A Wrinkle in Time is a beloved classic book, which very much belongs to the fantasy genre. The author, Madeline L’Engle paints vivid pictures of alien worlds and fantastic creatures that do not exist on Earth. Thus making it into a movie poses a challenge to movie makers; how does one present the complex visuals of the book?
Fans had to wait for technology to catch up to the author’s writings. There are two notable film adaptations of this book. Both are fairly modern as the technology just was not up to making the movie believable before the 2000s. The 2003 version is the superior of the two. Disney’s 2018 version gets a notable negative from me.
I want the two hours I spent watching it back.
The 2018 adaptation was advertised as not being wholly faithful to the book but rather an adaptation. I agree with this. Unfortunately while some filmmakers add to the story and improve it (Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings), this version subtracted parts that make this story special and added parts that are distracting from the story.
My biggest criticisms are leveled at the characterization of two of the main characters, Mrs. Whatsit and Meg.
Mrs Whatsit is one of the three mystical characters who guide the intrepid trio in their battle against the IT. In the book she is a bit ditzy but good hearted and sincere towards the children. Reese Witherspoon portrays the ditziness well but she misses the mark in her relationships with the children, most especially with Meg. She’s plain old mean to Meg, making comments such as Meg is underwhelming and expressing very vocal and loud doubts about Meg (in front of Meg). Overall this made Mrs. Whatsit a very unlikeable character in the movie.
Meg is another problem portrayal although she is more likeable than Mrs. Whatsit. I feel the script went overboard in portraying her as troubled. I don’t feel Storm Reid (no relation) didn’t understand her character or portray it well. I place the blame with the script writers who went overboard and took Meg from being troubled to Meg being a violent, sullen, difficult teenager. It is not a cakewalk to be a teenager but they made Meg close to unlikeable.
Storm Reid hit her stride in the late part of the movie where she resolves issues such as how to get over the wall or fights the IT directly. It was also the latter part of the movie where the script allowed Storm Reid to portray the subtle nuances and contradictions that characterize Meg and make her so interesting.
Since these two characters drive a lot of the plot, the movie loses a significant amount of the charm found in the book. Comparing the 2018 movie to the book, the book wins hands down.
So now you know why I want my two hours back. There are a few things Disney did get right.
I liked the multi-cultural Murry family. This was actually quite a bold move and unfortunately not one we see enough. Personally I think it’s good to show that families can be in many shapes, forms, sizes, and cultures. It’s important for kids to see families who look like theirs, and characters who look like them. It’s an alienating experience to never see someone who looks like you or your family. Life is hard enough. Children do not need optics that make them question “is there something wrong with me?” or “why can’t I look like that?” because they don’t look like the characters on TV and the movies.
The visuals were stunning. The scenery and costumes are magnificent. The flowers talking in color were a particularly nice touch.
Bellamy Young’s performance as a Camazotz housewife was memorable, all the more so given how little screen time she had. She was scary convincing as a brainwashed denizen of the planet yet she still showed some concern for the children.
What I liked the most was Meg and Mrs Murry were portrayed as smart. Sadly there are few female characters who are portrayed as smart, and even fewer who are also women of color. Mrs. Murry was portrayed convincingly by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who showed women can do it all! A woman can be a loving mother and a smart professional (in this case a scientist) at the same time, although it didn’t show hard grueling the juggling act is in reality.
Unfortunately the pluses were not enough to redeem the movie. If you are scrolling through Disney Plus and are looking for a kid friendly movie, I recommend Pixar’s new and heart warming movie Luca instead.