Thursday, March 15, 2018

Disney's "A Wrinkle In Time" {review}

I discovered Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time in the fifth grade. I was enthralled, and I devoured the full series. Naturally, when I heard Disney was coming out with a movie, I was thrilled. I've been waiting anxiously to see this, and perhaps I went in with too high expectations. I am sad to say that this movie underwhelmed.

First the positive. I thought all the actors did a great job, and the movie is great visually. The depiction of the planet Uriel is simply gorgeous, and Mrs. Whatsits's alternate form, although nothing like the literary version, is stunning. Excellent CGI, wonderful, vibrant colours. The story follows the basic arc of the novel, and, in presenting strong and diverse female characters, it certainly is timely and will appeal to a modern audience. Actually, one rather gratuitous incident underlines the film's desire to be timely. When Mrs. Which first appears, she is a giant, towering over the landscape. (In the book she never fully materialises.) Charles Wallace tells her she is "the wrong size," meaning she made a mistake. Mrs. Which replies, "Is there really such a thing as a wrong size?" Fair enough, and I totally agree, but this line feels out of place, and is a bit of a throw away, while also screaming, "It's 2018!"

If you haven't read and loved the book, I suspect you'll love this movie version more than I did.

Where the movie failed for me was in those places where it diverged from or glossed over the original story. Not that I expected it to include everything or present each character as they were described, of course. It didn't kill me that Mrs. Whatsit shows up as a gorgeous young woman in a billowy white gown instead of as an old tramp dressed in odd layers of mismatched clothes. And it's of no consequence that Meg's mother is a gorgeous black woman instead of a beautiful red-head with the palest of complexions. The contrast of beautiful mother and supposedly plain daughter is there. Meg's twin brothers are left out completely, which is ok for this story, as they play almost no role here, but I missed them. And I have no idea why Charles Wallace had to be adopted, unless it was to add another layer of diversity to an already diverse film.

Mostly, I found the story here glossed over the science that was such a big part of the novel. The opening scene has the Murry parents presenting at a scientific meeting, and dad gives a brief overview of their concept of "wrinkling" time to allow travel over great distances in the blink of an eye. (He is mocked, btw, whereas in the book he was a respected scientist working with a team of government experts.) Presumably this is meant to set up the science so it can then be set aside. I was drawn into the book, and got excited about math and science as a young girl when I read L'Engle's descriptions of her five dimensions. The concept of squaring a cube to represent the fourth dimension and then squaring that for the fifth was so compelling for me. In the book, Mrs. Which accidentally brings the group to a two-dimensional planet, and the description of what that feels like for three-dimensional Meg is visceral.

There are many more examples of where the movie ignores or re-writes the original story, including leaving out a huge chunk with Aunt Beast that is critical to Meg's character development, and turning her father into a fairly weak and sad individual. But I'll stop there. The 2018 version presents a story focused on the power of love and family and believing in yourself. Diversity is a huge value. It is visually beautiful, and the story will speak to its modern audience. But if you loved the original book, be prepared. Much of what made that story so compelling and mind-bending did not make it to the big screen.

Disclosure: I received complimentary access to view this film with my family for purposes of this review. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own or those of my family.

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