23 September 2019 4892 Views

Pennywise v The Loser Club! Indiana Jones! James Bond! IT-erations of Childhood Trauma on Film and How Heroes help us Heal

by James Murphy


Defeat Your Demons! Bury the Past, to Rise in the Future.

It’s time to (Penny) wise up!


IT CHAPTER 2 continues to do very well indeed at the Box Office.

But WHY? It’s clearly not the scary clown (spoiler alert: he is not in it very much and no girl will go with you to see him anyway..thank God for my movie loving Vicar buddy: always great to catch up over a movie / dinner!).

Whilst I shan’t review the movie as such, I will say it’s a horrid, nasty little piece. You’ll just know when you see it. A lack of balance between the real world and supernatural threat; a tad too much violence and excessive emphases on homophobia, I felt. Ghastly, grotesque, horrific imagery.

Chastain is absolutely fine here. But so what? Her casting being ever so slightly derivative and replaceable by just about any other redhead who can run fast (1-800-BRYCE-DALLAS..).

Instead of Jessica? Shame they did not go with Kate McKinnon (funny, vulnerable yet tough, surprising, daring and a real mirror for young Sophia Lillis)..but that’s just me?


Other Quibbles include:

  • If these kids were so traumatised by the (superior) part 1..how come their adult selves ALL seem to be in nice, secure, high status middle class posts with money to match???
  • Why is the Pennywise character not given more screen-time /exploration and explanation? 
  • The film is WAAAAAYYYY too LONG! Or at least, they could and indeed should have cut some material to let other bits breathe /develop: far too much repetition / filler on display here. It thinks it has Spielberg or even Cary Joji Fukunaga qualities. It doesn’t; though one can see echoes, very occasionally of ET and Indiana Jones.
  • NO TURTLE?! (Stephen King fans will get that reference).


So if I loathed the film so much? Why did I endure it? Well, weirdly enough, it IS satisfying.

  • Bill Skarsgård is still an entertaining Pennywise, the dancing scary killer clown.
  • James McAvoy is excellent, (as always) in central protagonist mode.
  • Some genuine jump scares and actual ‘horror’ ARE provided. Even a laugh or two.
  • There is lots to think about and therefore, to talk about, as you leave.

Above all: at its core, there is a movie here about the rites of passage we must all go through to truly define our identities as adults: free thinking, functioning mortals, unfettered by the bonds of the past or associated yet unfounded fear for our futures.

So IT Chapter 2 does have Philosophical substance. A movie ABOUT healing the past via confrontation in one’s present to hone a better future for all. 

And yet? Many other movies do the same and much more..nicely? These are vicarious yet essential tools: embracing sadness, loss, weakness and yes, discussing the darker sides to life, whilst providing an escapist entertainment that leaves one renewed and rejoicing as we step beyond the Cinema.

I present the following items as evidence.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)


‘Let the past die. Kill it if you have to’..

Rian Johnson as writer /director  ‘gets’ that Star Wars = King Arthur in space.

Luke = Arthur. Kylo = Mordred but COULD still be Galahad, same way Luke once looked up to /envied the Lancelot like Han Solo? These are men who lost their way because they dwelt on yet never truly confronted their younger mistakes. Both living in the past, in family shadows. Luke confesses to hubris, whilst Kylo knows he is not quite the villain he longs to become.

And that’s the meta-textual comment here on ‘happily ever after’: keep growing, reinventing, confronting and treating every victory as own reward to self contained challenge. Tough lesson  and yet one must learn it, both in fact and fiction, from your twenties through to middle /old age. 


And in a moment of visual poetry that looks like a classical work of religious art; and backed by John Williams’ beautiful score: we see it.

Uncle and nephew: meeting across a battlefield and so a stage is set for a hopefully optimistic closure in the forthcoming ninth movie, The Rise of Skywalker (#ignoretheleaks!).

Knives Out: Johnson’s latest is released soon, too. An amazing cast. Can’t wait! Including..DANIEL CRAIG..Speaking of whom..

SKYFALL (2012)

James Bond  on film never had a childhood as such. Until the Craig era made it a ‘thing’. Bond being an orphan had been mentioned in passing during GOLDENEYE. But that was about it. I think Roger Moore’s Bond joked about having a ‘rather dotty old Aunt’ (Charmaine Bond?) in A View to a Kill..but he was undercover and in character, there.

By contrast: Casino Royale has Bond DEFINED as ‘orphan’. SPECTRE even tries to convince us the entire content of 007’s missions boiled down to a adoptive / step brother’s jealousy and frankly, that was a step too far they MUST ret-con in No Time To Die.

SKYFALL just somehow got everything right.

Ok, not ‘every-thing’. Yes, the film has giant plot holes. Lots of filler. Some unfunny jokes. Copies Batman a LOT, even though Batman copied Bond first? It’s sentimental. There is an action deficit and the stakes are ultimately rather low.

And YET:  the sheer joy exuded: time capsule pervading joys of Olympic / Jubilee 2012 and its coincidental 50th anniversary of 007 on film..all shine through. There is arguably no better tribute to a film series’ legacy than a movie that celebrates and captures yet also moves beyond..its own legacy? 

You witness James Bond DIE in effect and be resurrected / redefined and you share that journey, as summed up in the opening credits sequence from Daniel Kleinman, backed by Adele’s haunting theme tune.

Sam Mendes’ charming film takes James Bond and indeed us right back to where it all started: his childhood home.

And in confronting that location as titular macguffin: both we and James are at once defending and yet letting go of ‘M’, the mother figure. And so begins his life and work, anew. Same, but different.

THAT shot of Bond atop the union jack clad roofs of Whitehall summarises the limitless, timeless potential of the character: personifying our great past yet also being prepared to let it all go and move forward.

It’s Joseph Campbell meets once again, specifically Arthurian Knight Lore archetypes. And I LOVE it!! So did BBC’s SHERLOCK: they ripped it off. Badly! 




You all know how I feel about ‘the café  in Florence’ from The Dark Knight Rises. Batman won his closure, a linear, logical, normal, wonderful life. With Catwoman. At a café . In Florence. Adorable. Makes me happy every time I see it. Which is rather frequently, as it happens. The ending clip, not the entire movie. Heartwarming stuff.

But the central idea of Batman is a kid who loses his parents via an act of violence. Not a happy Bat-Bunny, yeah?

He vows vengeance on crime itself, harnessing the imagery of his childhood fear of bats to do so. You know, that old chestnut.

BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN BEGINS both cover that journey; getting to the root of our hero’s psychological need to confront the trauma that bifurcated him in the first place.

He must BECOME the darkness, to PROTECT the LIGHT! 


‘I’m both Bruce Wayne AND Batman. Not because I have to be. Now? Because I CHOOSE to be!’ 


Both ‘Begins’ and ‘Forever’ have darker moments and they genuinely dwell on the isolated sadness of being a weirdo vigilante. At the same time though, it’s a simulation of triumph over trauma and embarking on a NEW life, a rebirth, an embrace of uncertain yet exciting adventures anew, as credits roll.



I mentioned in my piece about Face/Off that there is a Tom Cruise/ Hugh Grant connection. 

Taking that a BIT further? 4 Weddings..and the first ‘Mission’ manage to balance a HINT of childhood issues with a still vibrant and feel good romp.

Hugh Grant’s Charles is actually a rather mysterious figure. We have no idea what he does for a living.

He COULD be anything and anyone. Every-man commitment-phobe with a sort of heart of gold. Weakness? Well he’s a BIT too attached to his FRIENDS. Based, perchance, on the loss of his Dad as a young man and his ongoing duty to care for his younger brother, who happens to be hearing impaired.



And so it is that, upon confronting his surrogate family’s loss of its lifetime substitute patriarch (Gareth, played by Simon Callow), Hugh’s endearingly wavering Charles can finally graduate to manhood, commitment and even the contemplation of marriage! A much needed structural device, suggested to writer Richard Curtis by his adorable partner, Emma Freud, with help from Helen ‘Bridget Jones’ Fielding. There HAD to be pathos.

Four Weddings and Honeymoon would have been a totally rubbish title. Like, d’oh. OBVIOUSLY 🙂

Meanwhile, in Mission:Impossible..those who think Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt lacks a character simply have not paid attention! He is trying to support a dying dad and an insolvent mom, off-screen. The Hunt family farm ‘in receivership’.

That’s HOW they frame the character, in both senses. And his final antagonist is a mentor /father figure..once again..thereby renewing, refreshing, re-defining and setting up a future franchise. The symbolism IS there. Well it is for me, anyway. It’s a Jon Voight thing. Spoiler alert, he plays the mentor. 

Oh and both films feature Kristin Scott Thomas looking really FIT. ‘Mission..’ also throws in Emmanuelle Béart as a French bonus. Andie MacDowell from 4 Weddings..is soon to be united with Ethan Hunt’s old Boss/nemesis, Henry Czerny in READY OR NOT



Gone are the supernatural horrors and snakes coming out of skulls or hearts on fire from the first two movies. Indy must confront something FAR more scary here: family life and responsibility.

There might be some overuse of slapstick comedy.

There’s a bland dialling down of the previous Jones’ adventures’ horror imagery and yet a LOT of retreading the structure of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And yes, Sean Connery as Harrison Ford’s Dad is pure fun, stunt casting meets actual genius.

But this is still a profound film about family, years before every other film series went on and on about the virtues of ‘family’. 

It’s an examination of how the child becomes the man and why and an illustration of where one can lose their way, morally and socially, if they fail to connect with the past.

Dr Jones (junior) comes full circle: from rogue tomb raider to genuine crusader. All under the watchful eye of his Dad, who too wins closure on his own quest and thereby wins ‘illumination’.

The montage at the start is pure Spielberg vigour, clarity and economy, elegantly editing how Indiana Jones gains whip, scar, hat and attitude at once.

A BIT contrived, sure but done with such visual flair and JOY that it’s better than a thousand similar rip-offs / references (even Austin Powers tried a similar trick).



THE SAINT (1997) and X MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)

Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) is a super-cool jewel thief type who can adopt any character with an array of Catholic Saints’ names to match.

Templar’s moral compass has been warped by his status as an orphan and having endured abuse in a brutal boarding school.

Whilst the movie is by no means perfect (lots of filler, some awkward tonal shifts); its sublime score, atmospherics, comedy moments and location shots are all very charming.

Plus, Elisabeth Shue..in coat/boots combo, in Oxford. That manages to reform our wayward hero!

Speaking of boots /Oxford: see also, X MEN: FIRST CLASS. Features LOTS of lovely actresses, sporting v stylish combo. The guys are super cool, too!

Michael Fassbender is brilliant baddie in waiting, Magneto. Think James Bond with special metal powers or something. He is wounded psychologically by seeing nasty Nazis kill his mom when he was just a kid..so he seeks vengeance.

January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence also feature and look amazing..in..boots, in Oxford..and yes..they kind of help to..well..change ‘Magneto’.

Just see for yourself. Fab film. Also featuring James McAvoy as Prof X..star now of IT: CHAPTER TWO. Full circle 🙂



STALLONE as Rambo is building actual TUNNELS to escape his trauma! Brad Pitt goes to the STARS to get rid of his Daddy issues..(ok that’s enough..go and get help..therapy..love, your Editor).


ALL movies are available in some format or other, Go watch them. IT: CHAPTER 2 is still on general release..but do not drop ANYTHING down a drain on leaving the Cinema. 

Confront the Past but do not dwell upon it: Embrace the future, even if its films are a disappointment, the classics will be with you, always!

Take on one challenge at a time, a day at a time. Draw on past victories to do so and learn from setbacks; remaining vital and determined. Make the fight itself your ‘happily ever after’ and then you can conquer anything..even a scary clown.

If movies alone cannot help: please consult your GP and ask for referral to a counsellor / Psychotherapy specialist. 

SEE ALSO: Samaritans




James Murphy had an idyllic childhood. He was a nice Boy. Had a lot of friends. No trauma. Except that one time he compared a fit girl’s Dad to Jon Voight..the man hugged James and was thrilled by the compliment..the girl and mom never spoke to James..ever again. Jury still out on my adulthood sequel/prequel /middle age reboot. 😉









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