Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
As sales of physical discs (Blu-ray and DVD) decline, the idea of bonus features becomes less and less essential for new, mainstream films. There will always be a market for library titles with extensive retrospective commentaries and documentaries (see: Criterion, Scream Factory, etc), but for new films it's a dying trend. "Extra, Extra" is an attempt to encourage the studios not to give up on us disc champions, by mostly skipping over the film itself (which you can find reviews for anywhere) and focusing on the bonus features they were kind enough to include. Viva la physical media!
I doubt many people expected that It: Chapter One (as it's referred to at the end of the film, but not at the top or in marketing) would gross in excess of $300m at the domestic box office, and I'm willing to bet even fewer think that this Blu-ray will be the only one we get for the foreseeable future. Director Andy Muschietti has already mentioned a longer cut of the film, and with the second half of the book being filmed for a 2019 release it would not surprise me in the slightest if they double-dip a month or two before that film's release, with the extended version, maybe a commentary, more features, and (duh) a behind the scenes peek at the sequel.
But we can't guarantee that will happen, and it's possible Warner Bros will hold off and wait until the second film is ready for home video release and package them together in some kind of ultimate edition. That would be at least two years away, so if you're eager to revisit the film you might as well pick up this "first" release and hope that any double-dip is worth buying again (and if you're so sure that there WILL be some kind of ultimate cut release just because they said there would be one - can I borrow your copy of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair? Yeah, exactly.). Despite its length, it's the kind of film that holds up to repeat viewings, thanks to a number of "hidden" Pennywise appearances you might have missed the first time around, not to mention it's more relaxing to watch knowing that the film was a success and we will definitely get the rest of the story (though the film is thankfully well made as a standalone). One can also just re-appreciate the terrific cast, both the kids playing our beloved "Losers" as well as Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, who managed the unthinkable and got us to forget about Tim Curry's performance, not unlike Heath Ledger managed re: Jack Nicholson in The Dark Knight.
Luckily, Warner Bros wasn't stingy with this release - while it's missing a commentary or longer cut, it's still got a solid hour's worth of bonus features that are worth your time. First up is "Pennywise Lives!", in which the cast and crew discuss the legendary monster and, obviously, Skarsgård's interpretation of it. We get to see some fun behind the scenes clips of the young actors talking to each other about seeing him (Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie was apparently the first, prompting Finn "Richie" Wolfhard to grill him on what he looked like), and a lot of discussion about how they want this incarnation to look and act. We also find out that two of Pennywise's more unnerving facial tics - his extended lower lip and drifting eye - were not CGI enhancements, but something Skarsgård can actually do on his own and has been hoping to find a role that could incorporate these talents. By now we probably all know that at least one other actor (Will Poulter) was cast in the role during the film's lengthy development, but it seems like it was all for the best - Skarsgård is fantastic, and it's these kind of natural abilities that did not require makeup/computers that help make him so great in the role.
Next up is "The Losers' Club", which as you can expect highlights the young actors (including the four who play the bullies). Normally I don't care about these sort of things, but I found this segment quite endearing, mainly due to the repeated admission that they became super close friends during filming, and continue to hang out, go to the movies together, etc. Sophia Lillis (Beverly) notes that she had some initial reservations about being the only girl, but also how that apprehension quickly evaporated when they got along so well. This extends to the bully actors as well - we are treated to behind the scenes footage of them palling around with Chosen Jacobs (Mike) and Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), the two biggest targets of their characters' wrath. Skarsgård was largely kept hidden from the actors (on his piece he mentions feeling isolated) so it's nice to see they didn't separate the bully actors from our heroes, allowing them not only to enjoy the friendships that blossomed during this long shoot, but also appreciate how good their acting is now that we know they were chummy when the cameras weren't rolling.
Then there's "Author of Fear", which gives us an interview with Stephen King himself. Any fan of his knows he can be pretty blunt when it comes to the adaptations of his work, or just ignore it entirely, so it's always a nice surprise when they can get him for the bonus features (especially if it's not a film from one of his cronies, i.e. Frank Darabont or Mick Garris). Unfortunately he doesn't talk much about the film specifically (doesn't stop it from being far more clip-heavy than the other two pieces, however), but he dives deep into his reasons for writing the book, how he approached the way Pennywise appears to its child protagonists, etc. He might be in his 70s now, but he's as sharp as ever and always a delight to listen to, so even though he doesn't really talk about the actors or Muschietti or anything like that (though he has said elsewhere that he was happy with the movie) it's still a must watch if you're a fan of his and/or the story - the movie is so faithful that his observations apply to both.
Finally we come to what's probably the most enticing bonus feature: the deleted scenes. There are only 16 minutes' worth, and some of that involves footage that was in the final cut, so we can be assured there is more out there (indeed, Skarsgård has discussed a flashback scene that was shot which does not appear here) that perhaps they are saving for the promised extended cut. Still, what we get here is largely of the "I wish it was still in the film" variety, particularly the scenes with Bill's parents. In my original review I noted that Bill's parents were noticeably MIA to an almost detrimental effect (his mother only appears in a single shot in the final cut), so I was happy to see more of their appearance here, which indeed stresses that they barely seem to notice he's there (there's a heartbreaking moment where they tell him they won't be going on their annual vacation because it was "Georgie's favorite", then leaving Bill alone in the room to mumble that it was his favorite too). We also get a few more moments with Henry Bowers (including the reason that he enters the Barrens alone for the climax), and a quick bit where Bill finds Georgie's walkie-talkie, notable for a subtle but sweet moment where we see Richie - until a few moments before still barely speaking to Bill - be the first to comfort his friend at the moment where he starts to fully accept his brother's death. And, assuming you haven't seen it elsewhere already, it also includes a gag outtake version of the opening scene that, despite being rather stupid, made me laugh my ass off anyway.
WB also throws a few trailers on the disc, but not the one for this film (with 197 million views of the trailer in its first 24 hours, maybe they figured we'd all seen it enough?), and with the above being the only traditional features, this is perhaps the first special edition Blu-ray for a horror movie in history that lacked a featurette about the makeup/CGI work in the film. I am also disappointed that there is next to nothing about the production design, or really anything about Muschietti's work as a director beyond dealing with the actors, but again, we're almost certainly getting another release later, so this could easily have been a bare-bones disc to tide people over. Instead, we get an hour or so of quality features that make the disc a pretty damn good deal, especially when you factor in the top-notch transfer (especially in 4K, where the bright red balloons really pop against the usually dark/gray backgrounds) and demo-worthy Dolby tracks (Atmos and DTS-HD are offered, along with French, Portuguese, Spanish, and descriptive video tracks). Hopefully, WB/New Line will take the same approach that they did with their Lord of the Rings discs, with this being the theatrical version release with some satisfying if not extensive bonus features, and an extended edition with entirely new supplements coming along later, making both versions worth having on the shelf.