I Want(ed) to Believe

It was perhaps a mistake to re-read A Wrinkle in Timebefore I saw the movie, but I hadn’t read the book in a few decades. I enjoyed it, picked up things I hadn’t remembered, and went on to read (for the first time) three more books in the quintet (A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters) before I ran out of interest.  The overt Christian themes (which scudded right over my head when I was a kid reading Wrinkle in Time) didn’t particularly bother me–perhaps because I knew they were there before I started reading this time.

Anyway: I went to see the film, which I enjoyed at the time, but find that I enjoyed less with each moment away from the film (it’s that “objects in the mirror are less impressive than you thought” thing that sometimes happens with films). It is true enough to the books [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

Meg is angry and uncomfortable in her own skin and smarter than most of the people around her (except her family, of course). I loved the casting: Storm Reid does that “can’t even explain why she’s behaving so badly” teenager thing, and the little boy who plays Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) manages to get that very-old-soul-in-a-six-year-old’s-body thing. The change in Calvin’s backstory (in the book his family is huge, dirt-poor, and resents Calvin for “thinking he’s better than us,”–that is, being an A student) bothered me a little–when Calvin-in-the-book meets the Murrys it’s as if he’s come home to his own tribe. In the film we see his father yelling at him for getting a B- on a test–a different dynamic, and less interesting to me. Calvin’s fascination with Meg becomes more boy-girl (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and less “you’re part of a larger thing I’ve been yearning for.”

And I did think there was too much of the Missuses. Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit loom over the film (in Mrs. Which’s case, literally) in sparkly, drapes, fantastic garments, speaking oracularly. They’re distracting (the spangly costumes and jeweled makeup was distracting too).  We get The Happy Medium, but no Aunt Beast (I love Aunt Beast), which made me sad. On the other hand, Camazotz is blood-curdling.

The single thing that bothered me most was the scene where the Murrys and Calvin are trying to escape from The It. Charles Wallace is under The It’s sway, and in the book, Mr. Murry tessers Meg and Calvin and himself to safety–and Meg is furious. She has thought for years that if only she can be reunited with her father everything will be okay–and now he’s abandoned (as she sees it) Charles Wallace and run away. He’s not the hero, he’s fallible, and she’s furious. She tessers back and rescues Charles Wallace herself. But in the movie, Mr. Murry and Calvin get away, but Meg and Charles Wallace do not. Meg still has to be the hero–by loving herself and loving Charles Wallace. But when she and Charles Wallace are reunited with their father there’s virtually no sign of Meg’s rage at her imperfect father. A raised eyebrow, a shrug. It seemed to me that this undercut one of the most important moments in the book.

Overall, it felt oddly lopsided: some scenes felt rushed where they should have unfolded more slowly; other scenes dragged when they could have moved faster. It’s always chancy seeing a film based on a book you loved; even chancier if you’ve read it recently. I wanted to believe in the world, the Missuses, the journey, The It. I did believe in Meg and Calvin and Charles Wallace, and in Meg’s parents. A Wrinkle in Time didn’t hold together for me, but it’s an interesting and handsome attempt.

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