Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Wrinkle In -- Hey! That's Not Your Billboard!

     I was looking forward to seeing Hollywood's take on A Wrinkle In Time.  I have fond memories of reading the book in childhood, one of the first overtly science-fictiony books to cross my young horizons, and with a female protagonist, no less!

     Of course, the big (or little) screen never tells the story the way you read it; some things can't be staged or CG'd -- fewer and fewer, these days -- some casts don't offer much in  the way of visual appeal or "star-worthy" roles, some stories for children are a bit preachy and some screenwriters and directors Just Don't Get It.  (Exhibit A, Starship Troopers.)  Sometimes, Hollywood does get it right -- The Maltese Falcon is as perfect an example of how to film a book as you will ever find, with one exception: Humphrey Bogart, wonderful in the role, doesn't look a thing like Dashiell Hammett's description of Sam Spade!*  My expectations are never high; in the case of Madeleine L'Engle's classic, casting Oprah Winfrey meant the cinematic Mrs. Which was likely to be significantly different from her literary original.  This is just the kind of thing that happens in the leap from book to screen; sometimes it's okay -- Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes aren't quite the fellow from the stories but we recognize them readily enough -- and other times, you get Robert Downey, Jr.

     Meg gets a makeover too, one I find entirely plausible for a young lady who frets over her unmanageable hair.  This is what Hollywood does: unable to easily let you overhear a character's thoughts, they use shorthand, hints and cultural tropes.  I expect it.

     What I didn't expect was a frikkin' social justice (pro and con) war in the reviews.  Reviewers all across the political spectrum use the not-100%-lily-white cast as a banner to wave, one direction or another, and get so tangled up in it that they're not telling me much about the film itself.  Look, it may or may not be carrying the weight of Hollywood's present preoccupations and that may be occasion for cheering or jeering, but that stuff is just background noise for the story.  Very few of the reviewers, perhaps dazzled by Ms. Winfrey, appear to have realized there's a story happening. Oh, I see "choppy" used a lot, but the book is choppy; that's essential to the narrative.  And not a one of the reviewers has bothered to bring a child along and ask them about the movie, either.  After reading reviews and looking at Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, I know a little more about human nature but I learned more about the film itself from the trailers.

     Clearly, I'll have to go see it for myself.
* Seriously different: “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.” ... “He was quite six feet tall. The steep rounded slope of his shoulders made his body seem almost conical—no broader than it was thick.” 


Jerry said...

The one that especially irritated me was the "I, Robot" movie where they kept the title and nothing else. Robin Williams in "Bicentennial Man" was wonderful.

Ken said...

I'm probably gonna let the foofooraw die down and get the DVD from the liberry later (I watch more movies that way than in the theater anyway).

Douglas2 said...

The impression that I got from the NPR reviewer a few days ago was that kids will enjoy it if they haven't read the book. It was pretty easy to read between the lines that he wanted to be complimentary and promote the film, but that he found the screenplay weak and the directing weaker.

Ruth said...

I need to re-read those, I haven't read them since I was a kid. I don't usually care for movie adaptations, but we'll see.

D.W. Drang said...

I'm pretty sure I read the book, but that was so long ago, the only SF I remember fir sure reading was Heinlein, because I still have all the paperbacks.

Howard Taylor liked it, which tels me they made a decent movie, even if it does not replicate the juvenal novel. Schlock Mercenary - A Wrinkle In Time

Mike V said...

I agree that Bogie looked nothing like the fictional Spade, much as Tom Cruise looks nothing like Jack Reacher but both did the characters justice. And I REALLY wish someone would make a serious version of Starship Troopers! It would make a great movie IMHO.

thinkingman said...

Did you actually READ the short story, The Bicentennial Man , by I. Asimov? The movie flat sucked compared to the story , IMHO. The movie attempted to leave out details that , I guess, would have been found unpalatable by the mass audience, adding a bunch of gloss , fluff, and whole sequences that simply were not present in the story. That, and the ending was all wrong. How we got to the ending was wrong, too, meaning that it simply was not the story the title promised. The movie was deservedly unpopular; for me, it only represented time worse than wasted, and money spent with a negative return.
If you liked, fine. I can only think that, if you did, you must not have read the story. As for the late Robin Williams, he delivered exactly the warmed over serving of "Mork from Ork " I'd expected. He WAS capable of better ( as in Awakenings ).

Zendo Deb said...

There are very few SciFi stories done right. And most lately seem to be on the small screen. The recent adaptation of Childhood's End while a bit different, was as true to Clarke's story as I think you could be. (Hard to describe what the Overmind is thinking on screen.)

The miniseries of Dune wasn't bad (and MUCH better than that cheesy movie from the 80s). But then I never really liked that book all that much.

Outside of SciFi, the old miniseries of Shogun seemed to capture the feel of the book. But I haven't seen that since it first aired on television.

I was mostly happy with the adaptation done for Lord of the Rings though I don't like the version released in theaters. The Extended Edition is the only way to go.

As for A Wrinkle in Time, I see this mostly as the latest "star vehicle" for Oprah. If I see it at all, it will be much later, on a small screen.

Roberta X said...

Thinkingman: do you suppose you could share your thoughts *without* making personal attacks? Try for "I" statements, not "you" statements; you can share your experiences of a book, or a film made from it, without impugning other people's experiences. Reading as book is a subjective experience, more so than watching a film or TV show; we focus on different things, visualize the scenes and characters differently, assign different emotional weight to the dialog and narrative. A good writer guides the readers through similar experiences, but they're not the same -- and when one (or a few) readers make the story into a movie or TV show, how they choose to tell the story in that medium may not be how you would tell it.

There are differences between the TV series "The Expanse" and the books it is based on. They're both very good stories and they are more similar than not -- but they're not the same.

Roberta X said...

Zendo Deb: Having just last night finished re-reading "A Wrinkle In Time," if the film sticks close to Mrs. Which's behavior, it's not much of star vehicle for Ms. Winfrey, as the three children who are the actual stars mostly encounter her *presence* rather than her *person.* So that's yet another reason to go find out.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Brett... I enjoyed his performances as Sherlock Holmes, more so than any other actors to portray him and Edward Hardwicke as Watson was the perfectly portrayed foil... thought he was able to thoroughly immerse himself in the role and depict Holmes as Doyle presented him, defects and all

Roberta X said...

Oh, I thought Jeremy Brett did a great job -- he's not the Holmes I pictured but he certainly was Sherlock Holmes.