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Film / A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

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"The only thing faster than light is the darkness."
Dr. Kate Murry: Imagine that the ant here wants to get to her other hand.
Meg Murry: The quickest option is to walk across the string.
Kate: But it turns out a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points. Not if you use a fifth dimension.
Meg: It’s outside of the rules we know of time and space. So the ant arrives in my hand instantaneously.
Calvin: So you fold space.
Meg: More likely wrinkle it.

A Wrinkle in Time is the 2018 theatrical movie adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L'Engle. It is directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Jennifer Lee. It stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Andre Holland, Rowan Blanchard and David Oyelowo. It opened in theaters on March 9, 2018.

After learning her astrophysicist father is being held captive on a distant planet deep in the grip of a universe-spanning evil, Meg Murry works with her highly intelligent younger brother, her classmate, and three astral travelers to save him.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer.

A Wrinkle in Time contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Calvin's father, of the emotionally abusive sort. He tears his son to pieces for a B grade.
  • Actionized Adaptation: The book had many scary psychological sequences but little in the way of action. The film adds action sequences as the characters travel across the hostile Camazotz wilderness to confront IT.
  • Actor IS the Title Character: Used on various posters, for example: “Storm Reid IS Meg Murry”.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Principal Jenkins in the books is described as middle-aged, balding, and overall rather pathetic. In the movie he's played by Andre Holland.
    • In the books, Mrs. Whatsit is described as a rotund older woman with a voice "like an unoiled garden gate" who dresses in layers of shabby, mismatched clothing. The film's Mrs. Whatsit is a fresh-faced Reese Witherspoon with elaborately styled red hair and glamorous makeup.
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • Charles Wallace tries to cheer up Meg by telling her that their mother wasn't always beautiful and Meg will be as beautiful as her in time. In the book, it's a private conversation at home, and is meant as an example of his intelligence and maturity. In the film, he impulsively shouts it to Meg across the playground after hearing her being talked about behind her back, and it's an example of how his unconventional behavior attracts negative attention.
    • In the book, when the three Mrs Ws are giving the children advice on how to proceed on Camazotz, Mrs Whatsit tells Calvin he has a talent for communicating with people that will be useful. In the film, it's Charles Wallace who tells him this, near the beginning when Calvin first gets involved in the quest.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Mrs. Whatsit in the novel was a bit eccentric but still wise and knowledgeable. In the film, she is significantly ditzier, having almost no idea how polite social interaction works for humans.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Mrs. Whatsit was grandmotherly towards all the kids in the novel, unlike here, where she's only nice towards Charles Wallace and Calvin and treating Meg as a nuisance for the majority. It's no surprise she's given a "seriously?" look by Who and Which after claiming she knew Meg would succeed in the end.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the book, Mrs Murray is a microbiologist. In the film, she's a subatomic physicist, and worked on the tesseract project as an equal partner with her husband.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Sandy and Dennys are Adapted Out to avoid cluttering the movie with characters who don't directly affect the plot. A sequence from the book in which Dr. Murry, Meg, and Calvin temporarily escape Camazotz and recuperate on the planet Ixchel under the care of its benevolent natives is also cut, presumably for pacing reasons, though Ixchel and "Aunt Beast" are very briefly mentioned while the Happy Medium is tracking Dr. Murry's path across the universe.
  • Adapted Out: Sandy and Dennys, Meg and Charles Wallace's more normal twin brothers, are left out of the adaptation to avoid cluttering up the story with irrelevant characters.
  • Adults Are Useless: Meg's principal punishes her for fighting back against Veronica and lays the blame entirely on Meg for why she's bullied - never questioning why Meg would have a reason to attack Veronica or calling both of them out for their behaviour. Meg's mother likewise never insists on an apology from Veronica for her bullying.
  • All Abusers Are Male: In comparison to the book where it was Calvin's mother who was abusive, the film changes it so that it's his father - although emotionally rather than physically.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Both Meg and Charles Wallace are subjected to this, treated as oddballs that even the adults don't know how to talk to; Meg is more overtly bothered by it.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Apart from the stone-and-crystal world of the Happy Medium, the planets the characters travel to have blue skies, green grass, etc. Camazotz may not be earthlike itself, but its illusions are.
  • Alpha Bitch: Veronica, who leads the group of girls that leaves nasty notes on Meg's locker, and later mocks Meg and Charles Wallace during gym class which leads to Meg pegging her in the face with a basketball.
  • Arc Words: "Love is always there, even if you can't see it. It's just... enfolded".
  • Big Sister Instinct: Meg is very protective of Charles Wallace, of course. Charles Wallace also tries to look after Meg in his own ways.
  • Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with a reddish sunset/sunrise peering through the clouds.
  • Brain Monster: When Meg and Charles Wallace are taken into the IT's presence near the end, it manifests as an enormous brain so large that they stand inside it, on its neurons.
  • Bright Is Not Good: Camazotz is over-saturated with color, making it look even more unnatural.
  • Canon Foreigner: Veronica has no book counterpart.
  • Cheerful Child: Charles Wallace pretty much all the time, except when telling off the faculty or possessed by The IT.
  • Composite Character: The IT combines the roles of IT from the book, which was just in charge of Camazotz, and the Black Thing, a mysterious entity suggested to be the embodiment of all darkness and evil.
  • Creepy Child: All of the children acting in unison in Camazotz and Charles Wallace, once he's taken over by IT.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: He was imprisoned by an evil superintelligence on the other side of the universe.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When Possessed!Charles Wallace marvels that the IT is "extraordinary", Meg dryly agrees "That's one word for it."
  • Demonic Possession: Meg's brother, Charles Wallace, gets possessed by the IT, and starts saying hurtful things to everyone.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • The Man with the Red Eyes has a much smaller role in this movie. He really only acts as a puppet controlled by IT to tempt Charles Wallace; once Charles Wallace has been assimilated, he appears as a literal puppet who then disintegrates.
    • Ixchel and its natives are only alluded to during the Happy Medium's vision of Dr. Murry's location.
  • Dutch Angle: One of the camera angles used to show the odd places the trio goes to.
  • Education Mama: Calvin's father angrily berates his son for getting a grade of 82.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The IT, a malevolent cosmic entity that is the embodiment of all evil and darkness.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • On Camazotz, even the landscape itself bends to the whims of the IT, rapidly shifting between forests, beaches, suburban neighborhoods, and futuristic chambers as the IT continually refines its strategy.
    • As we find out in the climax, the IT is really an evil brain so humongous, you can walk around on its nerves.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The IT speaks with a deep, disembodied voice courtesy of David Oyelowo.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The two teachers who fail to notice that Charles Wallace is sitting on a bench directly below them while they discuss his father's disappearance and how weird Meg and Charles Wallace are.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Mrs. Who falls asleep on her chair shortly after meeting the children, Charles Wallace justifies that she hasn't "adjusted" quite yet. When Calvin and Meg ask what he means by that, he decides they're not ready to find that out yet.
    • During her visit to the Murry's household, Mrs. Whatsit comments that Charles Wallace's family has done a lovely job keeping out the darkness.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Mrs. Which gets it mostly right, except for being about twelve feet tall.
  • Gender Flip:
    • The Happy Medium was female in the book, but is played by a man here.
    • The closest analogue to Veronica in the book is a boy that Meg gets into a fight with at school.
    • The parent that Calvin wants to avoid goes from an apathetic and physically abusive mother to a verbally abusive father.
  • Giant Woman: Mrs Which is about as tall as a house until they reach the Happy Medium.
  • Good with Numbers: All of the Murrys. Both Mrs. Murry and Mr. Murry are Dr. Murry, physicists who developed the tesseract theory together.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: They let Meg see physics and discover where her father is imprisoned.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The two teachers talking about the Murry family behind their back are heavily implied to be jealous of Mr. Jenkins for being promoted to principal instead of them.
  • Happily Adopted: Charles Wallace was adopted by the Murrys in this adaptation, he is loved by both his parents and his sibling bond with Meg is so strong it breaks him free of his possession by the IT..
  • Hell Is That Noise: The perfectly synchronized bouncing of the children's balls actually causes Charles Wallace pain.
  • Heroic Spirit: Meg.
    • She has mostly silently endured bullying for 4 years. And the only time she doesn't take it lying down? When the same bully insults her brother.
    • Calvin and Charles Wallace both give in to their hunger, but Meg foregoes eating anything offered to her. (Justified, as she's recalling what Mrs. Which said.)
    • Although tessering is painful and difficult for her, she twice forces a tesser to go (or not go) where she wants it to.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: What Meg tries to do to break IT's hold on Charles Wallace, by reminding him of how much they love each other.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: And impossible, on Camazotz.
  • Insufferable Genius: Averted.
    • Meg has more or less given up on searching for knowledge but casually does complex physics in her head.
    • Charles Wallace is too sunny and chipper for his obvious intelligence to come off annoying.
    • Both Murry parents are sweet natured even after the scientific community laughs at their theories.
  • Internalized Categorism: Never stated outright, but Meg's displeasure at the first time Calvin compliments her natural hair, her wish to come back as "somebody different," and the straight-haired fashionable double IT uses to tempt her all indicate she has trouble with this. She gets better by the end of the movie.
  • It Was a Gift: Meg receives gifts from each of the Mrs Ws to help her on Camazotz.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Veronica is the Alpha Bitch in charge of her own clique. It's implied she's been bullying Meg for a while. But the cruelest example is the note left on Meg's locker on the anniversary of Dr. Murry's disappearance:
    Happy Anniversary! (smileycon) If only you'd disappear too!
  • Knew It All Along: Mrs. Whatsit proclaims at the end that she knew all along Meg would succeed, when in fact she had frequently expressed doubts that Meg was up to the task and tried to persuade the others to leave Meg behind.
  • Large and in Charge: Mrs. Which is acknowledged as the most powerful of the three, and she originally manifests as a Giant Woman.
  • Large Ham: Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit takes no time devouring the entire scenery.
  • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: The fight between good and evil is symbolized with light and darkness respectively.
  • Locker Mail: Veronica leaves cruel notes on Meg's locker.
  • Multi-Gendered Outfit: The Happy Medium is "medium" in many aspects, including gender. They wear a single-sleeve dress, balanced out by Manly Facial Hair.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Veronica's room looks out into Meg's back yard, and Meg implies that she watches the yard for gossip that might embarrass Meg at school.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Calvin figures there's something wrong when for once, Mrs. Who uses her own words.
  • The Power of Love: Meg frees Charles Wallace from IT's control through the power of their love for each other.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In this adaptation, the Happy Medium (now male) and Mrs. Whatsit have something of a flirtation going on.
  • Race Lift:
    • The Murrys were Caucasian in the book, but are a mixed-race family here.
    • The casting of Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kahling as Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who could be considered this to a lesser degree. While the books never explicitly identify the witches as any race (and given they're not even human in the first place and therefore don't technically belong to any race), artwork for the books frequently depicts them as white.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Inverted. The principal has to be aware that Meg has been bullied, but instead of calling both girls in, he only calls Meg and not only berates her for "using her father's disappearance as an excuse to act out" but also cruelly tells her he's most likely never coming back. Exposition from Mrs. Which indicates that IT influences and magnifies the worst parts of human nature.
    • By extension, Meg's mother. The principal seems only to tell her of Meg's bad behavior, and as a result she acts as if Meg is attacking the other girl unprovoked. She also scolds Meg for "using Dad" when Meg protests her mother being unsupportive. Regardless, she's the one who reminds Meg not to give up hope that her father will return.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Anyone directly channeling IT.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Inverted. Charles Wallace is now Meg's adopted brother instead of biological.
  • Speak in Unison: In the Stepford Suburbia part of Camazotz, the mothers are in perfect unison, calling for their children with the same tone at the appropriate time. Even when they go off-script upon seeing the trio, they speak together.
  • Speaks In Shoutouts: Mrs Who, with a mix of traditional poets and philosophers along with more current references including Friday, Hamilton, and Outkast.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Once the children are over "the wall" on Camazotz, they arrive in a perfectly-ordered suburban cul-de-sac where almost identically-dressed children stand bouncing a ball in precise time with one another, until their mothers come out to call them in to dinner in perfect unison. One of the mothers notices the trio and invites them in to dinner as well, all with the same disturbingly plastic smile and stilted tone of voice.
  • Stylistic Suck: One time, James Corden surprised viewers with a 4D presentation performed live by him and the cast. It was, in a nutshell, entertainingly bad.
  • They Called Me Mad!: The scientific establishment was not ready for Dr. Murry's theories on traveling by tesseract, or the idea of tesseracts at all.
  • Visual Pun: The entirety of the character of the Happy Medium has been rewritten from the book. Instead of being a seer who is happy, the entire character is based around spiritual balance, represented by physical balance.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Mrs. Whatsit's sort of plant-dragon form.
  • Weight Woe: When Mrs. Which is explaining IT to Meg, we see a montage of troubled people from around their town, including Veronica, the Alpha Bitch who bullies Meg, tearfully standing on a scale and staring at a list of food she doesn't allow herself to eat.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Mrs. Murry to her husband, when earlier he shared his theory on a wrinkle in time in front of a lecture, with no thought that they wouldn't be "ready".
    • Downplayed. While Mrs. Which does reprimand Mrs. Whatsit that humans aren't as capable of flight as they are, the former does it firmly and patiently.
  • Who's on First?: With Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit, it was bound to happen.