There are certain books that simply have to exist in order for me to be me. I couldn’t be the person I am without The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) by Thomas Mann, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. These are all books that have an allegorical element, a trans-formative effect, that shapes how you think and how you live after reading them. Some of these books have not been made into a movie. Some probably still can’t be. Others have not been made into an effective movie. But, then, Disney in 2018 makes a movie version of A Wrinkle in Time that makes me relive the primary experience of the book all over again.
I was disappointed to see the critics being harsh about the movie. I had high hopes before going to see it. Yet, you couldn’t miss the one star rating on the box office rating system of the ticket and show time site I was using. But my daughter and I went to see it yesterday anyway. It was far above my highest expectations.
You see, the novel itself is magical. The essential characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which have to be witch-like, super-real incarnations of inter-dimensional beings. It is the view of them with open-minded childlike eyes that makes the complex relationships of this story to reality apparent to anyone who thinks clearly like a child. It is the reason why this book is a young adult novel, written primarily for children, even though the concept of a tesseract is wholly mind-bending in a Stephen Hawking sort of way. It is the wonder with which the director of this movie lensed the dimension-tessering time witches that makes this movie the best version. Not like that failed attempt in 2003. That was almost there, but not quite by half.
Strangely enough, the things that the critics seem to hate about this version of the movie are precisely the things that I think make it miraculous.
Critics don’t like some of the special effects and the color schemes of some scenes. Many things about the final battle with evil are seen by them as inexplicably bizarre. They don’t like the over-use of extreme close-ups on the faces of characters. And they think the performances of some of the child actors are too wooden and unreal to carry off the story.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
This is a story that takes place in the heads of the people involved, including the viewer of the movie. The extreme close-ups pull you into the personal feelings and struggles of the main characters. Particularly Storm Reid as Meg. The story is about her struggle as an adolescent to be at peace with her own flaws and self-image while at the same time being responsible for finding and saving her father, as he has completely lost his way on his quest to “shake hands with the universe”. Meg undergoes a challenge to her self image as she is cruelly bullied by another girl in school. She has to come to terms with loving her super-genius little brother Charles Wallace. And she has to weather the changes that occur when she encounters a potential first love in Calvin. It is a coming of age story that really smart kids can relate to directly from their own personal experience.
This one-star movie with only a 40% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a far better movie than the critics would have you believe. It is doing quite well at the box office. Kids seem to love it. And in my wacky opinion, it is the best movie version of the book to date. I love this movie.