A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of the bastions of classic science fiction and has been an inspiration to children and adults, and in particular, an inspiration to STEM oriented young women—for decades. Perhaps more importantly, it was a generally secular novel that still pointed to God through quotes, lines and references throughout the book. The author was a professing Christian.
And now the largest and most skilled motion picture production company has brought it to the big screen. Disney had the vision and wherewithal to render the fantastic elements of A Wrinkle In Time like no one else. Eve and I expected a little disappointment, sure—Disney is, afterall, a singularly secular company; practically a religion unto itself. Still, we expected to enjoy the film. We expected to be able to point to it and say, “Here is where L’Engle points to the Creator and Light of the Universe.” We expected, to be able to provide a review with positive feedback.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth van Moltke
As we’ve stated several times over the years, we here at Are You Just Watching will not normally review movies rated “R” or movies that we do not personally enjoy. We usually don’t do faith-oriented movies either, since the worldview of movies like I Can Only Imagine and Paul, Apostle of Christ are worn on their sleeves and clearly point towards God. When we chose A Wrinkle In Time for March’s movie, we were both looking forward to it. Even with a healthy dose of skepticism, we were not prepared for what we saw.
See For Yourself
A Wrinkle in Time is actually the first of the five books of L’Engle’s Time Quintet series. Though an excellent book held in high regard, it is often not considered to be the best in the series. If you haven’t read them, be sure to check out L’Engle’s series: A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Many Waters (1986), and An Acceptable Time (1989). Either pick them up for yourselves (your library will thank you!) or borrow them from your local library. Not only will you get great books, but you will get to read them as the author intended. Unlike Disney’s movie.
What We Liked
Despite our general negativity for Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, there was SOME to like with the movie.
The score and soundtrack for A Wrinkle in Time was well suited to the material. Composed by Iranian-German composer Ramin Djawadi, it had a pleasant blend of Disney-esque lilt and and a touch of eastern flavor. Like any good score, it didn’t stand out or detract from the movie, rather it fed the atmosphere and flavor of the film exactly the way you want.
The cast of A Wrinkle in Time is all enjoyable, especially the “secondary” performance by Chris Pine. He continues to show versatility in the wide range of roles he takes. The younger actors were all very talented, as well. Storm Reid and Deric McCabe both personified their roles.
If you have not yet seen A Wrinkle in Time , but still might want to, be sure to check out the PluggedIn Online review for a breakdown of the positive and negative elements, including listing any profanity, violence, or spiritual content. Our honest recommendation for A Wrinkle in Time is, if you’ve read the book, pass on the movie. If you haven’t read the book, see the movie—THEN read the book.
What Wasn’t There
For Eve and I, everything wrong with A Wrinkle in Time was inextricably tied to abandoning the deeper, spiritual message of the book. Every change they made served to move away from the love of the light and the battle between Light and IT and to a message of self-love. There are some really key ways these changes were made.
Words in Mrs. Who’s mouth
In the book, Mrs. Who speaks only in quotations, much like in the movie. She speaks in several quotes that are heavily influenced by western and Christian influences, including more than a couple scripture quotes. Yet in the movie, those are all gone, replaced by eastern mysticism and platitudes about being true to yourself. In fact, a quote that ends up being critical to the movie’s story is from Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian and Sufi mystic:
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
They used this to replace quotes like this advice from Mr. Murray to his daughter Meg:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans [8:28])
Warriors of the light exclude Christianity
The core events of the book center around the battle between Light and It, a personification of darkness. Move than a few times in the book, famous warriors of the light are either alluded to or specifically mentioned. Included in this list more than once was Jesus (however theologically questionable even that might be). The movie leaves in scientists and philosophers, and throws in a couple religious leaders, but removes all Christians.
“Never worship me!”
Perhaps most importantly, in the book, the three Mrses make it perfectly clear that they are servants. In one scene, after Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a glorious creature, Calvin begins to bow down to her. Her response in the book was, “Not to me. Never to me,” clearing pointing the glory to God the creator rather than one of his creations. The movie removes references to a higher power and obscures any hints as to the origins of the Mrses entirely. No longer are the Mrses proper and behaved agents of the Light, but now they are flawed creatures who lie and lust and can be generally mean.
The Unhappy Medium
The Mrses weren’t the only character changed in critical ways. The Happy Medium in the book and the Happy Medium in the movie are so very different from each other. You could even think of them as diametrically in opposition. In the book, she is a cheerful, if tired, woman who serves the light by delivering visions of distant places through a crystal ball. In the movie he is an irritated and grumpy man with painfully obvious Buddhist origins. The Mrses bring the children there not to have the medium show them the truth of IT, but rather to teach the children to find the power to see IT within themselves. But we’ll get back to this very important change.
The Planet Not Visited
The movie creators also left out the critical interlude of Aunt Beast’s planet. It was here, in the book, that Meg came to terms with her actions and responsibilities, including how she had been a total brat to her father over leaving behind Charles Wallace. By removing all of this, the movie took away the understanding for the audience of Meg’s growth from irresponsible and selfish girl to a responsible, selfless, young woman. But, again, we’ll get back to this very important change.
Missing the reality of evil
In the book, the environment on Camazotz served the story in a specific, poignant way: it tied the actions of IT to a belief that the only way everyone could be equal was if everyone was exactly the same in appearance, behavior, and performance. The people of Camazotz were real people who suffered brainwashing and imprisonment and performed drone-like behaviors at the command of the It. The makers of the movie scrapped this entire message threw in the most mind-bending scene for its spectacle only.
A Human-sized Conflict
This all serves the general tendency of the movie to dumb down the entire conflict of the book series, the battle between Light and dark. The book presents the conflict as an ancient fight from before time itself, spreading through entire swaths of space. Camazotz is a regular planet full of regular people that evil has invaded and subjugated. The movie takes this cosmic struggle and unimaginable powers and turns it into a single malignancy grown on one planet. It makes it all manageable on a human scale, rather than humans being a small but significant part of something infinitely grander. In this way, too, they moved away from the truth of scripture, that MANKIND is next to nothing when compared to the nature and majesty of God:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand? Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure or weighed the mountains on a balance and the hills on the scales?” (Isaiah [40:12])
The last change we mention the role and very presence of the young man Calvin. In the book, Charles Wallace calls on Calvin for this mission—because that is what it was, a mission—because of his ability to communicate. Calvin and his skill ends up being critical to their success. In the movie, Charles Wallace tells him his gift is diplomacy.
This change is subtle, but like all the other changes, serves the “very important change” to the core message of the story, for diplomacy is more about preventing hostility than conveying truth. I personally believe this is part of the greatest threat to humanity in the world today, relativism. Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong exist in relation to their context and truth is not absolute. This idea directly contradicts God’s Word. It is also the second most common message coming out of Hollywood today. (Humanism being the first.)
All these changes play into the “very important change.”
The Message of A Wrinkle In Time
Who do you love?
The grand message of the movie is the single most important, and disturbing change of the entire enterprise. In the book A Wrinkle In Time, the story is about Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace and their role as warriors of the Light. In the movie A Wrinkle in Time, that message changed to one of self-love and self esteem. Nearly gone are the references to the unimaginably epic fight between light and dark; the warriors of Light are part of an infinitely larger conflict, drawing strength from an external source. In the movie, the message becomes fighting the darkness by finding the strength within through self esteem and self-love.
This change is made even worse when you consider the viewpoint character, Meg. In the book, she learned to draw strength from and have faith in those who loved her. In the movie, she learned that her hope only comes from within herself. The Meg Murry of the book succeeds through responsibility and self-sacrifice. The Meg Murry of the movie succeeds by embracing a distinctly selfish attribute–put into words when Meg declares to an It-possessed Charles Wallace:
Yet you love me. You should love me because I deserve to be loved!”
Mrs. Which (in the movie) sets up this turn about in message when she comforts Meg in her lack of self-esteem with this twisted advice, “Choices from the beginning of the universe led to you just exactly as you are.” [The weird thing about this advice is that it actually is true in an opposite sense—Adam and Eve’s choice to rebel has let to all of us being the sinners that we are today.]
The prince of this world wants nothing more than for us to believe that we find our only hope to overcome the evil in ourselves. He wants us to believe that we are not meant to serve, but to BE SERVED.
The Biblical Truth
This message contradicts the Word of God:
…because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something…” (1 Corinthians [1:25]-28)
The line between self-esteem and self love is one of idolizing. Love isn’t about loving ourselves, it’s about how we love others:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John [15:13])
And how we are to recognize what love is:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John [3:16])
When you believe yourself to be the most important part of all creation, you cannot truly love.
Meg Murray in the book is a brat, albeit a sympathetic one. She’s been through some rough times and her father seemingly abandoned her without explanation. She withdraws into herself and indulges in selfish fits. In the book, the story of her realization that she, her father, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and even the Mrses all serve something infinitely greater than themselves. The movie never gets Meg out of the gate. The movie is all about how she IS the hero, how she is the most important part of this fight.
Detour Into A Positive . . . sort of
One minor change we can appreciative is the gravitas the movie puts on Meg and Calvin’s relationships with their fathers. Meg’s relationship with her father is similar between book and movie, but the book does not draw attention to Calvin’s father. In the movie, Calvin’s father is a disciplinarian approaching levels of abuse. The movie does emphasize the impact of fathers, or lack thereof, on their children.
Inn the book, Meg’s father’s is on a sanctioned NASA mission, and NASA bears the responsibility for his continued absence. In the movie, Meg’s father is absent due to his own hubris. He wanted to “shake hands with the universe” and when the opportunity to do some came up, he leapt at it without regard to how it might affect his family. So in the book, Meg comes to understand a decision her father makes with which she (rather vehemently) disagrees, but in the movie, Meg’s dad makes a decision for which he ends up apologizing to Meg. Once again, it ends up being about Meg’s importance.
It’s About The Choices
That is what it all comes down to. When the creative team translated A Wrinkle in Time from page to screen, they had to make choices about what to keep and what to drop. It is the nature of beast. The team behind A Wrinkle in Time chose to use the framework of a patently Christian-themed message to communicate their own message of the importance of loving yourself and surviving on the strength within.
Perhaps they didn’t understand the elements of Truth in the book’s original message—oftentimes a hardened heart will blind people from the Truth. Perhaps they saw the elements of Truth and rejected them.
We can’t say. All we can be sure of is that the final product of this movie version of A Wrinkle in Time has perverted to be antithetical to God’s Word. The one hope we have for this movie is that it might encourage people to read the book in an effort to get the joy out of the story. Through the book version of A Wrinkle in Time, perhaps, just perhaps, God will open a reader’s heart to a seed of faith so that he or she will seek out the Truth in Scripture and in Christian fellowship, and the Holy Spirit will cause that seed to grow into a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the true savior of mankind.
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