'A Wrinkle In Time' was an important book to me as a kid, and me and my cohost discussed it on our podcast 'Love YA Like Crazy'. Meg is a great protagonist in children's literature, and I found her very relatable -- and I enjoyed the sheer strangeness of the other worlds, and the little tidbits of mathematical and scientific concepts the book contained. I went to see the movie last week, and I wondered how it would compare.
This movie reinforced a lesson I first learned in 'Hidden Figures': If you ever want to make me cry when I'm watching your movie, just start with a scene where someone is teaching a little kid math. This scene also makes use of a common (because it's really nifty and very easy and cheap to make) childhood toy in the Haller household: the hexaflexagon, which is what that little 'hidden heart' toy featured in the movie is called. (Seriously, the movie really only scratched the surface of how awesome hexaflexagons are!)
A friend who hadn't seen the movie expressed some concern that it might be overly Disney-fied. I don't think that's the case -- there's a lot of the original book in the movie, including some of the weirder stuff, so I feel like it was pretty much the director's vision. The plot has been simplified a little here and there — Meg only goes to Kamazotz once, instead of the two trips that happen in the book — but those simplifications were done well and make sense. (Though I think it's too bad that we don't get to meet Miss Beast -- but I can also see that getting to know a bunch of eyeless creatures, on a planet covered in impenetrable fog, might not be the easiest thing to realize well on film.)
The cast was generally great, even the small parts. Zach Galifianakis plays the Happy Medium and I think that his scenes are one place where I liked the movie version better than the book. The scenes on Kamazotz I also thought were really good and convincingly creepy. With that said, I feel that the book has a preoccupation with the dangers of conformity that the movie doesn't entirely have -- though the movie definitely is concerned with peer pressure.
I also wonder if Oprah had a rider in her contract saying, "The first time I appear on screen, I must be three times taller than anyone else, and twenty times as fabulous." 😉 The movie Mrs Which's glittery eyebrows are kind of at the opposite end of the scale to the book Mrs Which's invisibility…
But I think the intent is to contrast the vibrance of these characters with the humdrum daily life on Earth, and with the creepy darkness of Kamazotz, and I kind of buy the over-the-top super-saturated verdancy of the first planet they tesser to. (On the Slate Cultural Gabfest, one of the hosts said, of this portion of the film, "At one point, Reese Witherspoon turns into a kale salad, and, you know, I'm down with that.") I just wish that the outfits they had on Earth, were a little toned down.
I think that the decision to make Meg and her mom black worked well, and is integrated into the story in small but important ways. For instance, there's a recurring thing where Calvin compliments Meg's hair, and she refuses to accept that it looks good — and there's a part where the It tempts Meg by saying that he can give her her ideal beautiful body (which, natch, has straightened hair).
Overall, I thought it was pretty good, and I'm curious as to how kids and young teens are enjoying it. I think it's a little hard for me to evaluate it on first viewing, partly because of my attachment to the original book, but also because it's been hyped and discussed so much (though maybe I only think that because I spend too much time on twitter) — but I think in five or ten years, when that all has died down, it'll be clearer whether this is a new childhood classic that is widely loved, or just another kid's movie. Hopefully it's the former!