In addition to smashing box-office records for horror and again demonstrating that R-rated films can be wildly profitable no matter how many times studio execs join hands in prayer and murmur “four quadrant appeal,” Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It also bears the necessary hallmarks of a heavily pared-down narrative. Compared to its source material—which is a goddamn doorstop of a tome at 1,138 pages—the two hours and 15 minutes of running time for Chapter One is a slim story, indeed.
Which is why Muschietti is already making noises about trying to get some meatier character development for Mike Hanlon, one of the more underutilized kids in the film. Aside from a brief early scene in his grandfather’s farm, Mike isn’t given much to do individually, so the director has plans to add a layer of darkness to his character in the back half of the story.
(Mild spoilers follow, for a new version of the tale that will presumably wind up on the big screen in 2019.)
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, it’s revealed that Mike Hanlon won’t just be the watchman keeping an eye on Derry in subsequent years. In the book, Mike stays behind while all the other Losers move far away from the sinister town, taking a job as a librarian and becoming an expert on Derry and its history. Muschietti wants something more for the character, though not in a good way. “My idea of Mike in the second movie is quite darker from the book. I want to make his character the one pivotal character who brings them all together, but staying in Derry took a toll with him. I want him to be a junkie actually. A librarian junkie. When the second movie starts, he’s a wreck.”
The director sees this as a way to bring more agency to Mike Hanlon in the intervening decades, rather than just an unremarkable stint keeping an eye out for Pennywise’s return. “He’s not just the collector of knowledge of what Pennywise has been doing in Derry. He will bear the role of trying to figure out how to defeat him. The only way he can do that is to take drugs and alter his mind.” This references a scene in the book, when the kids undergo a Native American ritual that helps them learn how to defeat the creature. (Muschietti also wants to include flashbacks in Chapter 2, meaning they’d better start production soon, as all those kids are presumably hitting some major adolescent growth spurts.)
Honestly, this would all be a welcome addition of depth to a character that got short shrift in the first film. As an essay in Mic explains, Mike Hanlon from It has one of the most compelling and remarkable backstories of any black character in modern horror, a history defined by racial violence and struggle. And the film adaptation not only flattens it out, it even takes away one of his key traits—the smart and searching historian—and hands it off to Ben. Here’s hoping Muschietti’s plan for Chapter 2 brings the richness back to this fascinating character.