Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) is a sci-fi/fantasy film directed by Ava DuVernay. When the audience is first introduced to the protagonist Meg, played by Storm Reid, her father has been gone for four years, and the family doesn’t know why. Then one by one Meg starts meeting Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which because of her little brother Charles Wallace. The Mrs. W’s tell Meg they can help find her father and bring him home. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend, Calvin, go with the mysterious women on a space adventure through tessering, in hopes of saving the children’s father. The book was written by Madeleine L’Engle and originally published in 1962.  For this week’s adaptation the focus will be on things that the movie changed from the book that had an overall positive impact for the viewers.

Starting off with a part that the film modified from the book, is a scene where the location and tone around the scene was changed to make it more fitting for younger audiences. One aspect the filmmakers changed from the books to the movie for this scene, is the setting of the encounter with Red. In the books it is in a room of CENTRAL Central Intelligence and has robots doing jobs, with the much more ominous Red looking over it all and waiting for the children. The room is a mix of an office and a board room which makes the children worried that they might get processed by the work robots. This is much different in the movie, where the scene takes place on a crowded beach, a place where people tend to feel comfortable and carefree. The new setting is supposed to relax the children and make their minds more easy to take over. A big thing that the movie keeps from the books is how Red, who is a puppet of the villian It, tries to hypnotize the children, especially Charles Wallace because the boy has a special gift, which never named. Red does this by trying to get them to recite the multiplication table, which is something that is factually proven and there can only be one right answer to each problem. Keeping this scene from the book gives more evidence to the audience and the children about what methods It uses to control people. The choice to make the setting different seems to be a result of the movie’s target audience being for younger children. For this particular scene I think the changes made fit with the tone of the movie but still keeps its significance from the book.

A Wrinkle in time book

Moving on to the mediums of storytelling, in the film A Wrinkle in Time there is no way a viewer could miss how CGI is used to create the otherworldly settings. In the scene where Meg first tessers, traveling through the universe through a tesseract, she is very unsure of herself and does not have much faith in each Mrs. W. On screen the Mrs. W’s open the tesseract, and a filter comes over certain places in the setting and makes everything distorted, creating the idea that space and time are being manipulated. When Meg tessers the audience is plunged into a world of darkness, demonstrating Meg’s self doubt and untrusting nature. Because of this Meg’s tessering experience, from the perspective of the viewer, looks like she is being blinded by a large piece of interdimensional cloth. The audience later learns in the movie, that to tesser successfully they need to be at one with themselves and the universe, and to use the love inside to see things clearly. At this point in the movie Meg isn’t capable of what is needed to successfully tesser, which makes the experience of tessering very painful for her.

The book only gives Meg’s experience of the tesser, so the reader only knows that Meg is in nothing but darkness and is unable to tell what is truly happening. The reader of the book gets to understand much more about her physical experience of going through the tesseract, like when she first arrives on a new plant she doesn’t even realize she has stopped traveling, instead she is left numb from cold and unable to feel her body. Where as in the movie, the image of the cold colored darkness and the cloth-like connections of interdimensional travel, help portray Meg’s experience in a way the audience can see. It also shows just how scared Meg really is, making it look more dramatic for the viewer instead of having just darkness on the screen, which is what Meg perceived from her experience. This difference from explaining emotions and inner battles to showing what it would look like from the outside, is a shift that helps the audience to understand the experience of the character, and also shows how some adaptations must keep with the essence of the medium in order to make a more comprehensible and enjoyable experience for the audience.

When watching A Wrinkle in Time, all the Mrs.W’s take the children to Orion’s Belt to meet an entity called the Happy Medium. The Happy Medium, who is male in the movie, lives in a cave filled with orange stones and gems all balancing on each other. The precariously stacked gems force the children and the Mrs. W’s to be very careful and keep perfectly balanced. In the book, the Happy Medium is a woman who lives out her existence on Orion’s Belt in a very small cave. She is friendly but sad because of all the darkness out in the universe, preferring to look through her crystal ball  at the love and joy out in the universe that hasn’t been tainted by the darkness. As much as she doesn’t like the idea of showing Meg the darkness she does so the young girl has a better understanding of the evil she is going to confront, much like with the male Happy in the movie. The Happy Medium in the book is quite caring and maternal towards Meg and senses there is a sadness and uncertainty inside her.

In the movie, the male Happy Medium is more standoffish, and is quite literal about the whole happy medium thing. He forcely encourages the other characters to find an inner balance and a literal balance on the teetering rocks. That is until he sees just how much Meg is hurting and is closing herself off. This leads him to taking her aside to attempt to help and explain things to her so she can believe in herself more fully. In this way, the male version starts to act more like the Happy Medium of the book who is caring because of everything she has seen in the universe. In both the movie and text the Happy Medium serves the same purpose. They both serve to enlighten Meg and help to locate the father. As well as being a paternal figure of sorts, something that Meg doesn’t accept from the Mrs. W’s. The Happy Medium is able to look past Meg’s faults to her true self which the Mrs. W’s don’t seem to do, which is a significant reason why Happy was one of my favorite characters in both the book and movie. As for the reasoning behind the switch between a man to a woman— I think it was meant to reflect the lack of a father figure in Meg’s life for the past several years and how much she has missed the relationship. An idea which would have more of an impact on Meg and the audience whether it was conscious or subconscious.

Looking at the movie as an adaptation it did a pretty good job overall of keeping with the essence of the book as it would relate to our current society. There were some things taken out like the obvious religious themes running through the book, or changes like the leaf pokemon the filmmakers decided to include in the movie (sidenote: Why was it there? Beats me. In the books it was a flying centare but I guess they thought flying cabbages are what kids were into during 2018.) It is a kids movie that really caters to its target audience which is probably why it got lower ratings, and as an adaptation the changes made seemed to make it enjoyable to that audience. I think it is a mostly successful adaptation when you look at things that were changed or taken out and how it enhanced the movie. In my next blog entry I will be doing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

— Jo Spangler, Film blogger.

Jo’s bio:

Jo Spangler
Jo Spangler

Jo Spangler is a junior at Lewis University, majoring in English Literature and Language with a minor in Creative Writing. She is a writing tutor in the Lewis Writing Center and a Youth Enrichment Aide for the YMCA. In her free time, Jo enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, and watching movies. She has been to 10 countries outside the United States, including England, Italy, Turkey, and Austria. One of Jo’s favorite book series is The All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness, because of how she mixes the supernatural with history and the focus on character development. In the future, she hopes to go into the publishing industry to help find new and exciting books for people to read.


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