenty of characters like Bill’s wife Audra are reduced to develop the main cast. Others, like Mike Hanlon’s dad, are removed entirely. In the movie, Mike’s family dies in a fire, and he lives with his granddad.
It’s at his granddad’s farm that he gets a bolt gun to kill Pennywise. Compared to the novel’s slingshot with a silver bit, this is quite an escalation of violence. Surely, this choice was made for more action in the finale.
The finale itself is a bit different as well. Instead of performing a ritual, the characters prove they’re not afraid of the monster.
The One Odd Change
Most of the changes you see below make sense. This one, however, doesn’t. Beverly Marsh is quite a strong girl in the novel. She’s going through a lot of trauma in her life and toughens as a result. Beverly was fearless when dealing with Pennywise in the novel. In the film, she becomes a damsel in distress and needs a boy to save her.
That’s just a huge lost opportunity that writers chose to forgo to simplify her character arc.
Movie vs. Book: Which’s Better?
So which’s better – the novel or the movie? The truth is, everyone is going to stick to their own point of view. The people who read the book will never fully embrace the simplified version that the movie presents.
The majority of those who saw It in the movie theaters in 2017, will not bother reading a 1000-page novel. That would only make things more complicated for them.
So the final verdict is simple: they’re different. The movie is never going to be as detailed as the novel. The novel is never going to be as visually complex as the movie. However, the undeniable fact is that both are great specimens of their media.
This post was written by Nadia Vella