Thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time

Still from the movie "A Wrinkle in Time"

“So, why were you crying through the entire film?”
— my daughter Athena, who was mildly concerned.

There are several answers to this, most of which boil down to the fact that I am a father who remembers being the ten-year-old boy who fell in love with Madeleine L’Engle’s book, and the movie engaged both of these states. I cried because the casting and performance of Meg (played by Storm Reid) is immensely good — such a stubborn, willful, doubt-filled girl — and because I could see both myself as a child and my daughter in her. I cried because I remember being a fatherless child and being a father who would never want to leave his daughter. I cried because the film has empathy not only for bright but difficult children but for all children, and because it wants so much for Meg to see herself, just as I would want to be seen and would want my own child to see her value. I cried because I remembered being lost like Meg was lost, and remembered everyone who helped me find myself, as everyone in this film does so for Meg, and as I hope I have helped my own daughter become who she is meant to be.

I cried because this film has an enormous amount of empathy, as the book did, and that essential core remains intact, even as the film takes liberties with the source material. It would have to, 56 years after the book’s initial publication, to speak to the audience it’s intended to speak to, which is not me, a 48-year-old white dude, although it clearly and so obviously did. I cried because this film gets the book right, because it sees the book, just as the book saw me when I came to it almost four decades ago, and has seen so many other children since. Director Ava DuVernay’s love of the material, and her willingness to put the work into it to make it speak today, is self-evident and appreciated.

It is not a perfect film, in itself or in its adaptation of the source material. Lots is truncated, changed and elided, some new stuff is put in to middling effect. The commercial needs of a $100 million film mean that some tropey elements get past the gate, and on more than one occasion the special effects become the tail wagging the dog. In the end I didn’t see much of this as a problem. The film is not perfect, and also, this is a film about faults, and how our own faults ultimately may give us power to save ourselves and others. While I’m not going to say this film’s faults ultimately give it power, I can say that none of the film’s faults are that important to me when the film’s core is solid, and intact, and so powerfully on point. It’s not perfect, nor does it have to be to work.

(And, you may ask, what do I think about the film’s multicultural and feminine viewpoint and aesthetic? I think it works very well, and it’s a reminder that things that are not designed specifically for one in mind may still speak significantly and specifically to one, if one is open to it. I would not have imagined A Wrinkle in Time the way DuVernay has — I seriously doubt I could have imagined it this way — and yet there I was crying my eyes out all the same. I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward. As I noted before, this movie was not, I think, made for me, and still here I am, loving it as much as I do.)

Should you see this film? Well, I think you should. I also think you should see it on a big screen, because it’s visually impressive enough to warrant it and because films still have their most potent power on a big screen, in front of an audience. Maybe it won’t have the same effect on you that it had on me — in fact, it probably won’t, because you are not me. But I’m willing to believe it will have some effect. Whatever that effect is, it’ll be worth getting yourself to a theater for, and maybe taking a kid or two along with you, too.

As for me, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve been this affected by a film in years. Part of that is because I loved the book as a child, but I’ve loved other books before, and their adaptations, and yet didn’t spend their entire running time in tears. I think, in the end, it’s what Ava DuVernay, her team and her actors (especially Storm Reid) brought to it: Empathy, joy, optimism and their own point of view that brings A Wrinkle in Time into modern times. No one needs me to tell them that DuVernay is a major director; that much was evident with Selma and 13th. What I can say is that DuVernay, rare among directors, is now someone whose vision I trust — not to give me what I think I want, but to give me what I didn’t know I needed, until she showed it to me.

I knew I was probably going to like A Wrinkle in Time. I didn’t know I was going to love it this much. I certainly didn’t know I was going to find myself crying all the way through it. That’s on DuVernay and her team. And for that, I say: Ava DuVernay, thank you. I don’t think it’s possible for your film to have moved me more than it has.

67 thoughts on “Thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time

  1. Totally agree. This film was not made for me but it touched me far more than I expected!

  2. As a 5th grade teacher and someone who loves science fiction, I had high hopes for this book when I read it several years ago. Sadly, I didn’t care for it much. It meandered around too much for my tastes, and I don’t really remember that much of a message in the book (and I look for books with messages to share with my students).

    Your review of the movie has given me enough pause to reread the book and see if I see it differently the second time. I do plan to see the movie and would have liked to have liked the book more.

  3. I cried too. While I expected to be engaged visually and intellectually, this film has a strong emotional design that swept me away. I walked out drained but emboldened. So glad I was able to share it with my daughters. One slight thing that bothered me is that Mrs. Murry isn’t shown in the lab, she is only seen in the kitchen.

  4. I didn’t cry throughout, I only read the book for the first time a year or two back, but I did cry at a few points.

  5. I loved this book growing up, but I’ve heard really mixed reviews and am worried that this “interpretation” would sour it for me. I’ve always liked the message, always thought of it as female-centric and was never bothered by the idea, but this looks (and sounds it seems) forced.

    And to be fair, you also spoke highly of The Last Jedi, a very divisive film in the series (I think it was the worst on pretty much all fronts), so maybe this is a Red Box buck for me.

  6. My best friend and I saw it yesterday, and while I didn’t have the depth of response you did, I so so SO appreciated its message of acceptance and support and faith in a youngster, and in a little girl in particular. I first and last read this book when I was about 9 years old (my very first “science fiction” story!), so I don’t remember many specifics, but it did have a lot of the things I do remember, plus so much more. It’s a feast for the eyes and heart. Glad you loved it too!

  7. I have a weathered piece of rawhide in place of heart, but did my best to be open to this movie. I also loved the book, nearly half a century ago.

    My dislike of Oprah Winfrey as a person made me wish for a different actress, but she technically did well. Really, I would’ve like seeing three relatively unknown actors as Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs, Which, but Disney is after all a money-making machine.

    Storm Reid was great, and I look forward to more from her.

    The trailer showed a scene I remember from the book, where Meg explains the basic idea of traveling via a higher spatial dimension, but that was left out. We do get some Deepak Choprah-sounding pseudoscientific bullshit, and then sort of gallop through the plot.

    After decades of CGI, visual effects don’t do much for me unless the movie’s got me mentally and emotionally engaged. I was about halfway there.

    As noted, I’m not the audience. As a ten-year-old, I probably would’ve loved it unreservedly.

  8. When I took my seven year-old daughter to see The Last Jedi a few months back, the trailer for A Wrinkle In Time was attached. Midway through the trailer, she leaned over to me and whispered “this looks really cool.” I’m glad she wasn’t looking directly at me, because it meant that she missed the tears that were positively *streaming* down my face.

    (We’re reading the book now, She likes it as much as I did at her age.)

  9. Wow what a review.

    The book didn’t make much of an impression on me when I read it as a kid. I don’t remember it other than superficially.

    I’ll certainly see this movie when it comes out on Netflix. My daughter is going to college in the next state, so seeing it with her isn’t practical for me as it was for you.

  10. It was beautiful and powerful. I’m glad I was able to take my daughters to see it. I’m glad they made the message of self-acceptance so out there and even showed the mean girl in a sympathetic light. I understood most of the adaptation choices, but I really wanted to see Aunt Beast.

  11. I took my kids (ages 7, 8, 10, 12) to see it on Friday night. I enjoyed it immensely, but my reaction was nothing compared to theirs. I have never seen my 12 year old daughter react so strongly and positively to any movie. As far as I can tell, this is the greatest movie she has ever seen. She loved the book, too, so for the rest of her life, she’ll have both of them stuck in that great place in her mind that is reserved for things we’ll never be able to be objective about. Maybe some day she’ll see the faults in the book and the movie, but I doubt that will ever diminish her love for them both.

    Meanwhile, my 9 year old son said that A Wrinkle in Time was better than Black Panther.

  12. The novel truly impressed me when I read it as a pre-teen over half a century ago. Your review John reassures me that I must experience this film on the big screen. I had my doubts reading some of the critical comments on the film and modifications to the source material.

  13. I loved the book so much I was very unsure about the film. I’m disappointed in so many adaptations of novels. Thanks for encouraging me to give it view.

  14. In the book, Mrs Murry surreptitiously used her lab *as* her kitchen, to the dismay of Charles Wallace, who worried about chemicals getting into the food. That might have been fun to see in the film.

  15. I, too, cried, almost from the start (I teared up during the previews months ago, even!). I’ve read this book several times, and have re-read it twice–once last year and again last month, so it is fresh in my memory. It was a very emotional thing for me to dredge those Meg feelings. Storm Reid is fierce. Levi Miller was achingly sweet. I loved them both so much. AWIT isn’t even my favorite of the quintet and it was still extremely formative for me. I loved the movie.

  16. I missed the book as a kid, but tried to listen to it on audio book a few years ago and didn’t finish it. I think the narrator put me off. Anyway, I wasn’t planning to see the movie, but this review makes me think maybe I’ll miss something if I don’t.

  17. Thank you, John. You and I are of an age, and the first three books have been a touchstone for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve been nervous about this since I heard about it, as I’m usually nervous when something important to me is adapted (I still get equal parts sad and angry when I think of the miserable “The Dark Is Rising” film of a few years ago). It’s encouraging to hear that they got it right.

  18. I read the book a few years ago, and I think I was too old for it: I don’t have much patience for reading the “travelogue” aspects of kids’ books. The movie was more accessible to me in that way because it was so very pretty. It also closed up a plot hole from the book, which I appreciated. The explicitly religious aspects of the book were removed in the movie. (Madeline L’Engle was a lifelong Episcopalian and a universalist), which was a slight disappointment for me but probably made it more accessible for a lot of other people in the target audience (which I’m not exactly in).

  19. I also expected to like the movie, just from the previews and the glimpses of the ways the characters were portrayed in it. I didn’t expect it to repeatedly bring tears to my eyes, but I guess I should have. As a child, I empathized so much in different ways not just with Meg, but also Charles Wallace and Calvin. And the hope in the book is captured visually in the movie in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And the movie touched me as a parent as well. No, not perfect, but perfection is rarely attainable. There are different bits and pieces anyone who loved the book will miss, but the movie captures the heart of the book and the performances are amazing. Storm Reid is perfect as Meg. Levi Miller captures the heart and strength of Calvin. And Deric McCabe is downright chilling as Charles Wallace under the influence of It.

  20. Just saw A Wrinkle In Time and have a lot of feelings–and goddamnit, that’s not the point! It’s not just that Meg learned to love herself that made everything came out right in the end, it’s also that she worked hard and learned math and science and quoted poetry and helped Calvin with his homework.

    I don’t think L’Engle would appreciate the idea that you don’t need to learn anything and work at it to be able to do it, all you need to do is try real hard. I think she would especially hate the part where the father apologizes to his kid for having ambition.

    And why is it that family love is the only acceptable kind of love–why doesn’t Mrs. Which wish Meg her love? Why can’t the love Meg has for her family become agape, love for more than just her family, through the transformative power of angels or however we want to pin down the “witches”?

    And what’s with the fixation on physical appearance–Meg’s hair, her young female neighbor’s weight obsession, the emphasis on makeup and costume changes for the witches, who are not crones at first, but always beautiful?

    Although I like the updating of Mrs. Who’s quotations, like ”tomorrow there’ll be more of us,” the question is, will more of us make a difference if all we have is earnestness and nice hair, rather than real expertise?

  21. Although I wanted more from the movie, I knew that since it was under two hours, they were going to have to cut a lot. They did, including both the bit about stars (my favorite part) and Aunt Beast.

    Even so, I think it’s an excellent movie for children. It’s beautiful and has a lovely message of hope and self-acceptance, and I cried in parts because as a kid I -was- Meg. I loved the color this version brought out–I always imagined the Mrs.s as black and white–and I loved all the visualizations. The true test will be to see how this movie goes over with kids, and that will take some time…

  22. In elementary school I read “A Wrinkle in Time.” I won’t say it changed me, but I will say it changed my direction toward reading in general. Before that I had focused on biographies and non-fiction. After it I was fully into speculative fiction.
    Somewhere along life’s path, I picked up honorary children. Not biological, but in every other way that mattered. One particular “daughter” honored me with the privilege of walking her down the aisle. Later, she called me to tell me I was going to be a grandpa.
    At the baby shower in 2000, I was pleased to present a gift wrapped hardcover edition of “Wrinkle” as my first present to my future granddaughter. My daughter, who had never read it, decided it would be the first book my grandbaby would hear read to her. And so it was. I won’t claim it shaped her pre-one-year old mind.
    Here’s what I know: my nearly 8-year old granddaughter has a thirst for books, and is regularly bringing books for her Papa to read with her. Our games begin with rules, but quickly devolve into the imagination universes we create. Oh, and she’s the smartest and most beautiful girl in the world, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
    As for the movie, I’m happy to read your review. I’ll wait a couple of weeks because I need to steel myself before seeing someone else’s vision of this beloved classic. But, it shall get my butt in the chair.

  23. Her books were among my very favorites as a child, but I have been reluctant to see the movie for that very reason. I didn’t want my internal world to be overwritten, or the power of tesseracts and mitochondria and balls bouncing to fade. You have changed my mind. I will open up an adjoining compartment to risk it. Thanks.

  24. I read this book back i n the 7th grade (1964). After a steady diet of Heinlein this was the first “soft” science fiction I had read and I fell in love with it. It became the first book I proceeded to look for the sequels (new concept!) I expect it’ll affect me as it did you.

  25. DH and I have been worried about seeing it given a review I read saying it was like the Neverending Story– one of my favorite movies as a kid, but did not hold up as an adult. (Plus, although the first preview was amazing, the second preview looked terrible.) This review has caused us to possibly be willing to take the kids to the theater.

    Rereading Wrinkle as an adult (when DC1 was reading it for school about 5 years ago), the main message that got to me was that sometimes adults can’t save you. Sometimes you need to be the one who saves the world. Wrinkle really pushed that more than most of the spec fic kid-hero books I read growing up precisely because Meg was so reluctant to be a hero (the Charles Wallace character is the hero or best friend of the action-oriented hero in most of those books). Current events have pushed that message well into reality. I would not have believed that in my middle age I would be moving from believing that complicated (Black Panther) villains are less realistic than the unnamed evil that most of the literature I read growing up featured. But that evil is there in literature throughout time as a warning. And, like Meg, we need to fight it. Even if we’re scared and unsure. Because the adults can’t always save us.

  26. I often write (make notes) about the creative process – writing mostly. May I use this as a quote?
    “I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward.”
    With a link to the post, of course.

  27. Greg – Clearly a perfect 5/7

    Jeanne – If they dropped the importance of technical competence on top of determination and good will, that is a loss.

    Manuel – Was it the same Deepak Chopra BS as in the book, or did they replace it with a new batch?

    I always found it ironic that science is pushed as important in general, and the results of the parent’s science are so important in specific, and yet A) we never get the slightest hint of how these might be the kind of thing you might discover through investigation, B) mother can’t even get a start on following father, C) they use actual science words for things that aren’t what they are, and D) science lets you teleport with your mind. Umm.

    And then I remember that this is the same series as the one where the two teenagers, having accidentally hitched a ride on an angel to just before the great flood of Noah, have to avoid having sex so they can ride unicorns back.

  28. I appreciate this review and the depth of John’s experience with it and I really appreciate Jeanne’s comments too. I loved the book. I reread it last week to refresh my memory and maybe I shouldn’t have so that I might have seen the movie to stand on its own more.

    I was most disappointed that Meg stayed behind on Camazotz due to panic, fear, and desperation (and yes, also love for Charles Wallace) as she resisted her father’s attempt to leave. While in the book, it was that she realized and accepted that she had to go back and she went with the love and support of those around her: her father, Calvin, Aunt Beast, and the Mrses. and with self-acceptance of her faults and feelings. That’s such a huge difference in Meg’s emotional life, which was also shortchanged early in the movie, perhaps to make room for the scenes with the parents at NASA and the Disneyfied bullying scene which wasn’t necessary to show Meg’s feelings of alienation from almost all those around here.

  29. Thank you for that beautiful review. I’m probably going to be one of the few people who liked the book but wasn’t SUPER into it, and I couldn’t finish the series. Sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with my brain when so many people utterly adore The Wrinkle in Time and I was always kind of ‘well, its okay’. I recognize the brilliance of it but I always leaned towards Alexander Key for older science fiction. -_- ah well.

    I will absolutely see the movie and am looking forward to it.

  30. Your review made me tear up again. The emotional core of the book remains solid. Heck I’m STILL trying to get the world to see “me” rather than its own stereotypes projected onto my body.

    This film let me exhale, just a little, after a year of unrelenting disaster. Thank you, Ava.

  31. Thank you for this review, Mr. Scalzi. I have been very torn about seeing the movie because so many others based on books have been done so poorly, and I don’t want this generation of children to grow up thinking a bad movie is what the book is about. Now I feel “safe” to go see the movie for myself.

  32. I saw the movie on Saturday and I’m glad I did. I think it was aimed at kids (as it should be) and that that is why now and then I felt like things were over simplified or a scene had made it’s point a few minutes before the movie gathered itself and moved on.

    There were several things about it that I loved. 1) the girl is the hero. The boys are not useless or helpless, but it’s the girl who is the hero. 2) Meg is quite reasonably pretty but Calvin is luminously beautiful. This is routine the other way around, but it was a pleasure to see it from this direction. 3) the idea that faults can be strengths. 4) the flying green entity. I could have watched that for a much longer time.

    I wish I could go back in time and take the girl I was to see this movie.

  33. I saw it this weekend and struggled to hold back tears several times. I don’t want to spoil anything but as the father of a daughter I never want her to have to go through what Meg did. And it’s always important as a parent to admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness.

  34. I wrote a fairly substantial comment, to the point of being later for work, only to lose it while resetting my WordPress password. Trying again:

    On my birthday on Saturday, I sat in a darkened theater and tried to love this film, while my close friend Kevin sat crying, quietly, beside me. It’s my favorite book, and I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be very faithful to the text. That’s okay, I told myself. The film Mary Poppins is not even moderately faithful to the books, and it’s a great movie. I wanted that for the film adaptation of Wrinkle: different, but great on its own terms.

    I don’t feel that it quite got there.

    The casting is mostly excellent (I would not have gone with that actor for Charles Wallace, but the other Murrys are great), the effects are terrific, and the addition of the “mean girl” subplot really works for me. I can cope with the loss of the twins, the gender change for the Happy Medium, and the complete reimagining of the Mrs Ws. Let’s just say it’s an alternate universe version of these people and events, and that’s okay. The visualization of IT is a big improvement over the brain-in-a-jar trope. And I liked that Meg is the one who drags them to Camazotz.

    SPOILERS FOLLOW:

    What doesn’t work for me is the complete deletion (X-ing, in A Wind in the Door parlance) of everything that ever got A Wrinkle in Time banned in book form. Nobody would ever mistake Oprah et al. for witches, or identify this Medium with a crystal ball-wielding fortune teller. Not one mention of Christianity or Jesus gets through, or even God in general, unless I missed something. That strikes me as missing a large chunk of the heart of the book, and perhaps a bit of cowardice on the part of the part of the filmmakers. Perhaps that’s a part of the story they don’t want to tell for personal reasons, but I notice that the same thing happened with the tv movie over a decade ago, with one of the same producers.

    In story terms, I think it was a mistake to skip the whole interlude on Aunt Beast’s planet. We lose much of Meg’s struggle to realize that her father isn’t perfect and can’t fix everything for her, and to throw off the negativity that invades her heart. It’s also impossible to see (at least for me, on one viewing), where Alex Murry and Calvin went, exactly, and when and how. Dr. Murry tried to tesser, but was Calvin even in the shot? Also, making Charles Wallace an adoptee lessens the power of this family producing a biological “sport” who is “different” and “new.” And making the suburban subdivision melt away as an illusion implies that there aren’t real people suffering the hell of authoritarianism

    Still, there’s a lot to like here. I did come close to tears twice, and I will go see it again. But I can’t help being a little disappointed.

    K.

  35. Oh thank goodness. I haven’t seen it yet but the review headlines have scared me. L’Engle means so much to me, Wrinkle and her other work, too. If you like it, odds are I will, too.

    Any thoughts on the possibility of film adaptations for the other books in the series? I’ve been saying it’s highly unlikely to happen.

  36. I’m glad to read a review that makes me think I want/need to see this in the theater — I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews. My fifth grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time to us and it’s a touchstone book for me (along with A Swiftly Tilting Planet from the same series).

  37. Well I’d call that a rave. I re-read the book quite recently and for me the philosophy was stronger than the story, but I still want to see the movie. :-)

  38. Well, I have seen it twice, and having recently read both the book and the graphic novel, although I would highly recommend for “tweeners” I do have a couple love and hates about the movie:
    Spoilers BELOW!

    Loved: Charles Wallace, Actually thought he was the truest to the book.
    How the Tesseracts were portrayed. As a Math & Physics Nerd, loved them
    Mindy Kaling. Her facial expressions said everything.

    Greatly MIssed: Everything about Aunt Beast.

    Not Missed: The Twins.
    Also the revelation that the Missuses are basically angels.

    Hated: Meg not tessering with Her dad to “re-group”. Along with the accompanying dialog, It made Dr Murry look like he didn’t love Charles Wallace. And his apology for being ambitious – not in the books at all.

  39. Great review! I think I will use one of your lines in discussing it with friends, including some who didn’t like to because it was different than how they saw it in their heads. The statement that you doubt you could have imagined it they was the director did and how that is fine expresses that sentiment so well. Thank you for that and the great review!

  40. I will see it soon, with my 10 yr old son who also loved the book. I expect I will like it. My big reservation going in is that Mrs. Who, the youngest of the three characters in the book, is 2,379,152,497 years, 8 months, and 3 days old. Mrs. Whatsit is significantly older. In what world (outside of Hollywood) is Reese Witherspoon an old woman? They had the opportunity to cast some fantastic older actresses – and I mean with wrinkles – for these great roles. They had the chance to introduce this generation to – say – Venessa Redgrave, Betty White, or Rita Moreno. Witherspoon is a great actress (and producer, etc.) but she’s 41, for Pete’s sake! Doesn’t look a day over 1 million, never mind 2! I wish they’d #castrealwrinkles in #wrinkleintime.

  41. What a beautiful review. I was going to wait for this movie to hit the small screen, but I think I’m going to ask my wife out to the movies tonight.

  42. I’ve been looking forward to seeing AWIT and was disappointed that the trailer looked gawdawful, but this review gives me hope.

  43. I cried too. Not throughout, but here and there.

    I’m more than ten years older than you, John, but the book is one I too have loved for a very long time. I made a point of NOT re-reading it in preparation for seeing the movie, because I didn’t want my reaction to be an exercise in picking out all the differences. I let it wash over me, a familiar story with the details elided by time in my memory, and I liked it so very much.

    Thank you for sharing your reaction with us.

  44. I was crying just reading your post. I’m so looking forward to this movie and now even more. I will warn my husband and 2 sons about the crying in advance. I’m not in the target range I’d guess, 43 year old woman, but I was a young girl when I read A Wrinkle in Time the first time. I identified with Meg. So so so so so much. I especially love that the cast is diverse, I’m Indian and grew up in the USA, so Mindy Kaling’s inclusion is particularly exciting. I’m reading the book with my sons now and should have it finished by the time it comes out in the UK. I’m so pleased that at 12 and 7 they haven’t complained that it’s a girls’ book. Thanks for the great review!

  45. The movie was on sale cheap through iTunes a couple of weeks back. I’d never read the books, and fellow SF fans said it was really good. I bought it and let it sit until a few nights ago, when I needed something. I wasn’t sure what, but something. (Be it noted, I also got “Wonder.”)

    When I sa the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time…gulp. I had to see the movie. Because I know how it feels to be the misfit, the outsider, the “special” kid who always gets bullied, who has tooo few friends. — I had pretty good parents, but they were over-protective and overly-controlling, and I only partly realized the extent of it. I was handicapped. I also began to discover I was gay. I could mostly deal with being legally blind. Being a gay boy was something I didn’t know how to deal with. Everything, everyone, religious and home life, school and everyday life, family, friends, you name it, I wasn’t supposed to be gay. (I’m only a few years older than Scalzi and I’m from a big city in Texas. Yeah, and I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.) And I mostly “hid out” in science fiction books.

    So — When I saw the movie this past weekend — oh, gosh. Gulp. I could identify with Meg, this strong, stubborn, tough, but vulnerable and doubt-filled young teen girl hero. I could identify with Charles Wallace, the brainy little boy who doesn’t talk except at home to his family. (One point about that later.) And because I grew up with a strained home life, even though it was mostly a good one, I could identify with Meg and Charles Wallace’s dysfunctional family, and Calvin’s far more dysfunctional family.

    I was amazed with how they handled things in the movie. I don’t know the book, but I presume it’s fairly close to the book. — Meg’s struggle to defend them, Charles Wallace getting trapped by both intellectual and emotional things he’d be vulnerable to, the idea that there can be incomprehensible, supernatural or god-like beings, but that they too are learning and imperfect…wow.

    Two bits annoyed me: One, I have a little trouble understanding how a kid who _can_ talk and is that bright, filled with curiosity and vocabulary and so on..would not also talk out in public, but only when with his family, until he opens up to one friend, Calvin, an older boy, a hero figure.

    Two, I got annoyed that they had no visual tie-in between Alfre Woodard’s character, Mrs. Whatsits, in human form (as a wise black woman) and her CGI animated sphinx form (shown with a pearly white generically white-woman face). Aw, come on, why couldn’t they have her face match her human form more, and why the pearly white? Didn’t they ever hear of black pearls, also beautiful?

    I did, however, mostly believe Charles Wallace giving in to the little-boy mean version of himself while trapped by the “it” controlling-sameness monster. (Shades of 1984 in the slogans and imagery.)

    The nurturing, healing, purring creatures didn’t entirely convince me either. But OK.

    Otherwise, though, the movie kept me interested and emotionally engaged and wanting for the heroic kids to win. The fantasy elements were beautifully done and mostly seamless.

    It was midway into the movie with the Mrs. Who character, before I clued into the idea that, although she looks young, she’s playing a ‘sweet little old lady / granny” character. Once I got that, it fit. Before that, it was a puzzling bit of characterization.

    I thought nearly all the casting of the kids and adults was spot on. The kids do a fantastic, believable, relatable job in their roles. I could easily believe Charles Wallace is this brainy little geeky boy with this very sh, sensitive side around other people. I could completely buy Meg’s character. I could also buy Calvin’s character. And they did a great job with Mrs. Whatsits.

    I would’ve liked a little more active engagement with the dad, so we see what he’s like and how he could be held powerless by the “it” monster, and why he had a special relationship as a good and loving dad with his kids.

    but overall, wow, what a great movie.

    The film was filled with empathy, showing all over.

    Now I want to read the book and see what I think.

  46. This was the first book that I remember searching all of the branches of the local library for the sequels. These, and The Great Brain books, were staples of my childhood.

  47. I don’t need to have anything imagined as I would have imagined it, nor do I need to have L’Engles world imagined as she would have imagined it, but why not be honest and call the thing a Modern Moral Poem based Loosely on a book by L’Engle. The equivalent parlance of MLKjr in Selma would have it occur in Copenhagen, be about animal rights, have MLKjr being Albanian, and end with John Lennon’s Imagine. It is so derivative it isn’t the same work at all. About the only thing that remained was the Tesseract.

  48. I was really surprised to read your review, John. I love your writing, loved the original Wrinkle in Time book, and absolutely loathed the movie even though I went in really excited about it, and willing to overlook the various changes (which always get put in). I did not feel that it kept the core of the book at all. I was particularly disturbed by the way Meg’s father was transformed from a loving, hardworking, brilliant scientist who was trapped in an evil he could not have predicted into a man who willingly charged off leaving his family without a word and had to apologize to his 14 year old daughter for impulsively putting his work ahead of his family. There is a lot more. I’ve read a lot of reviews that also feel the movie completely missed the point. I was really surprised by your reaction.

  49. Dear John,

    I haven’t read the book in ages, but I felt the movie was true to the feeling of the book, the emotions it engendered in me. At least as well as I remember them. Big plus for that, big plus for (almost) all of the acting, big plus for the visuals which I think WERE important to establishing moods and emotions. I love it that the Dark was portrayed as living pahoehoe. I love movies about girl empowerment and that have lots of roles for women in them.

    And I put it all together and for me the movie is only a meh. A positive meh, worth the price of the ticket. But just a meh. I’m not likely to see it again.

    What went wrong for me? The movie never convinced me that Meg was the person to defeat an entity that near-omnipotent beings were helpless against. It was just too casual, too easy, too happenstance. The pacing in the second half was so far off that when Meg first finds her father, I was certain it was a false dawn. Not enough had happened vis-à-vis the Dark to make this feel like the epic conflict it was supposed to be. The beat was off.

    Now, it’s quite possible that this is faithful to the book (as I said, very long time since I’ve read it). But a book gives you time to buy into what it’s selling you. You develop identification at your own pace. A movie doesn’t have that luxury. The clock is ticking. It has to take you where it needs you to go, on its schedule. For me, this movie didn’t. I never got the sense of Meg being so extra special before she simply WAS.

    This is not a logical thing, this is an emotional thing, how the movie makes me feel about the character.

    This is not an easy thing to do, but there are many ways to do it. Disney’s last SF effort at girl empowerment, TOMORROWLAND, nailed it with kind of a reverse psychology. (A movie I totally love, not so by the way — I can watch it over and over again.) An important part of that movie’s plot is the justifiable skepticism that the protagonist is somehow so special that she’s the one person on the entire planet who can save it, and it leads to a semi-tragic dénouement (no spoilers.)

    A WRINKLE IN TIME doesn’t.

    Which doesn’t negate any of the positive things I said about the movie in the first paragraph. But it keeps it, in my mind, from being an especially good movie.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  50. This was such an important book to me growing up. As a child who was chastised in 2nd grade for making others feel inferior by writing my name in cursive on my paper (a skill that had not been taught in school) I was kind of a brainy outcast. I moved schools for 3rd grade and found that now I was a brainy outcast in a room full of brainy outcasts. Not really all that much better. I found this book around that time and it was an anchor. A strong female heroine who isn’t perfect but is amazing…it was affirmation that I was not alone. As an adult, I have struggled with being the adult that grew from that gifted child. My adult accomplishments pale in comparison to the potential I showed as a child and while that assessment is only from me, it is an assessment that plagues me daily. I felt the urge to take my 8-year-old twin boys to see this before I read this review. Now I wonder if I can replace their homework with an age appropriate lesson in the incredible power of books on film.

  51. I’m glad that you enjoyed the movie, and I do think that you captured that the movie has heart. I also applaud the feminist and POC representation in the movie – there were a ton of young girls in the showing that I attended. I thought the cast acted well (except for Charles Wallace when he was possessed by IT)
    I too fell in love with this book as a young person who probably had some of the same problems that Meg did (no missing father though). I read literally everything else that L’Engle wrote, including her faith books.
    But for me, it missed the mark of being A Wrinkle in Time.. As others have mentioned, major motivations of characters were changed, and I felt that the book was turned into “believe in yourself” (said almost directly several times) self-improvement lesson. Too many major plot points were ignored. And while eliminating the Christian references was probably inevitable with DuVernay at the helm, I felt it was a missed opportunity to show a compassionate Christian perspective we rarely see in our culture today.

  52. I was a bit underwhelmed by the movie. Storm Reid and Deric McCabe were outstanding in their roles. Oprah & Co. just didn’t seem to make it for me. I’m not sure why Calvin was there except to tell Meg to believe in herself. However, it was better than the Black Panther (I’m not really into the superhero movies). I did see Wrinkle in 3D and that added a lot to the movie. I never read the book but may add it to my summer reading list.

  53. Unsurprised by the positive review – I think it’s legally required to give positive reviews to anything featuring either Oprah or Maya Anjelou, so color me skeptical as to the film’s actual quality.

    As for the film itself, not interested. If obscure critic-bait is indeed all the rage these days then an “Interstellar Pig” adaptation is not that far off.

  54. Well now I’m crying.

    Whenever we see the previews, my son says “That’s not the book I read,” and I have to agree. But given this and other reviews, I’ll go see it and drag him with me. I loved the book as a kid; he liked it a lot but liked one of the others in the series better.

    So we’ll see. But I’m glad it worked for you.

  55. Funny thing is, John, that while our overall reactions differed greatly, if we were to sit down and talk about the details, we’d probably agree on almost everything, including falling in love with the book at age 10. The short take is that I loved everyone in the Murry family (including Calvin), and especially loved Meg and Charles Wallace, but had issues with the three Mrs. Ws and other details that kept me from being as moved as I might have been.

    The long take is here: https://www.facebook.com/mark.bernstein.79/posts/10216167608850998

Comments are closed.