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Avu DuVernay to direct A Wrinkle in Time

Lynn here, chewing on another bit of non-Oscar related movie news.

Ever since it was announced earlier this week that Ava DuVernay had signed on to direct the upcoming film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s much-beloved A Wrinkle in Time, I’ve been trying to imagine just how the director of Selma is going to approach a sci-fi fantasy that features benevolent shape-shifting inter-dimensional beings, entire planets controlled by a single giant brain, and children who literally cross the universe by bending the laws of both space and time.  She won’t be starting from scratch, at least; the project’s apparently been in the works for some time, with a script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee.  But this will be the first time the book’s ever been brought to the big screen.  It’s frequently, and unsurprisingly, been called unfilmable, and the only previous adaptation – a 2003 TV movie on ABC – was such a failure that it’s best known for the quip it inspired from L’Engle:

I expected it to be bad, and it is.”

In other words, there’s every reason for apprehension.  Is there also reason for hope?

I have a more than casual interest in the question, as A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books—not just from my childhood, but of all time.  L’Engle’s presentation of the eternal struggle between good and evil has the kind of pure, clean simplicity I especially appreciated as a child, but it’s complemented by her imaginative conception of an infinitely varied universe connected through simple laws of physics. According to Variety

DuVernay impressed Disney executives with her take on the project, which emphasizes a strong female-driven narrative and creatively approaches the science fiction and world-building elements of the book.” 

That sounds promising. But how will she try to depict those worlds, as well as the vividly drawn characters that emerge from them: in particular, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which—L’Engle’s playful riff on the three witches of Macbeth—and Aunt Beast, the loving, utterly strange caretaker whose physical description bears no resemblance to any pop culture alien we've seen.   Let's hope the movie doesn’t go overboard with the visual F/X, because this is definitely a case where less would be more.  (The easiest world to capture visually should be Camazotz, the Twilight Zone-like planet that has “given in”: if done right, I already know I’ll be freaked out by the synchronized playing kids, the man with the red eyes, and, of course, the repulsive, all-powerful IT.)

Ava speaking at the Elle Women in Hollywood event in 2015

At the center of this fictional universe is Meg Murry, the feisty, smart, but angry and awkward misfit teenage heroine whose search for her missing father drives the narrative.  It’s her character that reportedly drew DuVernay to the film (and I imagine attracted the writer of Frozen as well).  But the story’s just as much about Meg’s relationship with Charles Wallace, the adored little brother she loses only to find again, in a tearjerker of a climax that still gets me every time I read or even think about it.  If they cast the right kids to play Meg and Charles, that will go a long way towards making the movie a success.

To the extent I’d ever thought at all about a film version of the book, I vaguely imagined Steven Spielberg might be able to nail both the fantasy aspects and the emotional gut-punch of the scenes between Meg, Charles, and their father.  But what stamp will the intriguing DuVernay bring?  While a far cry from the historical drama of Selma, what A Wrinkle in Time does share in common with that story is the resonance of a moral fight that the fighters know they must carry on even when they seem most overmatched.  And that’s material we already know the lady can execute with great power.

So at this point, color me cautiously optimistic.  How about you?

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Reader Comments (5)

I feel great about this. It seemed almost inevitable that Duvernay would get a major studio job eventually, and of all possible franchises to get involved with this feels like a more creative opportunity than most. More freedom than a Marvel movie, at the very least; challenging source material is all the better, since it will actually require a vision/concept to execute.

February 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I obviously need to read this book again. this plot sounds insane but totally alien. which is weird because i loved the book as a child. why do i remember NOTHING about it?

February 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Really hoping she takes this opportunity and knocks it out of the park.

February 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Did anyone else immediately think of Jacob Tremblay as Charles Wallace?

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNicolas Mancuso

Nicolas - yes, I thought that while watching the Oscars! He'd be perfect.

March 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

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