A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
March 8, 2018 11:47 AM - Subscribe

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
posted by DirtyOldTown (44 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just read the book this week! I'm excited to see the movie to see how the filmmakers imagined it. Since it's a children's book, it lacked some of the details that I'm used to in adult fantasy novels, so I had to do a lot of imagining myself, and I'm usually terrible at that. Can't wait to see it!
posted by numaner at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2018

I’m really curious how they’re going to deal with Camazotz in a post communist world.
posted by corb at 6:43 PM on March 8, 2018

I had first read 'A Wrinkle,' I think, when I was about 9 or grade 4. I recall when I was about 12 (grade 7, heading to "High School" next year) that the 15-whatever/highschool-senior/uni-student-aged adults were raging about 'A Wrinkle' at all of us at summer day camp. This must have been back in the very early 90s.

Recall it being interesting (despite pushback from boys), and a departure from stuff from Asimov or Bradbury (and other assorted YA/children's "scifi" - when rocketry largely defined something as scifi).

I almost never see movies at theatres, I still won't for this, but I really look forward to seeing how this all works out. (Sky) High expectations with Winfrey and Witherspoon.
posted by porpoise at 11:06 PM on March 8, 2018

You can see from the trailer that they've substituted in suburban subdivision conformity for Communist.
posted by praemunire at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just reread the book in preparation for taking 6 12-year-old girls to see it tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to it, but it hasn't been getting very good reviews so far from the critics, unfortunately - I'll report back on what the tween set thinks...
posted by widdershins at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2018

I am just about 100% positive that Ava Duvernay made exactly the movie she wanted to make. She absolutely went for it. What's interesting is that some of the stuff she clearly loved about the book and tried to honor may be the stuff people might have liked to have seen changed.

For one, the film hews very closely to the book's morals spoken aloud, text-not-subtext, positivity. I mean, Oprah plays a larger than life cosmic force of pure love and encouragement, which is just this side of "and, as herself, Oprah Winfrey."

For another, whereas the obvious thing to do with a tentpole movie in 2018 would be to invest more in the parents as characters and to try and layer in some jokes and references for the parents, Duvernay steadfastly refuses to do that. This is a movie pitched at the same bright 9-12 year old audience as the book. No apologies, no waffling. Having a bright nine year old sitting next to me, this was just fine.

The big changes she does make are mostly well chosen. Mixing the family up racially is not only good for inclusiveness, it puts the divisions The It tries to exploit into starker relief. When Charles Wallace tells his white adoptive father "You're not my father anyway" the insecurity of his adoption has an extra dimension to it.

Speaking of Charles Wallace, the reworking of his character from spooky adult-sounding entity in a child's body to more normal six year old prodigy worked well, I thought. Decades of lazy writers have worn the preternaturally mature kid trope way the hell out. I didn't miss it.

Maybe my favorite change? No twins. Can anyone honestly say there was a single scene diminished in any way by their omission? Also, leaving the Murry children as a duo made their connection at the end all the more resonant. It really improved the ending.

I also thought the changes to the Mrs. were very good. Making Mrs. Whatsit into a troublesome sprite who was openly suspicious of Meg added some needed conflict. I groaned a bit when Mrs. Who said, "Daaaaaaaaannnnnggg!" but mostly she worked well enough and Mindy Kaling is adorable.

I've heard some negative reviews of the visuals, but I was mostly pleased. They really lit up the screen with some cool stuff without retreading too much familiar ground. Not A++ but solidly B level anyway, with some points for originality. Where the visuals sometimes were a little CGI, the production design usually stepped up to carry the slack.

My one substantial complaint with the film, and the reason I'd give the final product a B instead of a higher mark, is that the first act felt really rushed, like Duvernay wanted to fast forward to the good stuff. I would have appreciated some extra time to mimic the way the book manages to let the more fantastic elements sort of insinuate themselves in a sneaky fashion. The film sprints right at that stuff.

I'd say if you remember the broad points of the plot and are hoping for an across the board, pleasing to all ages four quadrant thing, you may be disappointed. If you want to see Duvernay add adult depth and sci-fi heft to the book's kind of elementally simple fantasy moralizing, you won't be getting that either.

But if you were moved by the book's plain-spoken positivity aimed squarely at kid level, Duvernay goes after that with enthusiasm.

There's a definite discrepancy in the sun of the parts and the quality as a whole. That said, my guess is that while some very nice, very smart people will put forth some very solid arguments why they were seriously underwhelmed by this movie... there's so much to like about it that people will still be watching it for years and years anyway.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:50 PM on March 9, 2018 [19 favorites]

If it's not too weird, let me also say that I agree with most of this middling to bad review.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:05 PM on March 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

That review gives me concerns. And also, the twins were important! They’re a balance to Charles Wallace, and yet another way that they have succeeded and adapted where Meg cannot. There’s a lot of complex stuff about being a kid in a big family and having nothing of your own to be proud of, of being smart and geeky but not enough, of having bright and brave parents that have passed their traits to every other member of the family except what seems like you. Without the twins, Meg basically /is/ the normal one if her only other comparison is to Charles Wallace.
posted by corb at 4:58 PM on March 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

I didn't love it. I was a huge fan of the book, and of course that can always complicate one's feelings about an adaptation. But the book always seemed fast-paced, while the film plodded along. And the dialog could be really...rough. Oddly, Mindy Kaling and Zach Galifianakis were my favorite parts of the cast.

Meg is depressed in this film. It manifests in a sort of quiet, sullen misery. I miss the rage. Meg is supposed to be angry, in a way that causes problems for other people. That feels important to me, both in the way she relates to other characters and in the way she ultimately rescues Charles Wallace. (She's too stubborn, and full of wrath. Both are important in commitment to getting her brother back. Being "messy" and having poor self-esteem seem...less relevant.)

I'm very sad that the absence of Sandy and Dennys means we'll never get a weird-as-hell Disney Biblical fantasy. The film also strips Calvin's character down, to his detriment. (To everyone's detriment! I always liked that a) the principal really was a jerk to Meg in the book and b) his kindness to Calvin showed that people can be complex. I liked that outsider Meg was raised in a family of other brilliant people, while Calvin quietly and determinedly grew up unlike his entire family.) Maybe they didn't think they could do him justice without devoting more time to his character, and wanted to focus on Meg. But the character we got seemed...blandly unnecessary.

Also, and this is entirely silly, but I wish we could've gotten that ant-on-a-string tesseract explanation on film.
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:39 PM on March 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

the book always seemed fast-paced, while the film plodded along

Really? You thought so? I found the book deliberate, but in a very pleasing measured way. The movie, by comparison, sometimes hurtled though events only slightly slower than a "Previously on..." montage.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:08 PM on March 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Really? You thought so? I found the book deliberate, but in a very pleasing measured way. The movie, by comparison, sometimes hurtled though events only slightly slower than a "Previously on..." montage.

I mean...ymmv, but yeah, I thought everything was slow until they smacked into Camezotz. The book was more far more compelling to me.
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:14 PM on March 10, 2018

i agree with a lot of the reviews tht noted a lot of the pacing and editing issues with it, but ah man, this movie still pushed my buttons, especially with meg, and meg and charles wallace. like, i was just tearing up in the second half of the movie.
posted by cendawanita at 1:48 AM on March 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

everyone's talking about this in that guarded way where it's bad but noone wants to say
posted by Sebmojo at 3:27 AM on March 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Most of it isn't so much that it's bad like a trainwreck, but it asks a lot in asking the audience to go with the tone and aesthetics, especially the tone is very sincere that fits the way the genre would've been like in the 80s, like neverending story or the care bears movie. It's not really here to tell the story with ironic distance. At the same time a lot of the editorial choices (aesthetically) is very modern, so if you're not used to the convention it feels alienating. IOW if you're not a kid. Otoh if you've been watching live action YA Disney movies in the last decade this is very familiar.
posted by cendawanita at 4:15 AM on March 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yeah, that's the trick of it. It's a very sincere children's movie. I liked it a lot, but I liked it for what it was.

It's been a long time since I read the books, but I thought it did a good job of adapting the story.
posted by graventy at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

Its target audience is "sensitive kids still buying their books at the Scholastic Book Fair."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:20 AM on March 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

everyone's talking about this in that guarded way where it's bad but noone wants to say

I don't think it is bad for kids, necessarily, but I didn't enjoy it as I did Wreck-It-Ralph or Frozen (to use two other films written by the screenwriters as an example). I think Ava DuVernay, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, etc., are getting the benefit of the doubt in that bad reviews aren't going to call these women cynical or empty or pandering. Also, no one respectable is eager to write a scathing review about a diverse, female-friendly potential blockbuster in 2018. It's rare enough for women, especially women of color, especially involved in iffy artistic choices, to get the benefit of the doubt. I wish I could've loved this movie -- but if not, I'm still glad they're not getting slammed for it.
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, "bad" is just too strong a word. If I think of a movie as bad, it's because it's lazy (a cheap horror movie), offensive (Three Billboards ...), completely outside of human experience (The Room), or some kind of combination. This movie is absolutely none of those. It was a labor of love on DuVernay's part, and it shows. There's a lot of heart, and some of the scenes -- particularly Dr. Murry reuniting with Meg -- nearly choked me up. And the actors are terrific. The visuals are amazing, captivating, and evocative of some of my own childhood depictions of the book.

It's disappointing, in part because we're adults and that's what adults do -- we get disappointed. Camazotz was completely changed around; the ball-bouncing scene is just a callback. Instead of being a monstrous bureaucracy, it's a shifting nightmare world. I think this robbed it of a lot of power it might have had. Ixchel is only seen in a brief montage. (I was really looking forward to seeing Aunt Beast.) And identifying "the IT" as the dark enemy loses some power in a world where even little kids understand that IT is a scary clown. They could have used "the Enemy" or "the Echthroi," but then I'm not in the screenwriting business.

A lot of the disappointing elements are actually from the book, and just don't seem to have aged well. The clunky dialogue? The power of Love being enough to rescue a corrupted brother? God love her, haven't we seen -- ? Well. It really is a movie for children and young teens, and that's fine. Things do not have to be for me. I really hope that the perceived failure doesn't harm DuVernay in any way.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

I saw it yesterday and it was all I could do not to spend half of it weeping with emotion (and from the sounds of sniffles near me, I wasn't the only one). I get the pacing issues (and the way too many closeups) and that there were certain iconic scenes from the book that people might miss, but it was an emotional powerhouse that directly impacted my inner tween, so I can only imagine what it must feel like to watch this as a tween, especially if you're a girl, and even more especially if you're not a white girl.

It was a visual feast -- I loved the colors, and didn't even have the heart to feel grumpy that they showed the Mrses as beautiful right away because their outfits were gorgeous and I, who doesn't wear much makeup, now wants to wear all the glittery makeup. I never felt bored and my (admittedly adhd) brain was enthralled by the lushness and everything that was happening on-screen.

I heard some complaints later that Calvin was pointless, which made me roll my eyes, because Calvin was everything that most female sidekicks are in movies led by men: the cheerleader with hearts in his eyes for the heroine, who respected her intelligence, personality, family, looks, and gives her the extra little push to believe in herself because he believes in her 110%. That actor is gonna be the new tween heartthrob (or at least he would be in my world if I were still a tween, and he helped remind me that Calvin was one of my first literary crushes).

There was something magical here that clearly wasn't for everyone. And that's okay if this film isn't for them. But it is for the kids and tweens, especially girls, which makes me angry when people are like "it's a terrible film, don't see it" because those kinds of reviews, like so much of society, ignore the importance of young girls and treat their interests and power of consumption as something trivial. Yeah, it's not going to the be the surprise powerhouse as, say, something like Frozen (also about the power of family and love and not fitting in and hating yourself and being saved by the love of a family member), but I don't think it's something to instinctively to sneer at.

I love the original book, but I also think this adaptation is something special. Maybe one day there will be the Ideal Adaptation That Is True and that everyone will love, but this was a gorgeous watch that is important to the specific audience that it was made for.
posted by paisley sheep at 10:58 AM on March 11, 2018 [20 favorites]

Sebmojo, I"m not afraid to say it. I saw it last night and thought it was awful. The dialog is unfathomably bad and the character interactions seemed so unnatural. Like one part where the kid lovingly strokes their parent's face. No kid would do that. The cheesiness of the movie was just cranked up too high. And I'm not a cynical jerk, I swear. I watched Coco three times last weekend and cried every time! But this movie. Yowzers.
posted by silverstatue at 6:47 PM on March 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

it is for the kids and tweens, especially girls, which makes me angry when people are like "it's a terrible film, don't see it" because those kinds of reviews, like so much of society, ignore the importance of young girls and treat their interests and power of consumption as something trivial.

I don’t think that’s fair to say at all, especially for those of us who read the books as tweens and felt spoken to, and have reread the books every few years or so and still felt that inner awkward tween ping. I’m not mad at this movie because I am a mean person who is ignoring the importance of young girls - I have been a young girl and I am the mom of a young girl.

I am mad at this movie because it is seems to be just another Disney movie, and because I was lured by a lot of the hype into thinking this was going to be an adaptation that kept the complexity and depth of the book, and it just doesn’t seem to. That’s the danger of hyping a movie - it has to live up to what it’s delivering - and be not just beautiful but get the depth.

It matters that they didn’t show our ladies as bedraggled tramps right away. It matters because that too is a lesson.

And maybe it’s not possible to do this as a movie and in that case all I can say is miniseries. Because I am developing a deep hunger to see this done right.
posted by corb at 8:18 PM on March 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

I took it mostly at face value, and enjoyed it for the most part. It was not a great film, but it was a decent kid's movie, not one aimed at people who read the book decades ago. There was about as much Oprah-level white light and psuedoscience as I expected, and some klunky dialogue... but I appreciated that it was luridly and unapologetically fantastical.

I do wish Aunt Beast had been more a part of things instead of something we saw from a distance. I didn't miss the twins at all though; I basically forgot they existed for the purposes of the story, and that was fine. I agree that leaving them out made Meg and Charles Wallace's connection a little stronger.
posted by Foosnark at 5:42 AM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I will absolutely say Meg would stroke her dad’s face. She’s supposed to be in junior high so she’s 12 or 13. The last time she saw her dad was probably 8. That is absolutely young enough that “petting” her parents, especially under stress, is still a thing. In that moment she was 8 again. It seems weird and strange to adults but it’s really normal behavior for young kids.
posted by R343L at 8:21 AM on March 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I expected it to be a kids' movie because, I mean, I read this as a kid and I loved it but I recognize that I loved it like I loved Narnia and other things where they're less compelling to me now as an adult because I want more from them than they were up to providing. I really, really, really enjoyed the movie, on that basis. I definitely wanted a lot more of everything, but this is how I've felt about a lot of things, including going back and rereading a lot of my favorite stories from around that same age. (When did Westing Game get so short?) I don't think it was perfect, but it hit the notes that were the ones that stuck with me. I could see how it'd be disappointing if it missed some of the notes that stuck with you.

I feel like having Sandy and Dennys there was the sort of story move that made more sense to an author who was having her own kids during the baby boom, in particular the sibling pairing-off dynamics--my mom's one of four sisters and they absolutely did that and I recognize from that that Sandy and Dennys aren't somehow less-loved because they aren't as important to the story of Meg and Charles Wallace. But, by 2018 standards, I think this family dynamic is going to be more familiar to kids, compared to the average reader in the 60s. And even for me, in my 30s, this resonated a lot more with me than having the twins around did, honestly, as the older sister of a younger brother where we were both kind of weird kids. And, well, I got the feeling that they didn't really intend to do the sequels of this, but I don't think Many Waters would have been on the list even if they were going to do Wind in the Door and Swiftly Tilting Planet. I'm not even sure I'd like Many Waters at all as an adult, though I loved it as a child.
posted by Sequence at 10:16 AM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don’t think that’s fair to say at all, especially for those of us who read the books as tweens and felt spoken to, and have reread the books every few years or so and still felt that inner awkward tween ping. I’m not mad at this movie because I am a mean person who is ignoring the importance of young girls - I have been a young girl and I am the mom of a young girl.

My ire is directed to the (mostly) older white men reviewers who seem to be reviewing the film that they think this should be instead of what it is -- and it is a gorgeous, colorful adaptation that fearlessly reveals a young girl's insecurities and strengths. Yes, it's packaged in that Disney feel-good veneer, but it still has magic within it. I agree it's not a perfect film, and maybe it's not exactly my vision of how I personally would adapt the book. But it is Ava DuVernay's vision, and it's beautiful and made me cry (and I generally don't cry at movies, especially not the kind of "release" crying that comes from somewhere deep within, which is why I've been likening it to a $10 2-hour therapy lesson for my inner tween).

I definitely think there's space out there for a line-by-line loyal adaptation of the book, and that's fine, and I will probably love that adaption, too. If we can have a million superhero reboots, why not a million A Wrinkle In Time reboots?
posted by paisley sheep at 10:56 AM on March 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

The theater had more senior citizens than children when I saw it. I mentioned that that book was published in 1962, and my daughter didn't believe me. The book changed my life, but it's been 50 years since I last read it. The film was beautiful, and Storm Reid did an awesome job. But I felt the movie wouldn't mean much to anyone who hasn't read the book. It was a rare case of me wishing there was MORE exposition. They didn't even explain what a tesseract was, and that was the only illustration in the entire book! Calvin was shortchanged by too-little backstory. I was nagged by a feeling that there should be more kids in the family; I had forgotten all about the twins. And Aunt Beast was very important to push the power of love angle; I missed her. And if Dad could just "tesser" out of danger when he wanted to, why didn't he do that in the first place?
posted by Miss Cellania at 7:39 AM on March 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I vibe with a lot of what DirtyOldTown says above. It was a B for me. There were good parts and not as good parts. Even though it was kind of laughably absurd I also kind of loved the benevolent goddess version of Oprah. And there was some excellent acting. The script was meh in many places and for the whole first half it was hard to care much about the characters. I do think the acting carried it. Here's to black directors getting the opportunity to be mediocre, just like a million white directors have been! This wasn't the magical, once in a generation work of art that the book is, but it was good with some really magical moments.
posted by latkes at 9:19 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

It definitely came out as a B grade for me. I hurriedly read the book a few days before the film came out and in my opinion, that probably diminished the film for me because I was constantly aware of how the film deviated from the source material. It also made it much more clearer to me how things were simplified. There were definite directing decisions that I simply didn't like, but accepted because, hey, it's not my film and I knew that changes needed to be made. Some changes I didn't care so much about (like the twins - I felt their role was minor enough, I mean, the beginning of the book immediately tells us that they're not that important when everyone in the household shows up in the kitchen EXCEPT them).

I would have been happier if the Mrs's had not been introduced in their more glamorous appearance first. It felt weird to take Oprah, who is a gigantic personality and literally make her gigantic. It felt almost reverential in a way. I was generally fine with Calvin's character. He was always a supporting character and that was fine. Charles Wallace was fine, but diminished. We're never really told WHY he's such a big deal in the film until It suddenly grabs him and run. He's never given the chance to have his folly, his hubristic attempt to tangle with It (or the Happy Sadist, mind you). He's just grabbed on the beach and BOOM, he's taken over. The final act was definitely rushed. I wasn't happy, either, about how Camazotz was treated. It simply wasn't to be honest. Just an odd curiosity.
posted by Atreides at 3:05 PM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

There have been a million mediocre kid movies featuring white, mostly male protagonists that are still beloved because they hit some kind of chord. This movie will be that for many little girls, especially ones of color. It wasn't for me, the middle aged white lady who liked the book. It's for them. And the tesser at the end, with a girl like that full of joy and power, made me tear up.
posted by emjaybee at 9:29 PM on March 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

I should say that I mixed the climax. My four year old got upset when Charles Wallace was yelling at Mr. Murry--for one, she apparently thinks Chris Pine looks like Daddy, and for another she's consistently terrified of plot points where formerly nice characters suddenly turn evil. Monsters and skeletons are fine, but that kind of trickery is just too scary for her. I love her loving, trusting heart.

I thought this was emotionally very, very true to the book, and that's speaking as someone who discovered it at 11 (stolen from another student in summer theater and read between rehearsals over the course of a few days) and who lost her dad under hazy circumstances at 8 and who was very, very angry. It's not enough to say that I identified with Meg. I was Meg. I agree that Meg's anger was muted here, but I can understand why. I've tried writing books with characters as angry as I was and they were not received well by modern publishing, or viewing audiences. I thought I would miss the twins, but I didn't. The setting shift bothered me a little--so much of the romance about the Murrys was in their old rambling Connecticut farmhouse for me, that setting later so significant in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which is my favorite and which I reread every five years or so, but it also just worked fine. My daughter loved the three Mrs. and decided they were princesses, and spent all night wrapping herself in a towel like Mrs Whatsit to become a "plant dragon." The look on her and her 4 year old best friend's face told me pretty clearly that this is going to be their generation's Neverending Story. Pure magic. As it should be. They both wanted to rewatch it at home as soon as we exited the theater.

If I have any qualms, it was over the handling of abuse with Calvin's character. The way his dad yells at him for his grades was very true to life, though maybe not as . . . heartrending as having a poor, toothless, shameful mother beat you with a spoon for being too smart. That is so much less palatable as abuse to modern sensibilities, I think, and makes it feel like there's not far you can go on from there. But the resolution. He . . . now has the strength to . . . talk to his dad? Implying that it's okay that he's going home to his abuser not because he has no other choice but because he can Fix Things? No, no, that's victim blaming, and too heavy a weight to put on any 14 year old boy. These plots always seem to me to be for adults. We're reassured that the abused child will be fine and outgrow his abuse by . . . becoming strong. As a teenager. What was always interesting to me is that Calvin's relationship with his mother in the books becomes more tragic and complicated as he grows. He doesn't fix or leave his mother. In a way, he never gets closure. We get some sense of the tragedy of who she was and her love despite the abuse but it's never "overcome" in a hollywood movie way.

I find that very respectful of the actual lives of kids who are living this sort of thing (and I was one), while stories that suggested that abuse could be tidied up by the abused party just learning the right thing to say were--are--consistently actively upsetting. As if I didn't know the words to make everything better, as if I wasn't strong enough to make everything right. I know it might seem I'm overthinking a line or two, but I really think this kind of thing is very, very important.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:09 AM on March 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

Yeah, that’s one thing the books got really right about abuse, as well as the cycle of violence - like, in later books you understand /why/ Calvin’s mother is the way she is, after witnessing her brother beaten to the point of brain damage in front of her, and it still doesn’t make it in any way right, it doesn’t make up for it. It explains but doesn’t excuse.

Thinking about it, it’s one reason the book was so wonderful and why I think multiple adaptations have fallen short - because even though children could and did read the book, it wasn’t simplified for children, it didn’t falsify the human dynamics. You didn’t necessarily understand all the complexities of, say, the principal carefully scuffing the new shoes he gave Calvin, while still being terrible to Meg - but it didn’t ring false, and if there were things you didn’t understand yet it was in the way that life was full of things you didn’t understand yet.

I don’t know why books with Meg’s original kind of anger aren’t well received these days, and I’m sorry to hear they aren’t - but that’s what I want, that complexity and real feelings. Otherwise it’s just another generic fantasy, and those are kind of a dime a dozen.
posted by corb at 8:08 AM on March 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm a bit late seeing this move, that I so wanted to love. My third grade teacher lent me a copy of the book after she caught me reading behind my math book in class, and I've loved it ever since. Ava Du Vernay is amazing, and Storm Reid as Meg Murry just blew me away. And the texture of the first act seemed so true.

So I thought the first two-thirds were pretty good. A bit rushed, sure. But not in a way that cordoned off Meg's character development. They're telling a story that's under-told and necessary, and they're telling it pretty well. I do miss the disheveled Mrs. W's and Sandy and Dennis, but in the context of a movie that runs less than two hours, that seems an understandable choice. But they don't stick with that. Updating Camazotz to an ever-changing nightmare rather than and endlessly bureaucratic emblem of communism seems inevitable: that version of communism just doesn't hold imaginative sway now; a world where the people in charge behave capriciously and without unpredictably -- that hits awful close to home. (Heck, I didn't get the reference to communism the first time I read it -- and the Berlin Wall was still up then. It creeped me out, sure, but it creeped me out because the characters were afraid of it. I didn't get the reference to communism -- and Western fears thereof -- until I'd learned a bit about the Cold War.)

Where it lost me, though, is when someone on the production end gave up on the sort of story they were telling for an hour and some and shoe-horned in the scene with Meg and the three Mrs. after Camazotz. It's so unsubtle, as though they were afraid that the audience wouldn't have understood the meaning of the story. It felt like a betrayal of everything that came before. The movie when from telling a story to its audience to talking down at us.

(As an aside, I've never heard Mindy Kaling speak so woodenly. You can practically hear her think, "I can't believe I have to say that out loud. Seriously.") In any case, I think the movie would have been miles better without that scene, and I think the (intended) audience is smart enough to get the point without it.

All that said, I hope it makes out like gangbusters though.
posted by platitudipus at 7:50 PM on March 17, 2018

I saw it with my 11-year-old daughter. She loved it, and it's the first movie that has ever made her cry (when Meg rescued her dad). So, maybe it works at speaking to the tween girl audience.

For my part, if I cried any it was because it bored me to tears. There were definite pacing issues and not enough emotional connection between the characters. Storm Reid was outstanding, but the script and editing needed a lot of work.

And here's a thing that I am pretty annoyed about that very few other people are, but I'm going to spill it all here anyway. The short version is this: A Wrinkle in Time is a Christian book by a Christian author and this movie excises all the Christianity from it and that is not cool.

Maybe you'd have to be pretty familiar with the Bible to catch it all, but the whole thing is undergirded by Christian theology in which God is worshiped across the cosmos, his angels/messengers are call humans to join in the fight against the darkness, and they are aware that they are caught up in a divine purpose, so therefore trust that God will lead things, ultimately, to good. I might have missed something, but here's my list of explicitly Christian moments from the book:

1) When the Mrses. are helping the children think of people who have been light-bearers on Earth, Jesus is the first one mentioned. Mrs. Who prompts Charles Wallace to think of Jesus when by quoting the gospel of John "And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." It's not terribly clear in the text, but I think the implication is that Jesus is the most significant of the ones mentioned. It's Jesus who shines in the darkness, while the others were "lights for us to see by." I admit that's vaguer than it could be, but by being named first and named in connection to the Bible, Jesus stands out.

2) When Mrs. Whatsit transforms on the planet Uriel, she's so beautiful and awe-inspiring that Calvin drops to one knee. "No," she says. "Not to me, Calvin. Never to me. Stand up." That's a very clear allusion to Revelation 22: I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” By saying "Never to me" Mrs. Whatsit implies that there is another being for whom dropping to one knee in worship would be appropriate. We aren't left to wonder who that might be for long....

3) When the creatures on Uriel sing, Mrs. Whatsit translates their song as "Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the LORD." That's a direct quote (with one omitted phrase) from Isaiah 42:10-12. They are singing praises to God on alien planets.

4) Later in the book, Calvin voices his understanding of what Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who are: “Angels! Guardian angels! ...Messengers of God”

5) More Bible quotes: When Meg asks Aunt Beast if she is fighting the Black Thing, Aunt Beast responds: "In doing that we can never relax. We are the called according to His purpose, and whom He calls, them He also justifies” (Romans 8:28,30). A bit later, when explaining where her help comes from, she says "We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18).

6) Mr. Murray at one point says “We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 again).

7) When we get to the last chapter (titled "The Foolish and the Weak," another Bible reference), Mrs. Who gives Meg a gift as she goes to face IT. The gift is another Bible quotation: "The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and the things which are not, to bring to naught the things that are.” (I Corinthians 1:25-29).

This is all absent from the movie, substituted with an amorphous and non-specific feel-goodism that just feels inert by comparison. It's one thing to tone down the Bible call-outs, but to even go so far as to remove Jesus from the list of light-bearers is a slap in the face to L'Engle's work and her own philosophy. Disney or Duvernay wasn't content with removing Christianity from its central place in the book; they wouldn't even let Jesus share the stage. They deleted him entirely.

I'm not normally on this side of people calling out anti-Christian bias in Hollywood, but I'll make an exception here. I don't think you could take a novel based in (for example) Muslim theology, sprinkled with quotations from the Quran, hailing Mohammed as a central force for good and depicting universal praise of Allah, and then turn that into a movie that had absolutely no sign of its roots in Muslim tradition without a pretty big outcry even from very secular people. But that's exactly what has happened here, except it's Christianity that has been excised, so no one much cares.

Well, I care. It's very, very not cool.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:00 PM on March 18, 2018 [10 favorites]

Interesting. I registered some Christian references but didn't understand the centrality of Christianity in the book. Not did I know Kamazotz was an anti communist metaphor. Chalk it up to being an atheist/Jewish West Coast gen exer, not to mention being a child, when I read it numerous times.

It's a sad testament to our time that I can barely imagine a day before conservative, anti science Christians had so captured the public discussion of "Christian values".

As Duvernay took so many liberties here, I can't be especially upset on this one. However, I long for a world of children's films that would allow differentness. Like, what if there WAS a big budget children's film about Islamic theology! That would be amazing! Instead children's stories on screen are compressed and mashed into meaningless sameness. Kind of like Kamazotz.
posted by latkes at 7:09 AM on March 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wasn't completely steeped in the Christian mythos of the book as a kid, but I definitely missed Jesus being named as one of the warriors. Even as a mostly-Jewish child that notion was completely inoffensive and, like, fine. It seems bizarre to take at least that one nod out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I saw it with a group of woman (and my nephew) with an age range from 10 to 45 - none of us enjoyed it. The best we got was my 10 year old niece saying it was "okay" with a slight shrug.

I will say that Storm Reid was adorable, but that was pretty much the only plus in my book.
posted by Julnyes at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2018

I read AWiT as a child and don't remember picking up any of the Christian references then. (Which isn't saying much - I didn't see Christianity in the Narnia books either until The Last Battle, and I read all these books the same year - fourth grade, iirc.)

But I read AWiT again as an adult and had a very different reaction to it than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be like any other reread of a book I'd enjoyed (though not enough to reread, apparently) in my childhood. Instead I felt it banged the reader over the head with its very specific moralism, and the Christianity seemed so explicit that I couldn't believe I hadn't remembered it.

The thing is, I think, that if you love Christianity, or at least have positive or even neutral associations with it, that aspect of the book probably adds to its strength, and at worst doesn't detract from it.

To, me, though, the effect is not a good one. I'm a reader who's not Christian, and whose associations with Christianity are mostly along the lines of missionaries trying to overwrite other cultures (including my own), a history of treating people from other cultures (like mine) as heathens who should be grateful for any attempt to bring them into the light, a massively long history of massive violence against other cultures (like mine) specifically in the name of Christ, plus all the fun violence and prescriptive aggression and hypocritical moralism against "non-Christian values" that is used to prop up so many of the crueler aspects of politics in so many countries today. (But hey, they'll fight for people's right to tell me "Merry Christmas".) My associations with Christianity are negative, painful.

I know, as an adult, that Christianity is much more complex than that, and that it possesses many beautiful aspects, and furthermore that it's not as though other religios are that much better in their treatment of people who don't fit into its mold. #NotAllChristians. But Christianity is not just another religion in the US, and removing it from a story makes a different kind of statement than removing Islam or any other religion from an American movie would. There's a power dynamic that cannot be separated from Christianity, especially in the US, and while I can imagine how it must have felt for someone like you, Pater Alethias, to see Christianity erased from the story (and I've followed your comments with a great deal of interest over the years, and respect your vision of Christianity very much) - I have to say I'm very glad to hear it was taken out. It makes me angry to think about how much of my childhood reading was written with an intent to proselytize, or at least to reinforce not universal, humanistic values but the specific language and narrative of a major religion that, to me personally and to my culture historically, has been oppressive, to put it mildly, and that is inescapably omnipresent to begin with. I see leaving out the Christianity as being similar in many ways to making the cast multiracial: it's a way of letting the story belong to everyone, not only the kind of people who populated the author's vision.

I debated whether I should write (not to mention post) this comment, but I wanted to give another perspective, for what it's worth.
posted by trig at 4:55 AM on March 21, 2018 [12 favorites]

I think AWiT is probably the best of the Time quintet on those counts. The Christianity it portrays is sort of best case Christianity--all about loving an inherent gentleness and acceptance of the thorny parts of ourselves. Later, in books like A Swiftly Tilting Planet, L'Engle gets . . . much more colonialist in her Christian values (it's one of my favorite books, but, like, redemption in multiple timelines depends on whether or not an evil dictator has blue eyes). An Acceptable Time is maybe the worst for this--white pagans in the new world and Polly O'Keefe debating about whether she can prey for Jesus in a time before Jesus.

While Christianity is generally tricky, and as a Jewish person I can acknowledge that I think there's also something . . . kind of awful about stripping out an author's primary religious beliefs from a text that hinges on those beliefs, no matter the religion. It's up there with making A Golden Compass NOT about atheism. It just doesn't work on the same level.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:56 AM on March 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

A Wrinkle in Time never seemed especially 'Christian' to me because L'Engle plainly suggests that there are non-Christian paths to goodness. I always noticed the religious tones in the book, but never recognized them -- L'Engle's faith was very different than the Southern Baptist variant I grew up around. (This squares neatly with my sense that Christians never really embraced the book, not until recently.) In contrast -- the smug, self-righteous, misogynist ending to my beloved Narnia books were vary familiar to me.

I agree that they should have stripped out all the overtly Christian parts. I guess they thought they could make it more universal that way, and that it would be easy enough to do because of L'Engle's evenhanded approach. But I also think it would've been easy enough to leave in and stay universal -- because if you're suggesting that all sorts of belief systems can be good, why do you specifically need to cut out Christianity? I'm an atheist, born-and-raised, and usually a lot of religion sends me running. But...it is a rare (somewhat anthropological) pleasure to view someone's faith at its best. I think the movie might be poorer, or at least blander, without it.
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


That was a disappointing movie.
posted by kyrademon at 6:02 PM on April 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Comments still open? Good.

I've just seen the film. At the 15 minute mark I thought it was going to be a clunker: fey, overdressed and plodding. And then it kind of hypnotised me into a meditative state. What a strange film.

I was troubled at the beginning by what I feel are implausibles - that a middle class child with professional parents wasn't in a better school, and that whatever school she was in wasn't being more careful of her. Also, she hadn't behaved badly enough for the trouble she was in, or for the adults', including her mother's, attitudes to her. But then yeah, I think it would have been very difficult for that particular film in the context in which it was made, to portray what an angry misbehaving very intelligent girl child is like. I really believe going there would have made the whole project unacceptable.

Cultural difference, American kid's literature is much, much more moralistic that British, and attitudes to bad behaviour generally much harsher. I don't think the producers would have gone for allowing the main character to be a bit of an arsehole: the most she could be was mildly grumpy. It's just a convention the filmmakers had to work within.

But. Once I was nicely hypnotised and had given up being bored/critical/detatched and just looking at the colours and the movement: that's when the real plot got going. There was a lot about feelings, and a whole lot of introspection. Sneaky humour and the undermining of authority. There we are in a mental landscape when things begin to get scary, and for me it was psychologically more scary than any other kids film I can bring to mind right now. The fear being brought onto the screen is fear of yourself, of your own motives and your own bad impulses; fear of your loved ones and their own bad impulses; and fear of being lacking in a moment of crisis. Personally i think that's scarier than any amount of monsters and villains, since I am an introvert, and there's no escaping living with myself. Yeah, once we were into metaphor instead of realism, no punches were pulled of the scary variety.

One of my grandchildren is seven, and I think this film is both too thoughtful and too scary for her: the main thing the film does is lead you towards a (meditative) state of mind, which actually, I think is magical and very, very different. And it made I cry more than once.

I've never read the book, and I'm really glad an overt Christian message didn't make it into the film as my Catholicism has devolved into the general approving bent towards love the film contents itself with. Anything more particular than that I find jarring for reasons similar to those laid out by trig above. I'm also happy the film didn't digress into that kneejerk American scorn towards Communism so familiar from the 60s and 70s because that stuff comes across as both insular and partisan to non-Americans.

I haven't seen the film with a child in tow but I think i deserves to become beloved, like Labyrinth and Willow (both of which have had the odd critical bashing in their time.) I hope it does. I loved the magical women, and I thought Mindy Kaling was the most beguiling. I love their trajectory, becoming smaller and more ordinary as the children's instrumentality takes hold. As for Gigantic Oprah, well, I bet there's people in her orbit that see her that way.

That costume designer was tripping though.
posted by glasseyes at 8:44 AM on April 30, 2018

I also really liked that the father wasn't let off the hook for his irresponsibility.
posted by glasseyes at 8:47 AM on April 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

A nice review on rogerebert.com:
The film's tone is so radically earnest at certain points—particularly when it's dealing with loss and disappointment—that the movie's logo could be a gigantic ear of corn. In its multicultural casting, its child-centric story, and its emphasis on the validity of feelings, it's so different from every other recent big-budget live-action fantasy (superhero films included) that its very existence amounts to a contrarian statement...

...It's the kind of movie where you decide to do something and just go do it, and where no questions are off limits because everyone's so thoughtful. I bet Mister Rogers would have enjoyed it. If you laughed derisively at that line, you shouldn't see "A Wrinkle in Time." If it made you smile, go.

posted by glasseyes at 9:22 AM on April 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

I loved the book as a kid, gave it a bit of side-eye for the overt Christianity as a teen, then forgot about it until I watched the movie just now.

I loved it. Sincere fantasy without any friggin' hobbits, with a pile of lovely women to admire, and a story about the power of love. My inner tween girl loved it, and is encouraging me to get some glitter eye-shadow. It's not that I disagree with anyone's criticisms, I just can't seem to care about them. Except for the Mrs appearing glammed up at first, instead of more hobo-like. Partly because it's a good lesson, and partly because I bet they would have looked like a lot of fun anyway.

Witherspoon and Pine were probably the only things that left me a bit cold. Pine looked too generic as he always does, and I thought Witherspoon wasn't very funny.

Also Calvin is still the cutest non-threatening male ever. I'd forgotten he was one of my first crushes! The kid who plays him is also in the Aussie film Jasper Jones, which is well worth a look.

I know a lot of people aren't digging this film, but very few people hate it either. I think if you're a tween girl or enjoyed the book or are in need of some wholesome fantasy in the face of our current trash-fire of a real world, you should give it a try.
posted by harriet vane at 7:37 AM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

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