“This is a beautiful, visually dynamic adventure” – Chris Pine
As always before there are any spoilers I’ll let you know. So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, you’re safe for now.
I have seen quite a few less than glowing reviews about this film and when the first one was sent to my inbox I admit I was taken aback. How could the film I had just seen receive any bad reviews? Is it the best film ever? No? Is it a bland, boring, and a wasteful use of time of a screenplay as I’ve seen it described in some reviews? Absolutely not! So why are so many folks writing such low opinionated reviews? I have a few possible reasons I’d like to offer.
- They read the book and expected the screenplay to be an exact depiction of their interpretation of the reading
- They didn’t read the book and therefore completely missed the underlying themes of the film stemming from the book.
- They have a stick up their arses and their panties in a bunch.
The award winning novel A Wrinkle in Time, like Ava Duvernay and Oprah Winfrey have said, “missed” my neighborhood when I was growing up. Knowing that I was going to see the screen adaptation during opening weekend, I purchased the 2007 edition of Madeline L’Engle’s book and went in reading it completely blind. I knew it was a controversial, and in some cases banned book about a little girl whose father had suddenly disappeared, and she was on a different type of adventure to find him. What I ended up reading was a spiritual journey filled with life lessons led by an unlikely hero and a much-needed support system.
After seeing the film, I can see how some might be disappointed to find that the little blond girl described in the book is now a little brown girl in the film and her entire family has been interpreted differently along with the Mrs. Ws and even the Happy Medium. There’s a whole chapter of the book that isn’t in the film at all. The creature transformations, though beautifully interpreted, are not literal nor is the imagery of Uriel or Camazotz. I challenge everyone though to go into seeing this from the perspective of the screenwriter.
“You have to evoke what it feels like. You can’t translate it literally. It’s an evocative book that everyone has a unique relationship with. You can’t try to make it definitive. You have to be inspired by what is there, show them [viewers] something unique. They have their own relationship with the book. The film has to support its themes with Meg as the main character really driving this story.” – Jennifer Lee
Both Lee and Duvernay have explained through statements like the above how they wanted to capture the feeling you get when reading the book more than a literal interpretation. They felt that a literal interpretation would likely take away from the relationship an audience member may have with the book. I’m inclined to agree.
On the flipside, if you see the film and haven’t read the book you could potentially miss the undertones weaved throughout the screenplay. It might, to the naked eye, seem to be a rushed film with a few good lines, some great acting, and the basic structure of what makes a movie a movie. I must disagree with such an assessment though. What I viewed in the theater gave me the same feeling I had when reading this great work, hope and belief. In times such as what we’re living in now, don’t we need these sentiments? Shouldn’t we aim to relive the moments of child-like belief in the impossible? Carry a hope within us that literally reaches beyond our understanding? What happened to the art of believing and hoping as we did when we could play make believe as children having a box as a spaceship or a hair brush as a mic? Or as I stated in reason number 3 above, are too many of us walking around with sticks perched where the sun isn’t shining?
Bookmark this review, come back and read the rest AFTER you’ve seen the film! (It’s some good stuff below 😊)
The rest of this review will probably be quicker than most of my others because the viewing experience of this is a feeling that is hard to put into words. It’s almost just as Mrs. Whatsit says a couple of times in the book and film alike, “explanations are not easy when they are about things for which your civilization still has no words.”
I have only one dislike about the film and I will admit it’s a difference between the book and screenplay. The book is short but spends a great deal of time describing scenery and introducing each character. The film rushes this a bit more almost assuming the viewer has already read the book but at the same time giving just enough information in case you haven’t. Though I understand why, it is a bit disappointing to not see some of the well-described entrances and introductions. Including Aunt Beast who isn’t found in the film at all. Okay two dislikes…I really wanted to see Aunt Beast. I read why they cut that scene (they had it in originally) and I understand it but still don’t like it ☹. Read about why here. Okay, NOW I’m done with dislikes 🙂
One of the dislikes is also on the like list. I like that even though it is a bit more fast paced than the book, the film does a great job of providing the key information needed to understand what is going on throughout the film. I enjoyed watching the Murrys speak together at NASA and describe some of their work related to tessering, and the different interpretation of the flowers on Uriel telling Meg what direction her father had gone instead of providing oxygen as they did in the book. I especially liked the montage of scenes in the Happy Medium cave, the bullying and self-image issues along with the verbal abuse from Calvin’s father, highlighting what darkness looks like from a modern, humanistic perspective. I expected changes since a literal interpretation of the book would probably equate to a 4-hour film, these in my opinion were a couple of good ones.
I had to re-read the Happy Medium chapter of the book as I was a bit confused when Zach Galifianakis popped up on the screen. I knew the Happy Medium was a woman and hadn’t paid enough attention to the trailers (intentionally) to realize the character had been changed to a male. I found that this was done so Meg could “confront her biggest fears about her father,” making the touching hug between Meg and the Happy Medium even more meaningful and a nice and thoughtful touch.
There were some good lines in the film that, from my interpretation, had a deeper meaning to them. There are so many, but in an effort to not have you reading all day, I’ll only hit a few.
“We heard a cry out in the universe.” – Mrs. Which
Mrs. Which informs Meg that they have shown up to help her find her father because of a strong call within the universe. We find out that the strong call came from her father on Camazotz but I believe it probably was also in conjunction with the tears and calls of Meg and her mother. In life there are times when all you can do is cry or shout out to God. I’ve made this “strong call” a few times in my life and in one way or the other God has shown up. Sometimes it’s via a guardian angel, a confirmation via a God wink, or an instruction in my direct conversations with God. Whatever method used, I know I can send out a call to Him and just at the right time I will get what I need.
“Find the right frequency and have faith in who you are”
Everyone has talents, passions, hobbies, or just things you love or are called to do. The problem is not everyone knows how to walk in those things calling out to them. Even worse, not everyone trusts that they’re supposed to or have what it takes to do so. Mrs. Which gives some great advice to Meg when she tells her this. It’s an nice way of saying find your lane, trust that you have what it takes, and trust yourself to walk in it.
“We’re in search of warriors who can bring hope back”
Shouldn’t we all be warriors of this? The film and book both list some notable historical figures who completed (or are completing) great works with their lives. I’m not suggesting that we all must aspire to have our names in history books, but when we’re done on this earth, what do you want your life’s work to say about you? Big or small, part of it should be that you played a part in bringing hope to the world.
The children had to travel to Camazotz alone, but the Mrs. Ws provided them with gifts including Meg’s faults
Mrs. Whatsit: “Troubled, problematic Meg. To you, I give the gift of your faults…You’re welcome!
Meg: “You do know my faults are the bad qualities, right?”
Mrs. Whatsit: “Are they really? Hmmm, well then you’re all set”
Both in the book and film, the children are provided with gifts both tangible and intangible. I’m a believer that we were all born with certain gifts and talents and in the ‘propitious moment’ (I just love this phrase from the book), we are reminded or made aware of these gifts. Just when Meg needed Mrs. Who’s glasses, or the love of her brother and the feelings she felt when she was thought of how he loved her, she was reminded of these gifts and used them in the “moment of peril” Mrs. Who warned her of. God gives us so many things, some with birth and some throughout the course of life. It’s up to us to know when and how to use them or grow them. If you don’t know what your gifts and talents are yet, I challenge you to surround yourself with people who can begin to help you discover and build on them. Use the situations placed in your life to find out who you truly are meant to be.
Meg uses Mrs. Who’s glasses to see what “is unfolded. Not gone, but unfolded”
Meg began to take steps that were invisible to the naked eye, but she trusted in the gifts given to her to believe in something she could not see. She had what I would consider the biblical faith described in Hebrews 11. Sometimes you must begin a walk in belief and trust of something that surpasses your understanding before you can see the next step to take. Meg used the gift of ‘sight’ into an alternate dimensional reality through the lenses Mrs. Who gave her. What if we looked to God to get a different ‘sight’ into an alternate reality in our lives and followed that path? Another challenge I present to you, trust and have faith and watch your path become illuminated with endless possibilities.
“All those willing to face the darkness bring their best into the light”
Darkness and hard times are rough to endure, but they mold us and build us into who and what we are intended to be. The darkness, or the IT in this film appears as what could be described as pulsating interconnected neurons. IT seemed to envelope and bury Meg with no visible escape in sight. IT speaks through Charles Wallace and even tries to defeat Meg with an image of what she could and how society says she should look like. IT tries to use her faults against her, but Meg remembers the gift Mrs. Whatsit provided her and used her faults against IT, making them work for her. After each dark time I have faced in my life I have come out on the other side with at least a lesson learned if not a whole new perspective and level of insight. IT, or the darkness in your life, can be people coming against you, life knocking you down, Satan attacking you, or even you yourself sometimes getting in your own way. Instead of fighting the darkness in your life and resisting your faults, sit with them, learn from them. Use them to your advantage so that you come out victorious and better than before. Yes, it’s hard. That’s where God comes in. In our weakness, His strength and power is made perfect. I’m not just quoting a scripture, this is real life experience for me.
I appreciate Jennifer Lee and Ava Duvernay for this great work of art they brought to life and look forward to the day I can say I had the pleasure of working with either of them. They made a dynamic team on this and it comes through the screen. I give kudos to Duvernay for changing it up and mixing up the race pool on this film. She stated here that “she wanted Meg to have brown skin, and the three Mrs. to be “black, white and someone who wasn’t either,” as well as different sizes, faiths and ages.” This is so rare in Hollywood and truly a treasure to have the freedom to do so as a director. A Wrinkle in Time is meant to be more than just another live action Disney screen adaptation of a heavily criticized book. It is a challenge for us to believe and hope again and spread those notions wherever we go. Fight the darkness by embracing the challenge it brings and learning from it. Trust yourself and most importantly follow the command Mrs. Which gave to the children that really is originally a command God gave to us. “Stay together. Don’t let anyone separate you.”
But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13 (VOICE)
P.S. – Special Kudos to the hair, make-up, and wardrobe designers and stylists: Kim Kimble, Lalette Littlejohn, and Paco Delgado respectively. Just look at some of the amazing work they did below!
Article originally posted on TiffanieLanelle.com