A few months ago I posted a blog out of excitement for the motion picture adaptation of one of my favorite books growing up (and got me into reading) A Wrinkle in Time. Earlier today I got to sit down and watch the film and see if I would be fully satisfied with this motion picture adaptation of a book close to my heart, or would this be like Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader again?
Spoilers from this point on, I’d much rather you go read the book A Wrinkle in Time first, then watch the film.
First thing is first, I didn’t hate the film. I do heavily feel things could have been handled better than what was presented. Fortunately there is a big steaming pile of things I liked in the film to make me happy that I watched the film and to say that I liked the movie.
In defense of the film though, I knew changes would be made, I knew characters would be adapted out and new scenes and dialogue adapted in. However there are things in the film that bother me. The primary thing being the direction of the character Mrs Whatsit. In the book the Mrs W’s are indeed celestial beings that are wise, kind, and willing to help Meg and Charles Wallace find their father. While the characters of Mrs Who and Mrs Which are still the same, Mrs Whatsit is kind of a slightly bitchy Elle Woods.
She is still very kind and shows concern for the children, but she also looks down on humanity unintentionally and puts Meg down frequently during the film (she also has a ‘thing’ for the now male Happy Medium). My only reasoning for the decision to have Mrs Whatsit put Meg down was to have Meg focus on her own faults more and more since they are needed by the end of the film, but with the reaction Mrs Who and Mrs Which give her, I don’t think that was the intention.
There are a few plot points glossed over or excluded from the film including; the black thing (the entity that created IT and is causing the evil in the universe), the origin of Mrs Whatsit, the whole point of Calvin in the film, and the near exclusion of the planet Ixchel and Aunt Beast. Also Sandy and Dennis Murray are nowhere to be seen, but I don’t think we’re getting any sequels to A Wrinkle in Time.
The film is modernized a bit, Mrs Who quotes some recent historical figures (including Lin-Manuel Miranda) and a more modern setting, to be honest though with the clothing worn by the human characters and the lack of cellphones this film could take place between the 1990’s and today. Along with modernization, some of the darker aspects of the book are removed from the film (I guess in this version of the film CPS would not let any form of child abuse slide so easily).
There is also a lack of clarification between using magic and science; in the novel there is no magic used. The whole point of the Happy Medium was so she could use her crystal ball to find Dr.Murray and expose Calvin’s home life, via a scientific approach. That is to say I do like what was done with the scene and how it helped Meg grow as a person later in the film.
Back to Calvin, I don’t understand his point in the film. In the novel he’s there to encourage Meg and to try to save Charles Wallace, and in later books it’s heavily implied God wanted Meg and Calvin to get married one day. While romance is never a big deal in the book (Calvin and Meg do kiss) it’s almost non existent in the film and instead of sharing a kiss, Meg and Calvin share a hug. As mentioned above some of the darker tones from the novel aren’t present in the film including Calvin’s home life. The book revealed that Calvin was in a abusive household with multiple siblings and a mother who ‘had the hope and joy in her life beaten out of her’. Not sure why this was watered down to Calvin having a verbally/emotionally abusive father, but it does fit the scene fairly well.
Charles Wallace is…kind of annoying, which is also what I got from the book when I was rereading it as an adult, so nothing too bad. Meg was the central focus of the film (obviously) and I am happy what was done with her character; she didn’t let minor things bother her (not having fashionable clothing, caring about her weight, etc), she cared about her family and brother and knew she was intelligent.
Now there’s the near exclusion of Aunt Beast and how the climax of the film was handled; I liked what was there, and I dislike what wasn’t there. While I was happy that this time around IT wasn’t defeated as seen in the tv movie, I didn’t like the exclusion of Aunt Beast in the film. While I am happy Aunt Beast is there in cameo form, I felt that the character would have been necessary to increase the outcome of the climax.
In the book Aunt Beast was part of a race of creatures that had no gender, no eyes, no ears, and no mouth and spoke via thought. Despite the lack communication the species of Ixchel are very kind and loving by nature and heal Meg out of the goodness of their hearts and provide some ammo via ‘power of love’ to have Meg go and save Charles Wallace. I feel that if this scene had been included, it would have made the climactic ‘battle’ between Meg and IT over Charles Wallace stronger. I am also happy with how the ‘battle’ is handled in the film.
In terms of appearance, THE FILM IS BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT! The planet Uriel is such a beautiful portion of the film with bright colors and scenery (gotta love that New Zealand filming location). The clothing and dresses worn by the Mrs W’s are also very beautiful and detailed. I find myself loving Mrs Who’s outfits in the film with one of her gowns having quotes in various languages sewn into them.
The special effects are nice, and I do like Ava DuVarnay’s decision to make the planets visited in the film as alien as possible (no flying centar in this film).
The Removal of Christianity
I had a feeling this would happen, I’m not shocked and I’m not really offended either. Despite what a meme on the internet may tell you, A Wrinkle in Time is not about religion. While there is mention of the citizens of Urial singing a verse from the Bible (Isaiah 42:10-12), Calvin mentioning reading from the book of Genesis to Charles Wallace, and Charles Wallace name dropping Jesus as someone who fought against darkness, the book isn’t as overtly about religion as many think claim it is.
It is also heavily hinted in the book that the Mrs W’s are servants of God in the books, and in some trailers for the film the impression that they serve a higher being is there. I do enjoy the science fiction approach to them this time around with them only being able to exist there there is both physical light and light as in the figurative sense of good in the universe.
Despite the removal of Christianity from the film there is still a strong good versus evil theme with Meg witnessing the large cosmic evil from the influence of of the Black Thing and IT and seeing the small minor evils in the world (Calvin’s abusive homelife, a school bully who forbids herself from eating certain foods so she can be skinny, a stranger Charles Wallace is kind and polite to getting mugged while waiting for the bus, teachers being envious of a promotion for one of their colleagues, etc). The book and the film are able to stand alone without the inclusion of the religion, but I was hoping the line of ‘not to me Calvin, never to me.’ would have been kept in the film.
I feel that Disney didn’t have as much faith in this film as many were lead to believe. While it may be a good thing little to no merchandising was released for the film (there are a few coffee mugs, notebooks, and posters with quotes from the film and three barbie dolls of the Mrs W’s. Oh and the obligatory Pop Funko figures, gotta have my pops). This might be because aside from the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, live action Disney films have a tragic habit of underperforming and being quickly forgotten about within less than a year (you ever hear of anyone talking about Tomorrowland or Maleficent still?)
I mean I knew about the film and kept close tabs on it from the release of the trailer last year (my poor friends Sam and Myrna had to endure me counting down to the premier of the film), but I’m not really sure if the public was as aware of the film. As mentioned above I kept close tabs on the film even subscribing to #AWrinkleInTime on Instagram, but I don’t know exactly how much effort Disney placed into marketing. Seeing as how my nieces and nephews (who I see usually around weekends alone) were aware of the film, I’d say it was advertised enough.
The advertisements and film did put heavy emphasis on women and young girls being able to change the world and to ‘be a warrior’ which I have nothing against, but that wasn’t really a thing in the book.
All in all despite not living up to my picky standards I did enjoy A Wrinkle in TIme and give it three flying tulip aliens out of five.