A Wrinkle in Time, on ABC
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Based on the book by Madeleine L'Engle, which I have read, but I hadn't read it yet at the time that this aired in 2004. Anyway, this movie was originally supposed to be a miniseries, and it was delayed a few times, and I feel like the first time I heard of it, it was supposed to be on some cable network, maybe ABC Family or something. But eventually it aired on ABC... and I don't recall being aware of that, at the time. It's something I know I had wanted to see, for at least a year before it finally aired, and I guess it's possible I knew it would be airing when it did... but I doubt it. Either way, I didn't get to see it. But finally I got it on DVD in 2018, and watched it on the weekend that a new movie based on the book was released theatrically. When I first decided to watch it then, some time beforehand, I wasn't quite sure if I'd put my review in my TV movies section or my miniseries section. Even though what finally aired was cut to 128 minutes (which is what the DVD is), it's still longer than a typical TV movie. (With commercials, it took three hours to air instead of two.) And it's not unheard of for something planned as a miniseries to air all on one night even without cuts. So I started thinking I'd have to see if the movie as it appears on the DVD had any sort of break between parts. But then within a couple days before I watched it, I remembered that it had aired under the "Wonderful World of Disney" banner, so I decided the question of "movie or miniseries" was moot. I'd just put the review on my list of that series's installments, either way.
Well, by the time I watched this, I didn't remember the book in any detail. But I suppose the movie basically follows the plot. I want to say that apparently the movie wasn't particularly well received by critics, nor by Madeleine L'Engle herself. Personally, I thought it was okay. Not really great, but not really bad, either. I also want to say that at various points, the movie made me think of things that could just as well apply to the book, but which I'm not sure I thought of when I read it. Like, there are a lot of fictional stories that have "darkness" as a sort of actual villain or nefarious force. And a fair number of stories with characters called "It" as nemeses. And at one point I thought of the main character, Meg Murry, as a sort of badass, but not in terms of physical combat. There's a scene where various historical figures are mentioned as examples of "warriors," who fought the Darkness (whether they knew it or not), but not in a physical sense, more a philosophical one. Such is the case with Meg (and her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe). I like it when stories represent intelligence and kindness as their own sort of badassery. But what I mainly want to say is that the book is weird, and the movie does a pretty decent job of being weird, too. Certainly the movie isn't as good as the book. It has any number of flaws. But it tells the basic story, and I think it gets across the same basic ideas, and I repeat: it has pretty much the same weirdness.
Anyway, here's the story: A teenage girl named Meg Murry feels unloved, and like an outsider. She has two loving and brilliant parents, and fairly normal, bratty twin younger brothers, and her youngest brother, six-year-old Charles Wallace, who is apparently more evolved. He has some degree of telepathy, and possibly other powers he may develop someday. Their father had disappeared a year before the movie begins. One day, a crow gets Meg's attention while she's in school, and later at home. That night, the crow flies into the Murrys' home, and transforms into a woman named Mrs. Whatsit (Alfre Woodard). Charles Wallace already knew her, but she seems quite strange to Meg and her mother. But she mentions a tesseract, which is something Meg had previously seen her mother looking up on the internet. (Incidentally, the fact that she used the internet is probably the only indication I had that the movie was set in the present, rather than the 1950s, as the book was.) The next day, Charles Wallace takes Meg to the remains of an old house, to look for Mrs. Whatsit, but she's not there. (Viewers will see a floating pair of glasses, which we later learn belong to Mrs. Who.) And um... then they go home. Then a boy named Calvin O'Keefe (Gregory Smith) comes to their house. He had previously helped out the other day, when some boys (including his younger brother) were picking on Charles Wallace. He was apparently compelled by an unknown force to come to their house today, though really I don't think it would be entirely inaccurate to assume he wanted to see Meg again. While Calvin is athletic and popular, unlike Meg, he's also smart (like all the Murrys, and unlike anyone else in his own family).
Well, Charles Wallace invites Calvin to stay for dinner, and later... something compels Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin to meet Mrs. Whatsit outside. She takes them all to another world, where they meet Mrs. Who (whom Charles Wallace already knew) and Mrs. Which (who I've already forgotten whether CW knew or not, but anyway she's not as friendly as the other two ladies). The three kids are all going to have to go to yet another world to rescue Meg's father, who had apparently been transported there because of his research into tesseracts, which he didn't properly understand. The world he's on has been taken over by the darkness (which is controlled by a being called "IT"), a force of evil which the forces of good have been fighting for a very long time, and which threatens to take over Earth, as well. (It's been here for a long time, and has apparently been responsible for a lot of the evil in the world, maybe all of it. I'm not sure. But watching the movie in 2018, I think it's safe to say the darkness is still here.) There is a man who is a servant of IT, who I guess has abilities similar to those of Charles Wallace, and who tries to lure him to join IT's side. Meg and her father and Calvin have to tesser to another world without Charles Wallace, but eventually Meg will have to go back and try to free him. And I want to say that Meg's argument that being alike (as all the people on that planet are forced to be) is not the same as being equal reminded me of the Cutie Map episodes of "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic."
And... I'm not really sure what else to say. It's a shame the movie couldn't have been better, but I assume the 2018 theatrical film is better than this TV movie, so I look forward to seeing that. But I also think it's too bad that this movie is, IMHO, underappreciated. And I'm glad I've finally seen it.