More than 50 years after it was first published, A Wrinkle in Time has finally come to the big screen. The book was considered notoriously hard to adapt due to its fantastical nature and high-brow scientific concepts. Thanks to modern special effects technology, we can finally experience the magic of Madeline L’Engle’s text come to life.

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How does the movie stack up to the book? Is it worth the watch? Is it worth the hype? Yes… and no. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, and lovers of the book may feel a little cheated. If you want to watch a visually stunning movie with a good heart, though, A WRINKLE IN TIME is for you!

A Wrinkle in Time

As a young nerd who loved books, A Wrinkle in Time was amazing. It was one of my favorite books growing up, and probably contributed the most to my love of science fiction/fantasy, besides STAR WARS. I still remembered it fondly, though I hadn’t read it in years… until a few days ago.

As an adult, A Wrinkle in Time is still pretty good. Some of the concepts don’t translate well to the modern day, but to be fair, the L’Engle wrote the book in 1962. The book is overtly Christian, which sometimes feels a bit odd. But the message, one of light overcoming darkness, hope and love overcoming evil, is still empowering and inspiring.

a wrinkle in time

A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of Meg Murry, a preteen living a difficult life. She is awkward and an outcast at school, where she struggles to keep up not because she is dumb, but because she is different. Meg’s parents are both scientists, but her father has disappeared. Meg struggles to accept her new life circumstances, frequently getting into fights defending her father and her odd younger brother, Charles Wallace.

Charles Wallace befriends a trio of strange ladies, who take him, Meg, and a boy named Calvin O’Keefe on a magical journey to rescue Meg’s father and defeat the darkness. The journey features great highs and terrible lows, interesting characters and creatures, and a message about how love is the most powerful force in the universe. A bit simplistic, perhaps, but it is a children’s book, and it really is great fun.

A Modern Tale

So how does Ava DuVernay adapt this simplistic but fun children’s book? Well, first off, it’s no longer set in the 1960s. A WRINKLE IN TIME takes place in the modern day, which allows for some changes. Meg’s father now works for NASA, and his disappearance is much bigger news than in the book; a radio story featuring the anniversary of his disappearance plays at one point. He even gives a TED Talk about his ideas, which leads to ridicule.

Some of the concepts in the novel that are left rather vague — like tessering, or moving through space and time in an instant — are given somewhat clearer bases. Tessering is done by finding a frequency, and we see Alex Murry, Meg’s father, studying frequencies intently. However, it is revealed that the right frequency is love, which somewhat undermines the scientific basis.

a wrinkle in time

The Murry family gets an update as well. Meg’s mother, who is described in the book as exceedingly lovely with red hair and violet eyes, is now played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is exceedingly lovely but is not white or red-haired. Alex Murry is white — providing a mixed-race family that would not have flown in the 1960s. Charles Wallace is adopted in the film, providing a truly different family dynamic than was in the book.

A Wrinkle or Two

Of course, anytime you’re adapting a novel into a film, things are going to have to change. I’m a big reader, so I tend to always have read the novels before seeing the films, which definitely colors my view of the film. I literally just read the book, so I had it clear in my mind while watching… and a lot gets changed.

a wrinkle in time

Some things are minor. On the planet Uriel, the creatures who lived there are almost like a centaur in the book, but are flower people in the film. The Mrs. Ws mention going back to Earth to consult with Mrs. Murry, which never happens in the book. For the most part, the little changes like these don’t have much effect on the plot, except to make me wonder why it was important to have flower people instead of centaurs.

Other changes have more of an impact, especially on the dark planet Camazotz. In the book, the people of Camazotz  are controlled by a central brain, the IT. The people live in fear of IT, and stick strictly to conformity. When one child acts out, his mother is afraid of discovery and reprisal. In the film, Camazotz appears to be uninhabited except by IT. The planet seems more like a simulation designed to trick Meg and company.

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Those who haven’t read the book won’t know what they’re missing — literally — so it’s likely to not bother most audiences. I saw it with friends who had not read the book, and they were able to follow along just fine and liked the movie.

Mrs. Why?

The characterization of Mrs. Whatsit was what bothered me the most. In the book, she’s the kindest of the Mrs. Ws. She gives Meg the power to defeat the IT by reminding her of love. In the film, Mrs. Whatsit is somewhat rude and constantly derides Meg as “underwhelming.” This gives Charles Wallace the chance to defend Meg, but undermined a lot of what made the book nice.

a wrinkle in time

Given that the whole plot of the book hinged on Mrs. Whatsit’s love for Meg, it seemed like an odd change. I’m not sure what the point was to have one Mrs. W less kind, but I didn’t like it. Instead, the film places Mrs. Which in the role of nurturer. Mrs. Which — played well by Oprah herself — gives Meg advice on loving herself and being true to who she is. It is Mrs. Which who gives the film its real heart.

Aberration is More Interesting

That heart is really what makes the film. A Wrinkle in Time is a classic story of good over evil, light over darkness. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking. But it’s a well told story about love. The novel is clear in showing us that Meg’s ability to love is what saves Charles Wallace from IT, allowing her to triumph over the darkness.

The film takes things further. Meg’s ability to love Charles Wallace is still vital. But it’s Meg’s ability to love herself that is the real story. At first, Meg is a sullen, downtrodden teenager. Her father’s disappearance has led to social ostracism, which is reinforced by Meg’s social awkwardness. She lashes out because she feels insecure.

a wrinkle in time

At one point, Meg’s cruel neighbor notices Calvin spending time with Meg, and she encourages him to hide so his reputation won’t be ruined. Calvin, who has a clear crush on Meg, doesn’t care, but she rejects his compliments. She is down on herself, and wonders if she could return from her journey as someone else.

In the end, though, thanks to Calvin’s admiration and Mrs. Which’s kindness, Meg realizes that she is worthy of love. She remembers that Charles Wallace loves her, and reminds him of this fact, saving him from IT.

This message is one I really took to heart. I was a socially awkward teenage girl, too. While I didn’t have Meg’s family problems, I know the pain of not knowing what you like when you look in the mirror, the pain of the popular kids mocking you. The fact that Meg saved the world and her family by coming to terms with who she is — realizing that she is still worthy of love — is a truly touching message and one that I want to shout from the rooftops.

Flower of the Universe

Regardless of any complaints in terms of plot, it cannot be denied that A WRINKLE IN TIME is visually stunning. The magic of special effects has come a long way in recent years, to the point where we can now depict beautiful, exotic locations, strange forms of transportation, and magical wonders.

A Wrinkle in Time was considered impossible to adapt for so long in part because it is a truly fantastical book. There are many strange locales, especially Uriel, an impossibly beautiful planet inhabited by beings who look like centaurs but yet were so much more. Reading it gives you a sense of wonder. While they removed the centaur people, for whatever reason, Uriel remains as a magical planet for Meg and company to explore.

a wrinkle in time

The film also does a good job with tessering. In the book, Meg describes it as a nothingness, oppressive and dark. The film plays with this, and we learn that Meg sees this because she does not accept herself. At the end, when she has come to love herself, tessering becomes magical. There’s a beautiful sequence where Meg flies through space — it looks much better than I could describe, trust me.

The film is a feast for the eyes, with dazzling colors and lots of sparkles. The effects are not the only magic. Paco Delgado created amazing costumes to make the Mrs. Ws look stunning and otherworldly. The cinematography is beautiful. Not everyone appears to enjoy the plot, but watching the film is an enjoyable way to spend time.

The Verdict

A quick glance at the internet shows that all is not well for A WRINKLE IN TIME. It’s running 45% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of me writing this. Many publications appear to be decrying the film as complicated. There are complaints that the movie is too “politically correct” to be enjoyable (which I am not linking to because Fox News is bull).

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But for my part, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the same as the book, but no adaptation really is. On its own, A WRINKLE IN TIME is beautiful, inspiring, and leaves one with a sense of wonder. It’s not world-changing or ground-breaking, but it may just change the worldview of another awkward young girl. It gives you hope that the next generation can achieve magical things.

More than anything, A WRINKLE IN TIME is just plain fun. You don’t need to read the book to understand the movie; you may even understand it better. So if you’re looking for a slightly less than two-hour film to lift your spirits and dazzle your eyes, A WRINKLE IN TIME is the one for you!

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