I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a child. I remember my sister had a copy of it floating around the house and even though I was a reader (more so than her), I never had any desire or interest in picking up the book. Believe it or not, part of that reason was the book cover. Her copy looked exactly like this first edition cover printed in 1960s.
It doesn’t exactly reach out and grab you, does it? But when you look at the latest publishing, the movie tie-in edition, you’ll see a scene from the movie as well as pictures from the film scattered throughout the book. For that reason, I love that the movie is inspiring kids to read this classic either before or after seeing the latest Disney movie, A Wrinkle in Time.
Because I’m a book-before-the-movie kind of girl, I was insistent on reading it and brought my 11 year son along for the ride. It was perfect timing because the book is actually geared toward exactly his age range. I was sure that I would love it and I was sure that he would love it even more.
Except we didn’t.
Perhaps it’s that the quality of children’s and young adult literature has come so far (think of the Harry Potter series, alone) but it just didn’t seem to stand up to our scrutiny. It seemed dated, not timeless (it was written in 1960). The characters were quirky but not entirely likable. And it just didn’t get as complex as we wanted (yes, we’re kind of science nerds).
So we were hoping the movie would be an improvement. I’m happy to say it was!
Director Ava Duvernay was behind the camera for this adaptation of the novel and she brought the story to life. Whereas the 1960 setting of the novel felt a little awkward and old-fashioned, Ava modernized the story and made all of the characters relatable from multiple perspectives: diversity, family situations, peer relationships. It was everything a tween could hope for. Throw in a strong female lead (Yes! Girls rock! Science girls rock even more!), a great message of self-love and empowerment delivered by the almighty Oprah, and a hunky dad (thank you, Chris Pine), and this is the perfect tween girl movie (although boys should like it too).
While reading A Wrinkle in Time, there were plenty of parts of the book that I just couldn’t visualize. They seemed weird or didn’t make sense or just transitioned awkwardly. All of these elements were neatly and beautifully, I might add, woven together. The story of the movie seemed much more cohesive and the visually stunning cinematography lit my imagination on fire.
With that said, there were some technical parts of the film that bothered me. It was clearly a very artistic take on the story and while I loved the costumes, colors, and characters, there were a lot of extreme close-ups and unusual camera angles that didn’t visually work for the story. We got to see unusual angles but it detracted from the story on screen. Normally, I wouldn’t even think of talking about camera angles but I found myself shifting back in my seat so I could try to get a wider view of the scene (which, of course, I couldn’t – just instinct).
I also had some mixed feelings about the casting choices. First of all, I absolutely loved the modern day family of Dr. Murry (Chris Pine), his lovely wife the other Dr. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and their children Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Chris Pine is gorgeous, as usual, and Storm Reid definitely took the movie by storm.
Wait – what about the twins, Dennys and Sandy? Yep. They’re gone. The twins have been cut out of the story entirely but I didn’t really miss them because they didn’t add much to the story in the first place (other than to contrast their ordinariness with extraordinary siblings, Meg and Charles Wallace).
The three misses, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, had some hits and misses though.
Mrs. Whatsit, the most verbal of the characters, is played by Reese Witherspoon, who created a very different character from the book. We’re led to believe that Mrs. Whatsit is a dawdling old woman in her persona on Earth who then transforms into a beautiful creature later in the book. Reese Witherspoon’s version feels more like a petulant child. Even though Mrs. Whatsit is meant to be the youngest, relatively speaking, she was the kindest. That didn’t play at all in the movie and frankly, I would have liked to see a younger actress playing the part.
Mrs. Who, played by Mindy Kaling, is a character that, much like the book version, doesn’t have much depth. She’s given a few extra lines and a few pop culture quotes to make her seem more hip but that didn’t really seem to work for me either.
And finally, Mrs. Which, the grand dame of the film played by none other than Oprah Winfrey. I’ve never been a big Oprah fan but that may change after this movie. She created a warm, wise Mrs. Which that made me decide that she’s the one I’d pick if I ever needed a spiritual guide across the universe.
There were a few other casting choices that I didn’t love but not enough to detract from the film. There was, however, one major difference between the book and the movie that lowered my overall opinion of the movie. And for that, I’m going to have to give away a bit of a spoiler.
WARNING – Spoilers Ahead!
I hate posting spoilers but if we’re talking about the differences between the book and the movie, this is one I just can’t overlook.
In the book, Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry are in the chamber of the IT (the giant brain who has taken possession of Charles Wallace). Meg and Calvin are having a difficult time resisting the rhythmic pulses of the IT and Mr. Murry decides to save them by tessering out of there and onto an unknown planet. At this point, they meet the marvelous inhabitants of the planet including the one that Meg comes to know as Aunt Beast.
As Meg is nursed back to health, she convinces everyone that Charles Wallace can and must be saved from the IT. And they all realize that it is Meg that must go back and save him, much to the dismay of Calvin and Mr. Murry.
In the movie, these chapters are entirely cut from the story. While cuts obviously have to be made for the sake of time, there was a crucial story element they cut and it completely changed the story for me.
During one scene in the film, Meg and Calvin are trying to resist the IT when Mr. Murry decides to tesser away from the planet. Meg begs him not to go because they need to save Charles Wallace and her father replies that Charles Wallace is lost and there’s nothing they can do to save him. Calvin and Mr. Murry escape and Meg is left behind to battle the IT. She eventually wins Charles Wallace back with her sibling love and they are able to tesser home.
Why is this so significant? BECAUSE MR. MURRY LEFT CHARLES WALLACE BEHIND. The film repeatedly shows Mr. Murry telling Meg that he never meant to leave her and he’s so sorry and he’ll never leave her again. AND THEN HE INTENTIONALLY LEAVES CHARLES WALLACE BECAUSE “HE CAN’T BE SAVED.”
So what happens at the end? Meg and Charles Wallace make it back, embrace their father, and everyone lives happily ever after. But you and I know the truth.
I love Meg. I love happy endings. But I also love redemption and it was definitely missing in the end of the movie.
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