Coffee Sunday: ItChapter Two, The Time Machine, Penny Dreadful

Last Sunday, I went to see It Chapter Two. This was my first movie outing in a month. I’m sure there have been some excellent movies released this summer, but I’ve been lukewarm about the choices at my local theater. Since the movies it’s been showing were movies I had decided to wait for home viewing, I didn’t see any movie during August. Since I usually go to the theater once a week, that was a big break from my regular habit. 

It Chapter Two proved to be exactly the movie I wanted it to be; it’s the perfect companion to It (2017). I believe the original movie, the kid’s story, was slightly better, but that’s measured in millimeters rather than meters. They both had the same tone, the same quality in production values, the same well-blended special effects, and the same quality acting. Bill Skarsgård did an excellent job reprising his role as Pennywise. Usually, when James McAvoy—who played the adult Bill Denbrough—is in a movie, he steals it, but Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh stole It Chapter Two. Though the entire loser club formed the group protagonist, Chastain’s Marsh became the main protagonist. She experienced the most significant character arc in the film. 

It’s not a common horror-story trope these days, but the team protagonist is one of my favorite tropes in horror. It originates, the best I can tell, with Bram Stroker’s novel Dracula. That novel saw Jonathan and Mini Harker teaming up with Arthur Holmwood, Quincey Morris, John Seward, and, of course, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing to combat the infamous vampire. That team coming together is my favorite element in Dracula, the element that keeps me re-reading the novel as one of my favorites. Horror movies these days tend to focus on the victims’ list—the graphic killings of one teenager (always teenagers or youths) after another—and the final girl trope. There are victims in It Chapter Two, but its main focus is the gathering of the team and their finding the courage and motivation to challenge Pennywise. It’s that team protagonist that made the King’s novel exciting and worth reading, and it’s the power between both films. 

I read an article that says the director, Andy Muschietti, would be “up for” creating a cut that blends these two movies together. Though some fans might be excited by the prospect, I think it would be a mistake. They made the right decision to separate the kid story and the adult story into their own movies. One way to analyze King’s novel is to realize it’s a horror novel and its sequel written and blended together. That worked for the novel. Since I never saw the 1990 miniseries, I can’t judge how well it worked for that, but I know it won’t work for a feature-length movie. If they try it, they’ll either create a six-hour-long movie or—more likely—cut so many critical scenes that the story becomes incoherent. I won’t say that It and It Chapter Two are perfect movies, but considering the complexity of King’s It, together they represent the best adaptation possible. Leave the successful things alone!

Also this week, I read H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Except for The War of the Worlds, which I had read in high school, I had never read Wells before. Of all his vast work, The Time Machine was the story I was least interested in reading. I’ve never been interested in time-travel-themed stories. So it’s odd that I chose The Time Machine as the first Wells novel to read in decades. (Never mind how many decades!) While shopping for books, I discovered that Barnes and Noble offered The Time Machine in a single volume with The Invisible Man. Two novels for the price of one—yeah, why not?

I enjoyed The Time Machine more than I expected. It’s told via a disassociated narrator, a first-person narrator who is one of several men listening to the Time Traveler relaying his adventure. Imagine the smoking room in a Victorian mansion, and a group of British highbrows gathered for an evening of cocktails and smoking. They tell each other yarns. And the Time Travel’s yarn takes him to the year 802,701 A.D., where he discovered humans had evolved into two species—the simpleminded Eloi and the brutal, subterranean Morlocks. Wells use this division as social commentary, of a means to explore themes relating to socialism and the conflict between the worker and the capitalist. 

I like that the Time Traveler—he’s identified by no other name—travels so far into the future. Most time-traveling stories I’ve seen tend to stay within a hundred years. What fun is that? If you’re going to travel through time, shoot forward by millenniums. And he goes even farther into the future, traveling in one passage to a time when Earth is tidal locked with the sun. I’ve recently learned that cosmologists expect that will eventually happen. The Time Travel goes farther into the future, almost to the end of time, at least the end of time on Earth. Needless to say, he didn’t stay long there. 

The disassociated narrator allowed for an ambiguous ending. Did these events happen? Or is this just another yarn this club of yarn-tellers shares with each other? If you like science-fiction and enjoy time-travel stories, you might want to check out Wells’ The Time Machine. It’s an early example of both. 

In television viewing, I’m rewatching Penny Dreadful. I watched the first two seasons a few years ago, but I never saw the third and final season. Now all three seasons are available on Netflix Instant Play. It’s an intriguing horror series that brings together such gothic characters as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and Dracula, while it introduces new characters like Vanessa Ives, who connects these characters and their stories. Like Dracula and It, Penny Dreadful is another example of a group of unlikely and dissimilar people joining together to combat evil. Eva Green—a favorite actress—plays Vanessa. Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett also star in the show. Since I can’t spend a lot of time watching television shows, I’m not far into my viewing. But I’m planning on watching all episodes during the next couple months. 

In my other reading, I’m still reading Sylvia Plath. I admit that this project isn’t going as well as I wanted it. I’m also reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, a fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe. Oates will be my feature writer in November; since her oeuvre is so vast, I wanted to get a head start on my reading and research. This coming week, I plan to read Wells’ The Invisible Man, since it’s the other novel in the combined book. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I finish it. 

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