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It Chapter Two, the highly anticipated horror sequel that’s been shockingly good for the presale market and less impressive with the critics, has mixed approaches to dealing with its iconic Stephen King source material. The pair of films have already screwed with the temporal structure of the single book, but director Andy Muschietti has also been devoted to getting some of its details pitch-perfect. So as the second and final film in the adaptation begins to send King diehards and horror devotees running as far as they can from their local sewer system, it’s worth addressing some of the elements from the book that were altered for the big screen.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Gary Dauberman (who also wrote the first film and the Conjuring-verse flicks The Nun and Annabelle Comes Home) had plenty to say about the changes from the source material. First off was the ending itself. The book’s ending is famously...strange. The first film glossed over the Ritual of Chüd, but Dauberman knew “we had to include” the oddball way the Derry gang met the world-creating turtle Mataurin in the book. So they went a different direction in Chapter Two.
“It's probably the biggest departure we take from the novel,” Dauberman said of the ending, where Bill and Richie go interdimensional to enter It’s mind. ”I didn't know how what was in the book would have played on screen; going into another realm, things like that. It was certainly discussed, but it became about what is going to be the most cinematic way to tell this without the audience kind of scratching their heads.” And for a film which includes King in a cameo, maintaining some level of fidelity was important.
“Stephen King's ending is wonderful, but he also takes his time explaining the metaphysics behind all of it,” said the screenwriter. “We didn't have that time. So, we had to distill it down to the key ingredients. I wanted to be faithful to the spirit of what King was going for, and I think we managed that. That is how I found my peace with taking a departure from it.”
Dauberman, Andy Muschietti, and producer Barbara Muschietti also fleshed out a particularly subtextual storyline from the novel and made it more explicit. In the novel, Richie is ambiguously close with Eddie. In the film, the characters respectively played by Bill Hader and James Ransone are more explicit, with Richie carving the pair’s initials into wood.
“There is a subtext in the novel and Andy and Barbara and I talked about it, but it didn't feel like a choice, it just felt like a natural part of his character,” Dauberman said of Richie’s sexuality. “But, I love that love story. I think that is a special part of the movie and a special part of the character. Because it felt like it was part of his character. I think we pulled it out more, and it is more prominent in the movie. It is a part of the many things that define him. The carving of the initials: I give credit to Andy on that.”
King, for his part, is in the film’s corner — changes and all. “We have been in touch,” Dauberman said. “He has said very nice things. And when you take a project like this, you just want the author, especially Stephen King, to like it.”
It Chapter Two hits theaters everywhere today, Sept. 6.