How-dee y’all. Your devilishly dynamic duo is here to lay down some sweet, sweet reviewing of the Ava DuVernay–directed film A Wrinkle in Time, based on the book written by Madeleine L’Engle. Only one of us has read the source material—care to take a guess?—so there will be some book-related talk and some movie-only talk.
Either way, you’re entering a ~*spoiler*~ zone.
Let’s go, warriors.
Nikkie’s Book-Based Review
So, I was super excited to see this movie when I heard it was coming out, when Ava DuVernay was attached to direct, and when I started seeing those stunning teasers—not to mention the fact that L’Engle was one of my favorite writers growing up.
Then I read a random article—I don’t even remember where—talking about how the amount of time that passes between when studios lift the review ban and when a movie gets released has a correlation to how good or bad the movie is. The shorter the time span, the worse the movie likely is. Given that the lead time for Wrinkle was about a day, the article posited that it was probably going to be bad. This is dubious science at best, obviously, but it still made me wonder if I should steel myself for disaster.
After leaving the theater, I feel like I’m overall pleased with the experience, but I can also see why some people wouldn’t like it. This blog isn’t for them, though, so I’m just going to share my thoughts as they are.
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To prepare for the movie, I reread the book, which I remembered loving as a kid. So, I was surprised to find myself a little underwhelmed by it. If you know me at all, you know that I often champion stories where not a lot happens because I enjoy the realism; life is actually pretty boring on a day-to-day basis (at least it was before our political landscape exploded), so a story that can capture that works for me. But the off-putting thing about rereading Wrinkle is that even though arguably tons of things happen—Meg discovers her brother is acquainted with magical galactic beings, she travels with him and a new friend across the galaxy to find her father, she battles an evil being and helps rescue her father and brother—they happen in a way that feels uneventful and ultimately ineffective.
I think the biggest culprit is the ending battle with the It. This being has taken Charles Wallace (Meg’s brother) as a mental hostage after holding their father in a sensory-deprivating cell. Meg is ready to fight for him, but her father tessers (effectively Apparating through space) her, Calvin, and himself away from danger. After arriving at an alien planet where Meg must be healed (she has difficulty with tessering), she chooses to go back and save Charles Wallace. How does she succeed in this effort? By realizing the It has no capacity for love and going up to the possessed Charles Wallace, hugging him, and saying “I love you.”
I mean, she says it a couple times, but that’s the gist of it. The big climactic moment is a hug and some tearful “I love yous.” And I know what you’re thinking: “Nikkie, you’ve mentioned before that you enjoy the ending of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, which is famously anticlimactic.” And you’re right. But there’s a difference between skillfully subverting expectation, as King does, and writing a disappointing scene.
The reason I find it disappointing is because the book focuses a lot on how Meg needs to embrace her flaws in order to see her value, which would normally pay off in the climax. But one of her flaws was never a lack of love for her brother. Her issues were low self-esteem and a general inability to recognize her own intelligence, and her “I love you” declaration at the end does nothing to solve them—not logically anyway. Because of course the book ends with her having a better view of the world and herself.
I just don’t think it’s particularly earned.
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Because of that, I wondered (often and aloud) whether the movie version of this story would be better. Since a film adaptation rarely retains every beat that appears in the book, I figured this was the perfect area for the film crew to take some liberties. And while it did, in the form of adding a bit of Meg getting Whomping Willowed by some psychically controlled space vines, it didn’t change the basis to defeating the It: repeatedly telling Charles Wallace that she loves him.
How disappointing! I expected more from the movie’s ending, and I didn’t get it.
What’s more, the part about Meg’s father leaving Charles Wallace behind, motivating our young heroine to action, kind of rubs the wrong way. In the movie, Charles Wallace is Meg’s adoptive brother. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. The filmmakers wanted to represent the diversity within the modern family, and I applaud that. However, when Meg’s father decides that it’s more important to save Meg than Charles Wallace (for the time being, of course), it reads a little bit like “I’m saving my REAL kid, the biological one. I don’t care about the adopted one because it’s not like he’s actually related to me anyway.” I know that’s not the intention or even implication that they were going for in the movie, but a little flag went up in my mind anyway.
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Beyond that, the changes between the book and the film are the kind that aren’t egregious but you can tell that they were made to create a story that was more visually intriguing and more modern. In addition to adding a small action aspect to Meg’s rescue of Charles Wallace, there’s an added antagonist for Meg (in the form of a Mean Girl, played by Girl Meets World‘s Rowan Blanchard), a personality change for Mrs. Whatsit, a strangely physical visit to the Happy Medium, and a restructuring of how Meg finds her father once she, Calvin, and Charles Wallace reach the planet where he’s being held.
Like I said, these aren’t egregious. I totally get why they were made. I just don’t know if they added much. Plus, a scene from the book that has stuck with me from my very first read was left out. After Meg’s father tessers her and Calvin away, they arrive on a planet where tall, furry, tentacled creatures live. The planet seems very dulled/muted to Meg and co., and you come to find that these creatures don’t have eyes. In a discussion with Aunt Beast, the creature that nurses Meg back to health, Meg tries to explain what sight is and realizes that it’s difficult to explain something you’ve always had (and take for granted) to someone who’s never had it. IT’S FASCINATING TO ME and super upsetting that it’s not translated to the big screen.
Another left-out thing that rankles a little more than it should is how Charles Wallace’s genius is misrepresented—you could even say under-represented. You see, Book CW is a literal genius with a bit of magical ability thrown in. I imagine this is why the Mrs. Ws are drawn to him; he’s a wildly empathetic telepath. In the movie, he’s kind of just a Filipino young Sheldon. But I’ll let Super Hubs tug on that thread. I’ll simply say that I wish his intelligence had been more prominent.
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So! Overall, I thought the movie was okay. But here’s the thing. I saw a tweet saying that children like this movie, and that’s what matters. And I agree with that 100 percent. At the end of the day, and perhaps in blatant defiance of my love for YA literature (despite being almost 30), this story wasn’t written for adults. It was written to delight and educate children. And if it’s doing that, then its mission is done.
On that note, I give the blog over to SH to provide the movie-only thoughts!
Take it away, hon!
Super Hubs’s Movie-Only Review
Hello all you flamboyantly dressed aliens! As Nikkie said, I’ve never read this book despite being told to since I was about six. It’s always been one of those books that’s on my list of things to read that never seems to go down. Maybe I’ll finally get around to it now that I’ve seen – and mostly enjoyed – the movie. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just re-read The Giver for the hundredth time.
First thing’s first, I liked the movie. Whenever I go to see a movie that’s pretty much entirely geared toward children I try to watch it through the eyes of myself as a child and as a child I would have loved this movie. It’s got a lot of the shit I loved as a kid. Science, vaguely defined superpowers, vibrant colors, an alien with vaguely defined superpowers dressed in vibrant colors.
As an adult, dead inside and suspicious of the world, some of the movie’s saccharine, feel-good, everything is defeated by the power of love sentimentality can be grating. Particularly the climax which just involves shouting “I love you” over and over until the bad thing dies. Cheesy and lame. But at the same time I also want to like it. Not every story has to end in an epic battle and teaching kids that it’s better to love than to hate is always a good goal. There’s just one problem:
The story undermines this ideal with its own villain.
The entire time I was watching I couldn’t help but think about how calling the IT a being of pure evil seemed to contradict the message the movie was trying to send. There’s a montage late in the movie wherein Oprah talks about how the IT’s influence creeps into Earth and influences people. We get shots of people being sad or angry and in particular we get a shot of Meg’s bully with a crazy list of dieting rules on her wall and crying. The whole idea is that “even the bad people are bad for a reason, everyone’s got shit.” It’s meant to show that everyone deserves sympathy every now and then.
Except the IT. The IT is just evil and needs to die.
All I could think of was, what’s the IT’s biology like? Can you really call a creature evil just because it exists? The IT can’t help that it’s existence is dependent upon it spreading it’s influence to other planets. The IT’s just trying to live it’s life and magic Oprah’s out there recruiting people she literally calls “warriors” to go out and kill it. Of course it’s going to defend itself.
Morally complex, this story is not.
As far as what I liked about the movie, obviously the visual were amazing. Like Nikkie, the trailers really hooked me and the worlds Ava DuVernay made did not disappoint. The performances were all generally very good. Storm Reid was phenomenal as Meg, Mindy Kaling was fierce af, Oprah was Oprah, and Chris Pine was handsome with that beard. My favorite part of the movie was Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium. But…then there was Charles Wallace.
Child acting is a rough game. It’s hard to find children who can do it well. I know nothing about Deric McCabe. I don’t know if he’s been in other stuff or how well he did if he was. But boy did I hate him in this movie. It’s not entirely his fault, his character isn’t very well written. But every time he was on screen was unpleasant. And his weird way of talking was offputting. It felt like they kept trying to give him catchphrases. I didn’t like it.
Overall though I thought the movie was good. It’s definitely one I look forward to watching with our kids. It’ll be a good family movie and hopefully it’ll get our kids interested in science. I give it a 7/10!