It’s always a little unnerving when a well-loved novel gets a cinematic makeover, isn’t it? It can go so, so well. But it can also leave you feeling disappointed, confused, and even saddened when what you see on the screen doesn’t adequately reflect what you loved about a book. Unfortunately, the latter was the case when my 10-year-old daughter and I went to see A Wrinkle in Time.
My Impression of the A Wrinkle in Time Movie
The movie—starring newcomer Storm Reid as teenage heroine Meg Murry—tells of a young girl’s journey through time and space to save her father from the evil forces of the universe. Her younger brother, Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin, accompany her. They are guided by three celestial/angelic creatures: Mrs. Who (played by Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Whatsit (played by Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Which (played by Oprah Winfrey).
Disappointingly, while we were entertained by the movie and the shiny glamour and adventure it portrayed, when the lights came up, we both felt it lacked the heart and soul that made L’Engle’s 1962 novel such a treasure.
The Good Stuff
Let me be clear. My daughter and I both enjoyed the movie…as a movie. It was definitely entertaining and, if you haven’t read the book, I don’t think you’ll come out of the theater thinking you wasted $10 and two hours of your life. As a movie, A Wrinkle in Time is amazingly well-done.
The scenery was stunning! The costumes and makeup were enchanting. The diverse and multiracial casting of the Murrys and the three “Mrs Ws” was a lovely depiction of modern society. It genuinely added to the movie’s appeal.
Alas, pretty is as pretty does. And as lustrous and visually-appealing as the movie was, it simply didn’t have the depth necessary to carry the themes the book so beautifully addressed.
The Bad Stuff
Before you read any further, know that I am assuming that you are familiar with the characters, plot, and general themes of the story. There are massive spoilers ahead! So if you haven’t read the book but plan to, stop reading now.
Characters: So confusing!
Missing characters, added characters, confusing characters…oh my! This movie had ‘em all.
Sandy and Dennys—twin brothers stuck in the middle of the Murry family between super-smart yet slightly oddball Meg and super-intuitive yet somewhat other-worldly Charles Wallace—simply didn’t exist in the movie. In removing them from the story, the writers took away a touchpoint we, as the audience, need. In my daughter’s words, how are we supposed to know just how nerdy Meg is or just how strange Charles Wallace is without their normal brothers to compare them against?
A Wrinkle in Time, the movie, also gives us a new character, Veronica, the “mean girl next door” who bullies Meg and acts as a seemingly perfect foil to Meg’s oddity. She didn’t add to the story line at all, in my daughter’s opinion, and only convoluted the plot with her presence.
Another change that was made was with the character Happy Medium. In the book, the seer is definitely feminine. In the movie, it is played by Zach Galifianakis as some sort of strange yogi/love interest for Reese Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit. Yes, it is as odd as it sounds.
Plot: No wrinkles, just big holes!
Turning a novel into a 2-hour movie necessitates some cuts in the plot. But when cutting part of the plot leaves giant, gaping holes in motivation and theme, it seems a bit foolish.
The most gaping hole we found took place after the children had been reunited with Mr. Murry and Charles Wallace was taken over by It, the evil “brain” that is threatening the universe. In the novel, Mr. Murry saves Meg and Calvin by tessering to the planet Ixchel. On that planet, the large beasts shower the travelers with love and the three Mrs. Ws return. It is there that Meg realizes that she alone can save her brother from It. Mrs. Which tells Meg that she must use what It lacks as her weapon against evil and Mrs. Whatsit tells Meg to remember that she is loved.
In the movie, Meg is instead simply abandoned to fight It and win back the possessed Charles Wallace. She must somehow figure out, on her own, how to use her “faults,” a gift she was previously reminded of by Mrs. Whatsit, to save the day. When she finally comes around to using the love she feels for her brother to break the bonds Evil holds on him, it leaves the audience wondering…Is love of her family another one of Meg’s faults?!
Themes: Sanitized and secularized
The story that Madeleine L’Engle gave us is one rich in science and rich in faith, one filled with theories and theology. It is a story where a character who couldn’t use words of her own quoted from the Bible alongside other major works. One that, when listing off the names of people throughout time who had fought the darkness of Evil with the light of Good, calls Jesus Christ by name. Through her story, L’Engle teaches us that evil can’t be broken by anger, but it must be tamed by Love.
The filmmakers, though, denied it all. Quotes from the rap group Outkast and the musical Hamilton are added for the benefit of modern audiences. Any quotes from the Bible were cut. The names of the warriors-for-good include modern-day people like Maya Angelou alongside Einstein and DaVinci. Yet, Jesus is noticeably missing. And instead of being shown that Love is what brings the ultimate victory, Meg is told by Mrs. Which that “the only thing faster than light is the darkness,” and by Mrs. Whatsit that she should remember her “beautiful faults.”
It’s a shame that director Ava DuVernay and the rest of the production crew couldn’t see that the true beauty and richness in Madeleine L’Engle’s work is more than skin deep.
A Wrinkle in Time: The Final Take
If you want to see this movie and you’ve never read the book or have any desire to do so, go and enjoy it! The wild ride DuVernay has created is truly entertaining and incredible. It really will be enjoyable!
However, if you love the story, if you are a L’Engle super-fan, if the removal of religious themes in favor of pleasing a mass market doesn’t appeal to you, this might not be the movie for you.
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. // John 3:19-21
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