Too Many Opinions
I went to see “A Wrinkle in Time” with my Artist Friend (call her AF – you’ll see why below…). But I brought along a supernumerary assortment of extra-me people, which was perhaps not the best idea .
In my wake crowded the Twelve Year Old Me (TYOM), my Inner Editor/Critic (IE/C), and my Inner Cynic (ICyn). They all had Opinions. The discussion was quite animated, in fact.
It started well before the movie, awaiting the beginning of the main feature, while I was trying to ignore the trailers (all of which seemed to point rather firmly in the direction of the inescapable fact that this was a “kid” movie, because all the other trailers were for “kid” movies. Including one featuring a garden gnome variation of Sherlock Holmes. Um.) It began something like this:
TYOM: “A Wrinkle in Time! Whee! I’ve been waiting forever for that thing!”
ICyn: I hope they haven’t screwed up. They’ve been known to screw up before. Did y’all know there was another version of it – another Disney one, as it happens? And it turned up back in 2003, four years before Madeleine L’Engle died, and she said at the time, ‘I expected it to be bad, and it is.’
IE/C: Okay, so I never saw that version, so I can’t speak to it. And I read the book a long time ago – as a kid…
IE/C: …as a kid, and my critical faculties were very much subservient to my senseawunda. I just hope…
TYOM: You’re never too old for wonder!
ICyn and IE/C (a little darkly): We shall see.
So all of us (the two humans plus all my inner voices) watched the movie. The chatter began immediately afterwards.
AF: It was beautiful. I loved the colors…
TYOM: Yes! It was beautiful!
Myself: It was always going to be beautiful. This is a story of the imagination, more than anything else. But if I remember the book…
That was the last time any of the humans really got a word in edgeways.
IE/C: It’s missing L’Engle’s faith. Again. I mean, if they had put it in there would have been those who would inevitably have complained that the movie was trying to push an agenda – but be that as it may, it was such an integral part of the original story. It feels like an amputation was performed – and there’s a good prosthetic limb in place but walking with it is still a little jerky and uncoordinated – and often doesn’t go where the story wants to or is meant to go…
TYOM: It was pretty awesome. Once it got past “she’s being bullied” stage. It was beautiful, it had lots of fun stuff. The flowers on the space meadow? The magic Whatsit flying lettuce leaf thingy?
ICyn: yeah, with all the humans always trying too hard and getting it wrong, and then it’s up to the vegetation, as it were, to make for a soft landing when Stupid Sidekick goes careening off the edge.
TYOM: That’s a bit harsh, talking that way about poor Calvin.
ICyn: Was he such a nebbish in the book? Does he really need to be told – after they are specifically enjoined to be “suspicious of everyone” – that he doesn’t just offer up their names and their quest to the first smarmy stranger on a decidedly weird beach, in exchange for a sand sandwich? And come to that, doesn’t he know better than to eat any food offered in Fae Lands? I mean, he was all ready to go with Stepford Mommy in exchange for a promise of a roast and potatoes and a pudding, before Meg told the woman they were not that hungry. When does a sidekick become a liability?
IE/C: Here’s where I trip up. They are specifically – very specifically, couched in a Gift That Is A Command – told not to split up, and enjoined not to trust anyone – and the first thing they do when the Mrs W trio leave them alone on the Planet of Darkness is they lose Charles Wallace. Then Calvin and Meg get themselves flung in “we aren’t in Kansas any more” style on top of the ledge wall which they were trying to scale – where they meet up with Charles Wallace as though nothing untoward had happened, and immediately trust that it is him (how did HE get there?) – and absolutely NO consequences are incurred after they blow the “don’t split up” stricture. Not even that, but in the Brain-of-IT scene where the profession of love that conquers all occurs – both Calvin and the father they’d gone in search of conveniently disappear, only to both appear with Meg and Charles Wallace when they all turn up back in their own back yard…
ICyn: And this being Disney the path to all righteousness is “know thyself” – one of the “gifts” Meg receives is “her faults” – but really – she’s “messy”? And “impulsive”? And similar things that, when taken together and distilled into a person, spell “teenager” – seriously? These great faults are going to help her here? (oh, and by the way – is Meg now the newest Disney Princess…?)
IE/C: They leave out a lot of stuff in order to leave room for the pretty pretty CGI…
TYOM: But it was AWESOME, seeing all those worlds –
IE/C: They missed out on the world with Aunt Beast on it. And as for the rest, it was like getting subliminal postcards with “wish you were here – oh sorry – gotta go” messages scrawled on them…
ICyn: Back to that “I’m just me” and “I’m worthy of love as I am” message – and don’t get me wrong, these are important messages – but seriously – this is a movie whose basic premise (and they explained that beautifully in a scene which appears in the trailer but which apparently doesn’t appear at all in the finished movie or else I blinked and missed it) is that it is possible to instantly traverse the universe by *bending space/time* and literally wishing yourself there… the idea that the saving grace of the whole thing is a teenager’s achieving inner peace and acceptance of herself… well, we’re probably all screwed, if that’s the case. We’re all rather incoherent and discombobulated as teens.
It’s a given. There’s a certain amount of inability to achieve that peace and acceptance. We’re still growing into it, and fighting it all the way. Meg suddenly doesn’t feel like a teenager, but some kind of gently smiling old soul floating on a sea of serenity. So we’ve left behind a scientific idea which is the basis for the plotline and we’ve gone all the way into the territory of “of course you can” and “you just need to believe in yourself”. Which kind of puts a whole new edge on tessering. Are the only people who are going to be able to do that people who really really like themselves and are at complete peace with who and what they are? That leaves out a rather significant portion of humanity. The majority of them, in fact. Which makes tessering a rather limited gift, as it were…
TYOM: They wore beautiful costumes. And the worlds really were AMAZING. But the little brother is kind of a git.
IE/C: Yes identifying with characters – this somehow becomes, oddly, Charles Wallace’s movie rather than Meg’s. They all keep saying to her “we knew you could do it” – but in this version of the movie, what did she do, exactly? She gibbered a little in the Happy Medium scene and said she couldn’t do this. Then things were explained to her. Then she ended up diverting the tesser and taking them straight where they shouldn’t have gone, losing the help of the Mrs W trio in the process. Then she loses her little brother to the Evil Thing. Then she tries to get him back (with no real help from the sidekick character whose only role seems to be to stand there and give Meg affirmations in the shape of telling her he likes her hair…) Then she inexplicably finds Dad. Then HE fails to get the boy back. Then suddenly he appears to be able to use tessering again – but Meg digs in her heels (metaphorically) and um something happens and Daddy’s gone again and so is Calvin and she’s alone with IT and Superboy-Gone-To-Bad, and all it takes to get THIS sorted out is an admittance to some minor character flaws and an insistence that she loves her little brother…
ICyn: If love really were able to instantly defeat the darkness of IT – by itself – then put any grieving mother who has just lost a child in front of it, and have those mothers fling all that lost love at IT; for that matter, take any pet owner who’s ever had to watch over the death of a beloved pet. If love was the only thing that mattered… Earth is not yet that far gone. There is enough love. Gather it and focus it and we’re invulnerable. But it takes just ONE girl, just ONE sisterly devotion…? And it’s all good?
IE/C: It’s a feel-good movie which wasn’t unexpected, and it’s really beautifully…
TYOM: There’s a wonder. I mean, look at those sweeping vistas. Look at how quickly a forest can grow and then be demolished. Look at those clouds. Look at the way the world wibbles when you tesser through it. There’s a lot of wonder.
ICyn: A lot of CGI does not a good story make.
IE/C:… they couldn’t quite make it hang together, could they? It’s supposed to be contemplative – there’s supposed to be a bigger message – and yet in the end we’re left in a rather syrupy pool of happily ever after with a very muddled idea of what actually happened. In the end, we fall back to platitudes and a rosy-spectacle glow of a reunited family with mommy and daddy in a passionate embrace, the kid brother smugly satisfied as though he had wrought the whole thing by himself, and a dreamily smiling teenage girl who’s ready to forgive her tormentor bully, hang loose until the pretty boy sidekick finds the courage to face his own monsters and then “call her later”, and find inner peace at an age when most of us are still staring into mirrors willing that incipient zit on our chin to please just go away now…
AF: Did anyone ever tell you that you’re weird?…
They’re still arguing. I tiptoed away.
The takeaway message? A couple of hours of decent entertainment, but I left distinctly underwhelmed by the adaptation. I am left feeling rather churlish for asking too many questions, and perhaps having too great a level of expectations. Perhaps I should have just taken TYOM in with me, and left the other two in the foyer eating popcorn. But eh. I didn’t. And it’s flawed.
However – and this is yet another encounter I have had this year with the 13th century poet Rumi, and he does seem to be getting around a lot recently, early in the 21st – the fond-of-quoting Mrs Who flings Rumi’s “It’s through the crack that the light enters” quote at our venturesome protagonist trio. And perhaps that might be enough – perhaps this is just the crack that allows a greater light to shine through. I am perfectly certain that there are any number of young girls (particularly young black girls, who are sorely misrepresented out there) who will take this and run with it. And if it gives any one of them a few moments more of standing there and looking at themselves and telling themselves that they are worthy of being loved… perhaps that is enough.
And the Twelve Year Old Me just popped back in to say that she did enjoy it.
I’m keeping the other two away until they’ve settled back down into their quiet places.
“Why We Still Need Aunt Beast”
At ElectriLit, Jaime Green writes about Aunt Beast, the gentle alien who doesn’t show up in the film of A Wrinkle in Time but was crucial to the book—and the misfit girls who loved it.
READ IT HERE