Monday, March 12, 2018

An Imperfect Wrinkle

This is a reposting of a comment I wrote to John Scalzi's review of A Wrinkle in Time on Whatever
Billboard at Disney's California Adventure, Feb. 2018
On my birthday on Saturday, I sat in a darkened theater and tried to love director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, while my close friend Kevin sat crying, quietly, beside me. It’s my favorite book, and I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be very faithful to the text. That’s okay, I told myself. The film Mary Poppins is not even moderately faithful to the books, and it’s a great movie. I wanted that for the film adaptation of Wrinkle: different, but great on its own terms.
I don’t feel that it quite got there.
The casting is mostly excellent (I would not have gone with that actor for Charles Wallace, but the other Murrys are great), the effects are terrific, and the addition of the “mean girl” subplot really works for me. I can cope with the loss of the twins, the gender change for the Happy Medium, and the complete reimagining of the Mrs Ws. Let’s just say it’s an alternate universe version of these people and events, and that’s okay. The visualization of IT is a big improvement over the brain-in-a-jar trope. And I liked that Meg is the one who drags them to Camazotz.
Outside the film's preview at DCA, February 2018
What doesn’t work for me is the complete deletion (X-ing, in A Wind in the Door parlance) of everything that ever got A Wrinkle in Time banned in book form. Nobody would ever mistake Oprah et al. for witches, or identify this Medium with a crystal ball-wielding fortune teller. Not one mention of Christianity or Jesus gets through, or even God in general, unless I missed something. That strikes me as missing a large chunk of the heart of the book, and perhaps a bit of cowardice on the part of the part of the filmmakers. Perhaps that’s a part of the story they don’t want to tell for personal philosophical reasons, but I notice that the same thing happened with the tv movie over a decade ago, with one of the same producers (Catherine Hand). I suppose different people get different things out of the same work, but this is a major thematic change.
In story terms, I think it was a mistake to skip the whole interlude on Aunt Beast’s planet. We lose much of Meg’s struggle to realize that her father isn’t perfect and can’t fix everything for her, and to throw off the negativity that invades her heart. It’s also impossible to see (at least for me, on one viewing), where Alex Murry and Calvin went, exactly, and when and how. Dr. Murry tried to tesser, but was Calvin even in the shot? Also, making Charles Wallace an adoptee lessens the power of this family producing a biological “sport” who is “different” and “new.” And making the suburban subdivision melt away as an illusion implies that there aren’t real people suffering the hell of authoritarianism
Still, there’s a lot to like here. I did come close to tears twice, and I will go see it again. You should probably go see it, too.

But I can’t help being a little disappointed.