Cinematic Words: Darkness, Light, and Tessering REVIEWING A Wrinkle in Time

 It has been far too long since I did a Cinematic Words review, so we're combining it with Magic Monday to bring the feature back! 

Today, we will be talking about a children's classic chapter book that Walt Disney Studios just recently adapted into a live action film. We're talking today about: 

A Wrinkle in Time

The Book:

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy
Year: 1962

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is a children's/young adult fantasy book with science fiction elements that centers around the Murry family. Meg, the eldest daughter and the protagonist, is around 13 years old. She is seen as troublesome by her teachers and the administration of her school. Her father went missing during a government project he was working on, and has been missing long enough for people to assume he just up and left the family, maybe due to an affair. People think Meg and her family are weird and that they need to just move on already. 

The story really focuses on Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, a new friend they make named Calvin, and a journey to find Meg's father. A trio of mysterious women (Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit) show up one day, and while they don't seem to make sense, they set the kids on the path to finding Mr. Murry. The basic idea is Mr. Murry "tessered" into a different part of the universe. Tessering is like folding space in order to travel from one point to another, faster. This is also known as a tesseract. At first, this concept is kind of difficult to grasp. I have read this book three times, and the first time I read it in middle school, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I had to read the section a few times to conceptually grab onto the verbs and idea. By the second go around, last year, I was able to get it quick. I re-read it again, within the last few months, so I could watch the movie and compare it, because I enjoy doing that. 

So this book is one that really resonates with me, and I think with a lot of young kids who don't always feel like they like themselves at times. Meg has a lot of faults and she is hyper-aware of them. Throughout the book, she has a hard time going along with the adventure and being more carefree about things. She worries, she overthinks, and she doesn't believe in herself all the time. Her faults hold her back, but ultimately, she undergoes a character journey that shows her that her faults, can actually be her strengths when things seem hardest. She feels dumb compared to her brother or other people and she misses her dad. When she has an opportunity to save him, she ends up rising to the occasion, and when more of her family is in danger, she rises to THAT occasion. I really like the journey she takes and the strength she finds in herself. 

Charles Wallace is Meg's younger brother and another major part of this book. He is very young, but very intelligent. He seems smart beyond his years and has a stunning vocabulary. He is seen as being odd, because he doesn't talk much to people outside his family, so everyone assumes he is dumb. Charles Wallace does things differently, but he loves his family very much. His dad went missing when he was too young to really know him, but he understands what family is and how it needs to be whole again. The sibling relationship between Meg and Charles Wallace is really fun to read about. The two are quite a pair. 

Calvin is older than Meg and is generally seen as popular, because he is good at sports. He is also smart, but he is overlooked by his own family. This is particularly because he is the third eldest of a total of eleven children. He meets Meg, Charles Wallace, and their family and ends up joining their journey to bring Mr. Murry home. He ends up being a source of support and comfort to Meg, while also helping her to break free from her own constraints. 

The best part of this book to me, apart from Meg, is the journey the trio takes together. It is fantastical, but has science fiction elements to it, while also just being a straight up good versus evil story. The worlds are not built in great detail apart from Camazotz, but they are built enough to allow the imagination take over. This book gives you enough detail to give you a base picture, and then it kind of lets you take over the rest of the way. The journey starts on Earth, then we tesser to a planet named Uriel. On Uriel, we find out Mr. Murry has ended up on Camazotz, a world encapsulated by darkness and the "Black Thing." They go to Camazotz and end up fighting against a being known as IT, which tries to get the kids to assimilate into it, like the rest of Camazotz has done. 

This book is a bit older as far a YA goes, but it is still such a strong work. The story in some regards feels timeless, because the fight against evil by good is one told since long before. There is very little technology use, so there aren't dated references. The kids are also pretty basic. They are themselves, but could also be many kids that we've known or a kid that we have been early in our life. There are no details that make them abnormal or unreachable, at the beginning of the story. I think this book will still be relatable to kids for a long while to come. 

Overall, this book is a fun adventure, with great messages, that to me, didn't feel overly preachy or forced. I like the characters and their hardships, and I like the focus on family and love. I always enjoy a fun good versus evil story, and I really like when I can relate to the characters and cheer for them. I give A Wrinkle in Time a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯.

So now, let's talk about that new film adaptation.

The Movie: 

Screenwriter: Jennifer Lee & Jeff Stockwell
Director: Ava DuVernay
Year: 2018

A Wrinkle in Time movie


So A Wrinkle in Time came out in 2018. It was adapted from the novel by Walt Disney Pictures. It stars Storm Reid as Meg, Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace, Levi Miller as Calvin, Chris Pine as Mr. Murry, Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. 

Before I get started with my review, let me just say, my opinion tends to differ rather greatly from movie critics. I don't seem to view films the same way they do and I guess I just tend to be a little more....childish and idealistic in thought sometimes, so I'm less likely to not like something because it is youthful, directed at children, or isn't a deep story to the degree of some award winning films. Because of this, I never like to judge movies or my interest in them ahead of time, based simply on critics reviews and thoughts. I like to watch things for myself and see what I personally think and to see what resonates with me. So, if you have seen any movies I talk about and you disagree with me or you say "But Sam, that movie bombed!", that is perfectly okay. This is my opinion and my perspective. I'm always up for discussion. 

I went into this movie knowing the story pretty well (or I'd say so, having read it three times). I wanted to see how it was adapted, how they portrayed everything, and how they built up the worlds. I was honestly not disappointed. A few things are changed or added, in order to make it up to date and modern for current audiences, but none of that takes away from the core of the story. 

For example, in the movie, they show Meg being bullied by a girl at her middle school, who is actually her next door neighbor. They show how cruel people can be to those they see as "other," without fully knowing their circumstances. They show teachers gossiping about the Murry family, including the kids, without knowing that Charles Wallace is within earshot. They also add a scene where Meg stands up for herself in a way that is not approved of by the school or her mom, but that feels like a very realistic response for her age. These all show Meg in a contemporary setting, different from the book, but which will appear familiar to kids today. Additionally, Calvin is not portrayed as being one of eleven kids, but rather a son that is always disappointing to his father no matter what he does. So his family trouble is more reflective of what a kid today might deal with at home. He isn't just overlooked, he is put down. This is an update and I think it is one that works well for this film.

Other changes from the book include the cutting of the Murry's dog, Fortinbras, which doesn't make too much difference. When Meg and Charles Wallace go out for a walk, they don't go out to walk the dog. Big deal. The Happy Medium in the book was a lady, but in the movie, the Happy Medium is played by Zach Galifianakis, which also didn't feel like a big change. Although, his role with Meg is a little bit more pronounced in helping her feel more grounded with herself and comforted, than the Happy Medium in the book was. Camazotz is also not fully shown the way it is in the book. It is shown as being less of a totalitarian urbanistic office kind of setting, and more of a dream place full of conformity without free will.  In the book, it felt more cold and scary, whereas in the movie, they try to portray it as more inviting to the kids. This is most likely to tempt them more, which arguably does make much more sense if you're trying to get them to stay and conform forever.

One change I didn't fully like was that they cut out the trip to Ixchel and we didn't really get to see Aunt Beast. However, because of the way that Ixchel and Aunt Beast are described, I can understand it would be very hard to visually create them in a way that matches up with the book. It may have been a better decision to skip this, even though its pretty important in the book, because you would risk having a bad visual, versus just a glossed over one. I'd rather have an acknowledgement and nod to it, than have it be visually ruined or be underwhelming. I don't like it being cut, but I understand logistics of why it may have been the case. This also pushes the story further towards the climax faster, which condenses run time. The way it was done though also kind of adds to Meg's character in a good way. It shows the power of her will and determination, which I think is a very good thing to have included. It's kind of a give and take situation, so I will accept the compromise. 

Beyond this, not much about the core story is different, which I very much liked. The same journey is made and Camazotz is represented well. The abstract concepts are presented visually in a way that I thought was fun and made sense. There is definitely a lot of CGI in this movie, but the worlds of the book are so visually big and imaginative, it is almost a given that it HAS to be done that way to look good. There are some practical things that could be done, but I think for the physics defying, out-of-this-world, vibrant color, dark shadow evil that is needed, this is the best way to get that efficiently. We can argue that a movie like Star Wars does things practically, but even those movies follow a stricter set of physics and have more realistic basic settings than A Wrinkle in Time. The use of CGI here doesn't bother me. I was in awe of the journey and really liked SEEING it outside of my mind. 

My favorite things about this movie are definitely the young actors. Storm Reid and Deric McCabe especially. They really sell the sibling bond and the emotional tie of the family. When I first watched The Jungle Book live-action remake from 2016, I was really impressed with Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli, and this time, I'm impressed with Deric McCabe in almost the same way. I would say that Neel Sethi's performance was better since he was the main character, while Deric McCabe is a supporting character, but these kids that Disney casts are really good. I wasn't sure how the portrayal of Charles Wallace was going to be, since he is a very precise kind of character. He has a certain way of being that is different from other characters I've read about and I really like the way he was played here. 

The three Misses don't really feel as prominent in the movie as they do in the book. They're probably the most lackluster part of the movie for me, even though I do like the fantasy looks they've got going on. Really, the star here is Storm Reid as Meg. To me, she really embodies the character in this movie. You can really feel her struggle and see the pain she has gone through. You see the shattering of expectation that she undergoes and the way that she eventually is able to stand tall for herself. I really liked her progression and I think she did a good job.

This movie is really a feel good movie about being yourself and standing up for your family. Its a personal journey, but also a family journey. Its about love and confidence. I cried a couple times, because I'm a very emotional person and I really got a "case of the feels" with this one. I can easily see this being the kind of movie a young girl would latch onto as a source of inspiration. I really enjoyed it and I think there are a lot of people out there who will appreciate this movie, particularly in the younger age demographic. It has some serious tones, but it never ventures far away from youthful wonder. I give this movie a Lone Star rating of  ✯✯✯✯. I feel like it stays true to the message of the book, it captures the imagination in a lot of ways, and it was just a good time for me. I think the actors did a great job. 

While it may not be an Oscar winner by any means, I do think this is a winner that I will be able to watch and enjoy multiple times. 


I highly enjoyed both the book and the movie. I recommend them both to anyone interested in checking them out. I especially recommend them to anyone who is still in touch with their childish side, who can step out of their adult mindset momentarily to see things with a youthful eye. The book will have more longevity than the movie for sure, but I think the movie will serve today's generation of kids well. 

Something I like to keep in mind and I'd like to tell people, especially today, is this: We always compare today's media to the media of yesterday. The movies and the stories, and we say "this isn't new, it's been done before. It's just this story redone." Yeah, that may be the case, but not every kid has seen that or knows that story, or will have immediate access to that story. Plus, it is good for kids to have stories of their own to enjoy, even if the messages are the same. We will always have stories that we've seen before, and on occasion we will be able to have NEW stories or stories told in a NEW way that amazes us. But, there is nothing wrong with letting kids enjoy a story in a way different from the way we experienced it. This story may be the same old story of "good versus evil, be confident in yourself", but it's for a new group of kids who need to hear that and see that. Just because we've seen it, doesn't mean everyone else has yet. Clearly, the story in of itself has held up, since it has been loved by many readers of different generations for around 58 years. 

If you're interested in these, read and watch them. If you don't like them, that's fine, but always feel free to start up a conversation with me about either! I think they're both really fun in their own ways. I wouldn't say the movie is a bad adaptation and I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series, because that is something I have not done yet. The books are a quintet, but I've never read the other four. Finally going to see about doing that here soon.

This concludes a Cinematic Words review here at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring the books to your screen and even put in my own two cents about them!