It’s Time for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

A few years ago, Disney announced that it will be making a movie adaptation of the Newberry award-winning book A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L’Engle, and I could not have been more excited. The first and most popular installment in the Time Quintet series of sci-fi fantasy stories for children and young adults, it is easily one of the best children’s books of all time.

When I was thirteen years old, the young-adult section at National Bookstore was rife with selections from the Sweet Valley Twins series, Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew. The main characters were charming, outgoing girls my age who were living lives I could only dream about. Not that I had a lot of extra money for brand-new books anyway. Instead, I would go to a used-books store at the mall to trade my own pre-loved novels for newer titles, for a minimal exchange fee.

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I found A Wrinkle in Time at the bottom of a shelf, the same counter where, a few months ago, I fished out a tattered copy of Stephen King’s The Stand, a story that still haunts me to this day (yup, that was a good shelf).

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And just like that, I met fourteen year-old Meg Murry, the series’ main character, and antithesis to the effulgent Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefields of the world of 90s YA literature. I related immediately to the shy, socially awkward, and introverted protagonist, and her quest to save her father from the annals of an intergalactic prison. She is joined in her undertaking by her younger brother Charles Wallace, a peculiar but gifted young boy, and a schoolmate and potential love interest, Calvin O’Keefe. Together they travel through a modified version of the fabric of space and time, battling evil in extra-terrestrial form, at one point even going head-to-head with Central Intelligence, literally the brain of one of the planets they passed by. It was the book that introduced me to the concept of wormholes, time travel, and the quantum foam – all of which I thought were science fiction at the time. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I read my first Stephen Hawking, that I realized that these ideas were in fact based on repeatable theories.

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Excerpt from the book

It also turned out that I wasn’t alone. To-date, the book has sold more than 14 million copies worldwide, and BBC lists it as one of the ten greatest, along with classic, more familiar titles such as The Little PrinceAlice in Wonderland, and Little Women. Meg Murry is apparently a veritable heroine to many other bookish, nerdy girls as well.

Yet I am often surprised at how very few people from my generation and current geography have even heard about this book (it did experience a slight spike in online sales after Chelsea Clinton referred to it in a speaking engagement in the campaign trail for her mother, as one of the biggest influences of her teenage years). Written around the same time as better known children’s books such as Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1962), L’Engle’s story of immortal time-travelers and pre-pubescent adventurers spanning several planets and dimensions, is yet to really hit mainstream, this despite the fact that the story has inspired a graphic novel, an opera play, and even a short TV series released in the US and Canada in 2003.

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Fan art. (Source: Tumblr)

The film received generally poor reviews, and reports confirm that author L’Engle herself did not like it, and was quoted as saying that it was ‘very bad’). It appears that the rest of the viewing public felt the same way, as it was generally slammed by fans for veering too far away from the plot of the book, and focusing a bit too much on the series’ Christian-theology aspect.

This time around however, Disney has summoned the powers that be and put together an unbeatable cast and crew that are sure to produce a good show, and rake in the big bucks. No less than writer/director Jennifer Lee of the box-office hit Frozen is writing the screenplay, and Selma and 8-Mile’s Ava Duvray will be directing.  The former is expected to apply the secret sauce that is sure to make the movie as appealing to youth of all ages as her 2013 mega-blockbuster, while the latter will insert the much-needed depth of perspective in a story that really does require more than the average-level of introspection.

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Top-billers include Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and one of my favorite comedians, Mindy Kaling, in the roles of the Meg’s sort-of “fairy godmothers” and guides throughout their journey through space and time – Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who respectively.  Chris Pine is set to play the missing Murry patriatch, while Zach Galifianakis is going to be the Happy Medium. An open casting for the youngest Murry, the strange but talented Charles Wallace, recently yielded Fil-Am actor Deric McCabe, while the lead role of Meg Murry went to 13-year-old actress Storm Reid of 12 Years’ A Slave fame.

As of writing, it has not been revealed whether the movie will be in CG or live animation. I am inclined to hope that I’ll see live actors, but that also makes me a little bit apprehensive. After all, they had a pretty decent cast and big-bucks budget for the silver-screen adaptation of Ender’s Game (2013) too, but even Ben Kingsley and Obi-Wan himself could not save the film from becoming a big disappointment among fans of the popular Orson Scott Card franchise. Similar to A Wrinkle in Time, much of the reason why fans related to the eponymous Ender Wiggin was because the book allowed them to be in his head a lot. The movie, unfortunately, did not quite capture that level of introspection, and the film ended up being just another special-effects showcase.

Meanwhile, I’m just glad that big players in Hollywood have taken notice, are giving it the attention and investment it deserves. Sadly, Madeleine L’Engle will no longer be around to see the film; she passed away in 2007.  But fans all over the world, whose hearts her characters touched throughout the years, will be watching in her stead, and maybe somewhere in the time-space continuum, she will receive our collective message of thanks.

A Wrinkle in Time is currently filming, and is scheduled for release in 2018.

Have you read any of the Murry books by Madeleine L’Engle? Which ones are your favorite? Tell me about them by leaving a comment below.

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