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Have You Seen 'A Wrinkle in Time'? Let's Talk.


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More than 50 years since it first captured the hearts and expanded the minds of bookish young misfits, dreamers and in-betweeners around the world, “A Wrinkle in Time,” Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 coming-of-age-as-interdimensional-odyssey novel, has finally materialized in theaters. The director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation, of a fantastical and cerebral story that many readers over the years had deemed unfilmable is one of the most anticipated movie events of the year – and one of the most polarizing.

How faithful was Ms. DuVernay — who, in accepting the job, became the first African-American woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million or more — to the adventures of the Murry family as written by L’Engle? How well does the story hold up on the big screen? And for whom?

If you haven’t yet seen “A Wrinkle in Time,” here is your SPOILER ALERT. This article will discuss the plot of both the film and the novel in detail. For those of you part-time planet hoppers who have seen the film, tesser your way over to the comments section and let us know your thoughts.

Was it faithful to the book?

Storm Reid, left, Deric McCabe and Reese Witherspoon in the film.CreditAtsushi Nishijima/Disney, via Associated Press

Ms. DuVernay’s movie largely fits within the outline sketched by L’Engle’s novel, following the socially awkward, bespectacled teenager Meg Murry (played by Storm Reid) on a journey across the universe to find her missing scientist father. Meg’s guides, including her ingenious little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and a trio of celestial matriarchs — Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which (played by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey) — figure heavily in the story, as does the evil planet Camazotz and its most nefarious inhabitant, the IT, which is holding Dr. Murry captive while seeding darkness throughout the cosmos.

But the film also departs from the novel in notable ways. Some characters from the book, like Meg and Charles’s twin brothers, Sandy and Dennys, didn’t make it into the movie, while others, like a mean girl named Veronica, are in the movie but not the book. The movie also dispenses with many of the book’s digressions into scientific theory and the mysteries of the universe, which, apparently, really were unfilmable.

If you read the book, what, if anything, was lost as a result of these changes? And how did they help or hinder the cinematic experience?

Let’s talk about the casting

Mindy Kaling in “A Wrinkle in Time.”CreditAtsushi Nishijima/Disney, via Associated Press

Perhaps the most obvious, and widely discussed, innovation by Ms. DuVernay concerns the race of the main characters. In the movie, they’re a pluralist, multicultural bunch. Meg is biracial with a white father (Chris Pine), black mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and an adopted Filipino-American little brother. The three Mrs. are similarly integrated — black, white and Indian-American.

Though these characters have historically been conceived of as white — and some, as a few concerned critics have pointed out, were indeed written that way — The Times’s film critic A.O. Scott called Ms. DuVernay’s casting choices “a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm,” adding, “This is how movies should look from now on, which is to say how they should have looked all along.”

How did the casting figure into your experience? Was it a breath of fresh air, just an inconsequential artistic liberty or P.C. culture run amok?

Let’s talk about the tone

Oprah Winfrey and Storm Reid in “A Wrinkle in Time.”CreditAtsushi Nishijima/Disney

Ms. DuVernay has said she views her film as being primarily for viewers between the ages of 8 and 14, and its cavalcade of colorful set pieces and simplistic conceptions of good and evil often seem tailored for a youthful audience. Could it have benefited from a slightly more adult reading of the novel’s edgier themes — including alienation, existential angst and longing — or are detractors who have criticized the movie’s “squishy” worldview just cynics?

Does it … make any sense? Does it matter?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Meg’s scientist mother in “A Wrinkle in Time.”CreditAtsushi Nishijima/Disney

While the movie broadly gestures toward an overarching logic and order to its universe and the planets and beings within it, it doesn’t spend a ton of time on the details. What does Meg’s father mean when he tells her that his love is never gone, it’s just “enfolded”? What exactly is a tesseract? How did Camazotz become the source of all the evil in the universe and how did Dr. Murray end up there? If you hadn’t read the book (and maybe even if you had) and wanted concrete answers to these and a dozen other cosmic questions the movie leaves ambiguous, you might have left the theater disappointed, or just confused.

How successful were you at suspending your disbelief while watching the movie? Were there plot or character decisions you found particularly wanting? Or were the movie’s winning performances, dazzling visuals and message of love triumphing over darkness enough to carry it over the finish line?

Unfold your love (or hate) for all things “A Wrinkle in Time” in the comments.

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