Thanks, But We Really Don’t Need a Pennywise Prequel

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Pennywise Prequel

Even though IT Chapter Two debuted to mixed reviews and a somewhat middling box office, that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating that there will somehow be a third film. If that leaves you scratching your head, you’re not alone. The film closed out the duology begun by 2017’s IT. There’s no more book to adapt, save for a few cut sequences from the novel that could make interesting deleted scenes or shorts but not full length films – unless we got a whole film about Mike investigating It, which I would absolutely pay for. But even knowing that It is over and done, some still want more Pennywise.

There’s been talk of a Pennywise spin-off. In a recent interview, screenwriter Gary Dauberman said of the potential project:

“I do think it’s possible. Anything in the Stephen King universe interests me, but there’s only so much of the story we could tell in the two movies. There are definitely elements of the novel you could expand on and make its own movie. It’s just a question of whether or not people want to see it but I do think It was on this planet for a very, very long time and that’s a lot of bloodshed and a lot of stories to tell and I think you could do that for sure.”

He’s not entirely wrong, but also very wrong. There are plenty of incidents mentioned in the book that could serve as the base for a film: the inhabitants of Derry executing Bradley gang in the street, the fire at the Black Spot set by racist townsfolk (though given how director Andy Muschietti and co. handled race, that could be a disaster), and other events that Mike talks about during his interludes in the novel. However, Dauberman and these interviewers seem to be missing exactly what makes the novel IT and the subsequent adaptations so popular.

Hint: it isn’t Pennywise.

IT is a classic not because of a weird cosmic clown and his turtle nemesis, but because of the Losers Club. The human characters make up the beating heart of the story, with their sacrifices and hopes. Yes, Pennywise is iconic in book form and when played by Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard, but It is hardly what makes the book tick. The book is, essentially, an 1153 page character study of how childhood trauma affects you interspersed with occasional clown mayhem.

By taking the Losers out of the story, you immediately lose (pun intended) the heart. Sure, we could have a different group of heroes fighting Pennywise, but there’s too much tragedy there. We know they lose and Pennywise comes back every 27 years until the Losers Club turns up, so whoever fights It is automatically guaranteed to lose. Without the hopeful nature of the childish belief in defeating evil being validated, you lose the core part of the narrative.

Pennywise Prequel

Also, if you take a look at the IT fandom on Tumblr and Twitter, many of them are not preoccupied with Pennywise. They’re definitely more interested in the Losers and their interpersonal relationships, especially between Richie Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak. 

When it comes to Richie/Eddie, it’s worth noting that the ‘ship is no longer fanon, canon widely accepted by fans but not confirmed by source material. IT Chapter Two made Richie canonically gay and in love with Eddie. The ship has exploded in popularity because, hey, for once a franchise managed to engage with the queer subtext in a somewhat decent manner. Even though the ship ends tragically, fans can’t get enough. In fact, a majority of Reddie fics feature Eddie surviving his encounter with It, divorcing his wife, and moving in with Richie and their newly adopted Pomeranian.

This is not to say that Pennywise isn’t popular. There are plenty of Pennywise cosplayers and Pennywise/Reader fanfics and Pennywise action figures. But the Losers are the actual heart and soul of the story, and seem to be more popular with the hardcore devotees. The only place where Pennywise is more popular seems to be on Reddit, where users complained about Richie being gay and the lack of children being graphically killed before I eventually gave up on reading the subreddit out of rage.

Still, the core of the story remains the Losers, and without them you lose what makes IT such an enduring classic. The titular monster might be iconic in terms of horror imagery, but without the engaging human protagonists, it would be an immensely forgettable narrative. 

Pennywise Prequel

Sure, a Pennywise prequel would probably make money, assuming whatever curse has befallen Warner Bros at the box office is broken. But it would feel like a desperate cash grab and would quite literally miss what made the films so popular. And even if they wanted to cash in on the popularity of the Losers, there is also no way to satisfactorily bring back the Losers for another encounter with Pennywise because that would negate all the sacrifices made to defeat It in the first place. 

Warner Bros might want to cash in on one of their most profitable horror franchises, but to do so would betray the core of what makes the story so engaging to so many fans. Pennywise is iconic, but you can’t make a film based on that alone. You need something to get fans engaged, and short of “IT Chapter Two was all a dream Bev had in the deadlights so now they’re trying to defeat It again without Stan or Eddie dying,” it would be hard to get fans who care predominantly about the Losers Club invested in a new group of characters who we already know are doomed to fail. 

Let the franchise rest, until 27 years from now when someone else reboots it.