Stay on target 11 Female Directors Who Followed Their Own Rules11 Young Adult Novels That Are Surprisingly Mature For Their Age They did it. Disney put out a movie adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, a book that many consider impossible to film. And they kind of made it work. Not everyone’s a fan, but MovieBob makes it sound like they did something pretty cool with it, even if his review does come with caveats. And people are excited about this movie. The book, and its sequels, mean so much to generations of kids. For many of us, it was our first introduction to science fiction. It was the first book that asked us to think about traveling in time and space, that introduced the concept of other dimensions. Camazotz was our first dystopia. It’s a wonder that, in the heyday of movies being made from dystopian Young Adult novels staring young women, nobody had ever attempted this one before.Oh wait.(Via Disney/ABC)They did. Back in 2004, a TV version of A Wrinkle in Time aired on ABC’s The Wonderful world of Disney. Now, even if you’re a huge fan of the novel, there’s a chance you may never have known a movie adaptation came out before March 2018. If that’s the case, there’s a reason for that. This thing had a long journey to the small 4:3 screen of 2004. Disney began production in 2001, originally envisioning it as a two-part, four-hour miniseries. When it became clear that nobody wanted that, it was cut down to just over two hours, allowing it to air in a three-hour block.When it came time for ABC to schedule the thing, they were oddly reluctant. It was going to air in 2002, then 2003, and finally pushed back to 2004 with little explanation. Finally, it was given a three-hour timeslot, ending at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. Because that’s when all the kids are awake and watching TV, right? ABC’s treatment of A Wrinkle in Time reminds me a lot of their more recent treatment of Inhumans. Act visibly reluctant to air it, then when you have to, fart it out in the timeslot where you can guarantee a low viewership and hope you never have to speak of it again.But why? Was it really that bad? Well, I just frittered away precious hours of my life watching this thing and oh my god, it’s worse. The new movie may have flaws, but it’s a masterpiece compared to this movie. It’s almost impressive how they managed to take every major location and plot beat from the novel and get absolutely none of it right. You almost have to try to reach this level of failure. You want to know how bad this movie was? Just take a look at this interview with author Madeleine L’Engle from a 2004 issue of Newsweek.“Newsweek: So you’ve seen the movie?L’Engle: “I’ve glimpsed it.”NW: And did it meet expectations?L’Engle: Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.”DAMN. I should just stop here. No matter what I write, it won’t be as good as that burn. It’s hilarious how quickly the interviewer changes the subject. The rest of it is about literature and philosophy and faith, and it’s all very lovely. Because L’Engle was lovely. Even she couldn’t resist murdering the adaptation of her own book the week it was set to air. This must have been a real stinker. And from the very beginning, you know it’s going to be. After watching Tinkerbell speed through some stock space footage, the real story begins.(Screenshot via ABC/Disney)Aw yeah, gimme those low budget special effects. Funny enough, this might actually be the best part of the movie. Nothing’s gone wrong yet. As soon as you see the family, something feels off. There are all these little details that make the opening chapter of the book so memorable, and they’re just… gone. There’s no dark and stormy night. There are no eccentric sandwiches. Mrs. Whatsit is no longer the eccentric new neighbor who pops by to talk physics and biology with Meg Murry’s mother. She’s Charles Wallace’s possibly-but-not-really imaginary friend. And also she can make her face appear in TV static for some reason. Hey, they had the CGI software, why not use it? Everything that made A Wrinkle in Time stand out, everything that made its main characters into people you wanted to spend time with and learn more about, all got sanded away. What we’re left with is as bland a TV family as you’d see on any other night.And the acting, oh god, the acting. It’s hard to be too mean because the characters are mostly just kids. But there are a ton of talented child actors out there. It’s remarkable that this production was able to find none of them. Not that they have a ton to work with in terms of dialog, but nobody sounds like they want to be here. Lines that should be delivered with… any kind of emotion at all are spoken flatly. When Meg yells because her little brother is in mortal danger, her volume raises only slightly. It almost sounds sarcastic. It sounds like… you know what it sounds like?That. Imagine every line delivered with that level of commitment, and you have this movie. Except for the title line, of which this movie has two. And both times, it’s delivered in a way that lets you know the writers wanted you to think it’s the cleverest, most mind-blowing line ever uttered on film. “It’s a wrinkle…. in TIME.” Ooooohhhhh, so that’s what the title means.Most of this version’s problems come down to a lack of trust in the audience. L’Engle was writing children’s novels, but she knew her audience wasn’t stupid. Kids could handle complex concepts and ideas if they were written well enough. They didn’t need everything spelled out and dumbed down for them. This movie takes the opposite approach. It spends much of its 128-minute running time spelling everything out before doing anything. It even leaves the most complicated ideas from the novel out entirely. Part of this, I feel, is due to the fact that the conflicts in the novel are all internal. L’Engle really dived deep into how we feel about ourselves and how that affects others. The climactic battle was composed entirely of dueling thoughts between two characters. There really isn’t a perfect way to capture that on film. Here, it manifests as characters telling, not showing, you how they feel.The characters don’t survive the translation at all, mostly because the movie has no idea how to show what’s written in the book. We’re told the mother is a brilliant scientist, but never see or hear her do anything to demonstrate that. She’s in this movie to be the worried parent. That’s all they gave her to do. Charles Wallace sounds less like an old soul and more like a kid who ate too many fortune cookies, with the fortunes still inside. He also croaks out every line with the kind of voice that makes you wish he’d stop talking even when he’s with the family. Oh yeah, he doesn’t talk outside the family. Did you know Charles Wallace doesn’t talk outside the family. Because he doesn’t. Talk outside the family, I mean. I wanted to make sure you realize that Charles Wallace doesn’t talk outside the family because THE MOVIE NEVER SHUTS UP ABOUT IT FOR THE FIRST HALF HOUR. It’s made out to be this big important thing, and then he gets much more talkative and it’s never mentioned again.The character who gets it the worst though, is Meg. In the books, Meg is tough and brilliant, though she refuses to see herself that way. Her lack of self-confidence puts her in the remedial class even though she’s smarter than everyone around her. Here, the movie tries to communicate that by having her drag herself constantly. Still, she’s all too eager to show off how smart she is in class, which makes no sense when one scene later, she’s complaining to her mom about how dumb she is. Worse still, this version of the movie really softened her up. Book Meg is loyal to her family, getting into a fight herself when Charles Wallace is getting picked on. Here?That’s it. She gives on kid a weak push, is pushed to the ground herself, and has to be rescued by a boy. Book Meg would be so pissed if she saw how this movie portrayed her. That boy, by the way, is Calvin O’Keefe. He’s mostly fine. What isn’t fine is the romance between the two. In the book, L’Engle knew how to write a romantic subplot between children. They start as friends and they aren’t quite sure what their feelings are. They like each other, but they can’t quite say why. Those feelings are allowed to build slowly in the background of the book before Calvin finally kisses Meg at the end. It’s natural and it feels true to life. Meg and Calvin of the movie have zero chemistry, stare lamely at each other, try to hold hands once and then Calvin cops out of the kiss. Not that one would have felt particularly earned or appropriate after what little effort went into their relationship.Almost as bad as Meg though, are this movie’s versions of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. These three celestial beings, so complex and caring and unfathomable in the books are reduced to TV stereotypes. Mrs. Whatsit is the wise, motherly type. Mrs. Who is trying so hard to outquirk her surroundings she forgot to develop a personality. And Mrs. Which, who in the book rarely even appears as human is here solely as an older lady who chews out the other two and doesn’t want children around. Not that I’d want to see them transform more than they already do. Look back up at the DVD cover. You notice how it shows the kids riding a pegasus? That never happens. Not in the book, and not in this movie. The closest thing that happens to that scene is when Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a centaur so she can take the kids where they need to be. Now, why wouldn’t they put that scene on the cover?GAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! WHAT IS THAT? WHAT! IS! THAT?!! Yeesh, this story is supposed to evoke a sense of wonder and curiosity. This just makes me want to hide in a closet until it goes away. Also, the actress who plays Whatsit is black. I realize that these celestial beings can change into any form they want, but… why does the centaur have to be a white, blonde lady? As hilarious and nightmare-inducing as the early-2000s CGI is, it’s indicative of a larger problem in this movie. Nothing looks right. One thing you can definitely say about the new Ava DuVernay movie is that it looks amazing. Every shot is packed with gorgeous color. It looks, in every sense of the word, wonderful. In this movie, everything looks washed out. There’s nothing unique or mysterious about any of the places they go. In fact, the dark dystopia of Camazotz ends up looking preferable because at least it has a sense of place.The villain is also a letdown. The image from the book of a dark figure with glowing red eyes has stuck with me ever since childhood. The agent of It was a memorable, scary villain that made me unable to put the book down. So what does her look like here? I think you can guess where this is going.Kyle Secor (via Disney/ABC)Oh no. He has red contact lenses. Scary. What’s even worse is the big climactic battle between him and Meg. As I said before, in the book, it’s a duel of minds. L’Engle writes the sequence so well you end up preferring it to any action scene… which is exactly what we get here. Instead of warring against each other with their feelings, The Man with Red Eyes and Charles Wallace, who’s been possessed by It, telepathically fling Meg around. Instead of a battle of minds, it’s a clunky, plodding series of fights that take place inside a mind. Also, like every other scene in this movie, it goes on way too long. It’s odd, really. The book is filled with L’Engle’s Christian beliefs. It makes no bones about the fact that it’s a story about faith. The movie excises all of that, but I still ended up praying to any higher power that might be listening for this movie to end.It finally does with a CGI brain that’s only slightly better than that horrific centaur because they barely show it. We get the most emotionless reunion between husband and wife I’ve ever seen. Meg has a terrible, but entirely forgettable closing line, and the credits mercifully role.Most of the media surrounding Ava DuVernay’s new adaptation focus on the movie’s flaws. Mostly, they’re flaws that are bound to be present when you try to film a book that’s basically unfilmable. But she tried. She tried spectacularly. Her movie looks like something. It will be remembered because that’s what happens when you care. This movie is what happens when you don’t care. Instead of a movie that insists on being remembered, you end up with one the audience wishes they could forget. 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