In March, I wrote a piece on Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time. The movie had already been out for several weeks when my book review was published. Due to my busy schedule around that time, I was unable to see the film until it came out on digital last Tuesday (it is now out on DVD and Blu-ray). I had hopeful, yet tempered expectations as I sat down to watch the film, even though the movie has been lambasted on the internet by film critics and the general public. There were some exceptions, including a positive review here on ScreenFish, but even these had reservations about the film.
I am surprised how well I enjoyed Wrinkle–at least the majority of it before the mention of Camazotz. I was pretty much confused and perturbed by how that planet was handled (more on that later).
Recently there has been an emphasis on pro-woman movies–some of them more successful than others. This Friday, Ocean’s Eight comes out in theaters, featuring an all-female cast portraying the “eight.” How well women are portrayed in that Ocean’s film remains to be seen. (Women were not portrayed very well in the Ocean’s trilogy. Hopefully I’ll have more to say about that later this week in my upcoming review of Thirteen.)
One thing I liked about A Wrinkle in Time, both the film and the book, is the emphasis on women. I wonder if part of the blowback L’Engle received regarding her book was because it has such strong female characters. And I am not just talking about the W’s. In both venues, Mrs. Murry is a brilliant scientist in her own right, not just her husband. We forget how radical an idea that was in the 1960’s when the book was written, not to mention that many still harbor the stereotype of what a woman “should be” today. Furthermore, Meg certainly is the main protagonist. In your list of modern pro-women movies, don’t forget to list Wrinkle.
Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was the development of the characters. Through both the chronological storytelling and flashbacks, we are shown who the characters are and what makes them tick. We are shown Meg being bullied, not just told she was. We are shown Charles Wallace sticking up for his sister, not just told he loves her. We are shown Mr. Murry being ridiculed by his peers, which helps us understand his motivation for experimenting with tessering and leaving his family. Calvin’s relationship with his father is shown in a palpable way by giving us a glimpse of one of their confrontations. Put this movie on your list of films which do a good job of character development.
I also appreciated the beauty and cinematography of the film. I loved the picturesque nature of Planet Uriel. When Mrs. Whatsit changes form, I was not too disappointed her anatomy was not that of a Centaur. Whatever she was, it was graceful and beautiful.
It is on Uriel, both in the book and in the movie, that we first hear of the blackness invading the universe. However, when asked what it was, Mrs. Which says it is Camazotz, the IT. However, in the book, she calls it The Black Thing. The movie conflates The Black Thing, Camazotz, and the IT. Perhaps the moviemakers thought this would be easier to grasp for a younger audience, but I think it only confuses things and makes the story weaker.
Instead of a world which is brainwashed into everyone being the same, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are told Camazotz is a place where nothing is as it seems. In the book, Camazotz is not about being fooled by physical illusions, but the presumption that making everyone the same in order to bring peace and safety is the only worthy ultimate goal. In a movie which emphasizes the importance of diversity by the way it was cast, I am surprised they really missed that point at the end of the movie.
Unless I am missing something.
In the Bonus Content released with the digital version of the film, producer Catherine Hand, who worked for years to bring this film to production, comments on the theme of diversity:
In all the years I spent with Madeleine L’Engle, talking about A Wrinkle in Time, she told me that the most important line to her in the book was, “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” And when [director] Ava [DuVernay] said she wanted a cast that was diverse, it was the embodiment of why she wrote this book.
Whether the casting choices were enough to convey L’Engle’s “most important line” while taking out that line and changing the focus of the ending, I’ll leave for you to decide.