A Wrinkle in Time Film Review

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I…shouldn’t be so disappointed.  I raised my expectations WAY too high.  I mean, after an awesome trailer like this, can you really blame me?  We’ve been waiting for A Wrinkle in Time film adaptation for years, and after that kind of buildup, it’s hard not to have raised expectations.  But in my excitement, I forgot two really crucial things:

  1. A Wrinkle in Time is an incredibly hard film to adapt to film.  I thought in the advent of CGI we might be able to pull it off, but still, structurally and visually, it’s still damned hard to translate onto screen.
  2. The spiritual themes in A Wrinkle in Time were inevitably going to be diluted in a mainstream film adaptation and I shouldn’t be so crushed about it.

Let me start off by saying that the film wasn’t bad.  It was a nice little film.  It had all the charm of a Disney afternoon cartoon show.  I give it a solid B-.  But my disappointment is still very prevalent.  I’ve been mulling on the film all weekend, trying to figure out why this bums me out so much, and I think I’ve narrowed it down.

Let’s start off by talking about what I loved about the film:

  • The acting.  The casting for every single character were phenomenal choices.  I was especially impressed by Mindy Kaling, who I’d never seen in a serious role before, and Deric McCabe, the little guy who played Charles Wallace.  McCabe scared the shit out of me when Charles Wallace became under the influence of IT.  Storm Reid was a PERFECT Meg.
  • Tessering.  The way they filmed how we “tesser” was really interesting and it was a very cool special effect.
  • There was a very cool scene that tied into “A Wind in the Door”, the sequel to “A Wrinkle in Time”, where Mrs. Which explains about the darkness that has its grip on the world.  We see scenes of Meg’s bully in her room, see that she’s probably anorexic and has severe body image issues (a nice mirroring to Meg, who also has issues with how she looks), we see scenes of Mr. Jenkins, Meg’s principal, and the racism he endures at the school–which is really cool when you consider Mr. Jenkins’ arc in “A Wind in the Door”!
  • The design and costumes.  I love Mrs. Whatsit’s dress made out of sheets!
  • There’s an added bit, probably to explain why Charles Wallace is Filipino and the rest of the family isn’t about how he’s adopted.  This adds an interesting layer to Charles Wallace’s arc and his relationship with Mr. Murray.

Okay.  Now for the not so good parts.

  • The spiritual battle of good and evil in “A Wrinkle in Time” is the heart and soul of the book.  It is an overtly spiritual book with heavy Christian influences.  I understand (though I am disappointed) cutting the psalm that is sung on Uriel, I understand cutting the Scripture verses.  I do not understand completely cutting every hint of spirituality from the film.  Jesus is overtly mentioned in “A Wrinkle in Time”–as are Buddha and Mohommad.  “A Wrinkle in Time” was never safe for kids, it was never sanitized from L’Engle’s intense spirituality.  The film took nearly every challenging notion of spirituality and neutered it, in the hopes that their version won’t offend anyone.  It made me intensely tired.
  • There is a scene in the trailer where Meg and her mother explain to Calvin what a tesseract is.  Comes straight from the book.  They use a little ant toy and a string.  This scene was cut.  Why was this scene cut?  It makes me wonder what else was cut…
  • No Aunt Beast.  This was incredibly upsetting to me.  Aunt Beast had the briefest of cameos for about two seconds, which is terribly frustrating to me, because it seems like they had a REALLY COOL DESIGN for her!
  • Camazotz.  That amazingly cool scene in the trailer where you see the children bouncing the ball in eerie, syncopated rhythm?  And the mothers with perfectly coiffed hair in 50’s dresses stepping in perfect unison onto the porch?  Which also comes straight from the book?  The scene lasts about twenty seconds and then melts away into a completely different scene that…does not come from the book…and is…stupid.  I hate to be the person who harps on “IT’S NOT LIKE THE BOOK!”, but if you’re replacing the really good parts of a book with scenery chewing, then yeah, I’m going to criticize it.
  • There were way too many freaking pop songs in this film.  The only one I really liked was “Flower of the Universe” by Sade.  It was also the only one that came remotely close to matching the tone of the scene.
  • Mrs. Whatsit’s form on Uriel was…odd.  She looked like a very pretty romaine lettuce leaf.  It was a very strange choice of design that I don’t understand the reasoning for.  They have an amazing design for Aunt Beast that we only get a glimpse of, but they think the romaine lettuce leaf design was a hit?
  • There was an ultimately pointless scene where Calvin and Meg are running from the Black Thing (I think it’s the Black Thing…) and it turns into a tornado and Meg uses SCIENCE to get the tornado to toss them over the fence.  It lasted forever and I don’t understand why that stayed in the film but Aunt Beast was utterly skipped over.
  • One of the most iconic lines in the book is not in the film.  The moment where Meg is staring down IT, who tells her, “…that’s exactly what we have on Camazotz. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike.”  Meg has an epiphany, and shouts out, “No! Like and equal are not the same thing at all!”  It is…staggering that this line isn’t in the film.  Especially considering the brave and wonderful choice of casting Meg Murry as a biracial girl.  It astounded me at what a lost opportunity this was.

I think my main frustration with the film is the lost potential of it.  The film had all the ingredients it needed to be truly spectacular.  The acting was stellar, the designs (save Mrs. Whatsit’s true form) were interesting and unique, the emotionally charged moments were glorious.  I can tell Ava Duvernay put a lot of effort and heart into this.  But the film feels unfinished, as though there was executive meddling or maybe the screenplay was more of a rough draft.  The film as a whole, was unremarkable.  It was so underwhelming.

I guess I’ll have to keep waiting for my definitive Wrinkle in Time adaptation.  Too bad Miyazaki is retired.  I know he could capture its magic.

 

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