Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Wrinkle in Time: The Disney TV Movie

I wrote a little too much for Bill Cork's comment box, so I'll post it here instead. It's a lot kinder and more balanced than the comments I had during and after the movie, I assure you.

It didn't entirely stink. The CGI was done by people who'd obviously liked the book. Also, there were certain inherent problems in adapting a book about thoughts and feelings to a visual medium. But.

Any Meg who doesn't wear glasses is wrong. I liked the actress and what she did with what she was given -- but the angry pretty hood/nerd is a different species from the angry tubby nearsighted nerd. I cried bitter tears over this.

(Yes, literally. I hadn't had a lot of sleep the night before, and besides, AWIT was the first science fiction book I ever read. It means a lot to me, and I identified heavily with Meg as a child. My fourth grade self takes adaptations very seriously, and insists they be faithful to the letter.)

Any movie which consistently reverses or destroys the writer's really important images and metaphors is a bad adaptation. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was pretty darned bad.

One of the prime moments of the novel is the street in Camazotz. It's in the normal suburbs, and every house has the same accessories: the same perfect lawn, the same perfect flowers, and an expressionless girl skipping rope or an impassive boy bouncing a ball. (Little kids, mind you, not teenagers as in the movie.) Each child is doing the same thing the same way, not just to the same rhythm. The only exception is a boy who can't quite manage to keep a ball bouncing in time at all, much less for as long and as perfectly as the others. The movie made this child a flashy Michael Jordan of the junior high set, which is quite a different metaphor than somebody who can't do sports at all. Especially since we already have Calvin to be the gifted athlete of the book.

The image of a boy trying his best to bounce the ball and being embarrassingly bad at it, yet refusing to surrender to Evil in exchange for mindless perfection, was a very important and personal thing to many of us with bad coordination. Yet Disney changed this important plot point without an apology or second thought. It felt like a slap in the face to L'Engle and to us.

People who are awkward, or who don't have perfect eyes or sports skills, have no business being in a movie, it seems.

As one blog reviewer said, "It raped my childhood."

The Happy Medium was really gay. The sad thing was that the actor at least understood better than the Which, Who, and Whatsit actresses how to play a fantasy/comedy/drama role. I kept wanting to smack them upside the head for hamming so badly. This wasn't children's theater and playing to the back row in a giant turtle suit or something. They were supposed to be mysterious, powerful and bizarre beings with a touch of whimsy, not assaulting the world with a whimsy brick!

The book isn't overrated. My fourth-grade self urges me to say this in the strongest term. (She also is exasperated by the idea of assigning it to anyone, much less the wide array of Cliff Notes and essays-for-sale ranged about it these days in defensive rings. Studying a book in school makes it less comprehensible and removes all of its power, she feels.)

I'm surprised most people didn't comment about all the times the Christianity was sucked right out of the movie. For example, the translation of the winged people's singing was originally a quote from the Psalms. Although other quotes were often left intact, almost all Biblical and saints' quotes were removed. It was very blatant. I was surprised they left St Paul and Emily Dickinson in at the pivotal point.

So, although it didn't stink as badly as it could have, it stunk.

As for la Madeleine, it should be recognized that she is old, sick, cantankerous (it's said), and the possessor of an occasionally dry sense of humor. She has been known to write Bible fanfic herself (Many Waters). Also, she's Episcopalian and was writer in residence at St. John's the Divine. feeling about the Da Vinci comment is that she thinks it's fun and interesting because she doesn't believe it for a minute, and assumes that the readership knows it's all made up as well. For a writer, it's a fun trope to play with. If she has been spared the disheartening realization that people _are_ that ignorant and gullible by her age and meds -- well, I only wish I could be so blessed.


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