So our protagonists need to go to this evil planet, Camaztoz, where they need to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father (he probably has a name, but I don’t remember it and I don’t expect you to remember it either, so I’m just going to keep describing him by relation). There’s a subtle, but really major change here. In the books, the Mrs.es knew where Meg’s dad was all along and always planned to send the kids to the planet of evil to rescue him. It’s really irresponsible of them to do it, but they’re Alien-Star-Angels, so they kind of get a pass. Apparently kids work best so they’re going to use kids to do the job, with faith, love and hope as their weapons. In the movie, the Mrs.es are much more responsible, they don’t know where Meg’s dad is and as soon as they find out, they immediately decide it’s time to go back to Earth and involve Meg’s mother. Meg gets panicked by this and is so eager to find her father, she hijacks the Wrinkle and the three kids end up stranded on Camaztoz without the Mrs to help them. So in the film, they accidentally end up in the most evil place in existence because Meg is overly emotional (this is not the only time Meg does something like this). In the book, they willingly go because they believe they’re the only ones who can do it, which makes all three of them a hell of a lot braver, even if it’s also sort of reckless and dangerous.
There’s an extra scene in the movie here that I really don’t like. Honestly, it’s what broke me. When they arrive on Camazotz, Charles Wallace gets separated from Meg and Calvin and they get attacked by a giant tornado. It’s all dramatic and there’s loads of special effects. They’re trying to outrun the thing by getting to this big cliff like wall. It’s clear that they’re not going to make it, so Meg falls to the ground and starts doing some Maths! The twister is flinging stuff in the air, so she thinks the best bet is for the two of them to hunker down in a tree stump, and let the storm throw them up to the top of the cliff. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.
1) She’s meant to have worked it out using trigonometry. This simply isn’t possible as she has no hard numbers for how much force the twister is exerting or how much the tree stump, plus her and Calvin would weigh. It doesn’t matter how good you are at maths, it’s just not something that can be worked out by line of sight alone.
2) Even if it did work, it doesn’t matter, they’re still dead, the storm launches them right up into the air, to the top of a freaking cliff. There’s impact there, a lot of it. Every bone in their body should be broken. Even if the zenith of the throw directly matches the height of the cliff meaning there’s no vertical impact, there’s still a tonne of horizontal impact that should wreck them to hell and back.
3) The scene was completely pointless. It added nothing to the plot but some minor Calvin and Meg shipping, as afterwards he’s really impressed by her ability to do maths. Calvin and Meg shipping isn’t absent in the book, but it was done a hell of a lot more subtly than this.
They find Charles Wallace again immediately, because that was useless filler (and not necessary filler, as they cut out like three chapters later on). There’s another very significant change here that I don’t like. In the movie Camaztoz keeps morphing around them as different landscaped and people start popping out of the ground. It’s kind of cool and if I hadn’t read the original book I probably wouldn’t have minded, but I think it ruins a major theme of the story. In the film, Camazotz is basically magic. It’s like Wonderland, you can’t accept anything that you see as existing. They’re in the heart and mind of evil. It’s threatening, especially since they’re there by accident in the film, but it’s also not real. In the book, Camazotz is an actual planet, not too different to Earth. When they land there, they find it surprisingly normal looking, almost benign. Then they go down to this town, where outside every house there’s a child playing, either bouncing a ball or using a skipping rope. Every single child is doing it in unison and it’s terrifying. Mothers come out of the houses at the exact same time and call the children in at the exact same time. One child delays slightly, out of sync with the other children, and the mother is horrified. Individuality has been crushed on Camazotz, in one scene they perfectly portray why it’s a hell hole. Being yourself is a crime and we don’t see the punishment, but the horror of the people’s faces lets us imagine. Now this scene is kept in the film, and it’s framed really well, but it loses all of the impact for me because these children and mothers aren’t real. They’re part of the magical land, conjured up to intimidate the trio, like the storm and everything else that’s just pops into existence. It’s also a part where the film’s racial diversity actively brings things down. All the extras cast here come from a variety of different races when, honestly, they should all be white. The neighbourhood where this happens is a picket fences suburbia. It’s a scathing critique of 50s America’s view towards conformism. That’s a real racist period of history too, and showing racial diversity really undermines the outright evil that managed to be perpetuated beneath that sunny façade of oppression. All of those kids should look the same, that’s the whole point of their existence.
Around this point in the book we start learning about IT, a giant brain that rules over Camazotz. IT is like a representative of the great Darkness that threatens the universe, in the movie, the Darkness and IT are one and the same. Not a change that matters really, and probably less confusing. In the book they start heading towards a big central tower in the city (because Camazotz is a real place with real people who are suffering), while in the movie they’re suddenly brought to this beach environment where there’s tonnes of people having a good time. It works to be a little disconcerting as it’s not what you’re expecting, but it just further hits the point home that Camazotz is not a real planet in the film. It if it was a real place, then it wouldn’t be all that bad, as there’s beaches and sunbathing (although, even North Korea has water parks they say).
In either case they meet the Man With Red Eyes, who is like the avatar of IT (who is in turn the avatar of the Darkness, yeah, I don’t mind them simplifying that point). In the movie he kind of just kidnaps Charles Wallace right in front of them by offering him food (Calvin digs into the food too, but he’s not important enough to kidnap, he also is totally on for going into one of the houses and letting one of the 50s Mother Sterotypes feed them, that’s a basic indication of how useful Calvin is in the film). In the book, Charles Wallace tries to use his psychic powers on the Man With Red Eyes, I think to find out where their father is. The Man With Red Eyes is also a psychic however, and Charles Wallace gets briefly hypnotized. Fortunately, Meg manages to snap him out of it. Then, and this is the important part, Charles Wallace thinks it’s a good idea to delve into The Man With Red Eyes’ mind a second time. This is Charles Wallace’s defining character moment. He just lost a psychic battle of the mind, yet he is confident enough in his abilities to immediately go for a rematch. As one would expect, he loses again, and this time he’s hypnotized, seemingly for good. In the film, he’s just taken away and when Meg and Calvin catch up, he’s hypnotized already.
In either case, now that IT has Charles Wallace working for him, the Man With Red Eyes is thrown away and Charles Wallace has suddenly become the antagonist. Meg is, understandably, pretty broken up about this. She manages to use a McGuffin one of the Mrs. gave her to discovers her father’s cell (I think Charles Wallace led them to like a jail area in the book, in the film it’s just sort of there but invisible, geometry is involved, once again, some cool special effects even though it doesn’t make a massive amount of sense, but hey Camazotz is wonderland in the movie, so it doesn’t need to make sense). By this point I was pretty disappointed with the film, but I have to give them props, the scene where Meg reunites with her father is pretty freaking beautiful. He’s hunched in the foetal position in this perfectly square room with red lighting that makes him and Meg nothing but silhouette. She walks to him slowly while this musical rift that’s been repeated throughout the film is played in full. It’s actually really, really good stuff. Wish the entire film was anywhere near this good (the scene with the kids bouncing the balls is also shot really well, despite being riddled with context problems).
So Meg rescues her father, but they’re still trapped in the middle of the city with evil Charles Wallace, now with telekinetic powers as well as telepathic ones. As I mentioned earlier, the actor for Charles Wallace doesn’t manage to pull off these distinctly non childlike actions all that well, but the writing is still pretty good at this point, with him tearing into each of the characters by revealing their biggest insecurities. It’s also the point where they justify the point of Charles Wallace being adopted. Since he has no memories of their father and no blood connection, he was going on this quest purely for Meg’s benefit. This is a reasonable change, however, I think it makes Meg’s father look like an unrelenting ass hole as a result. His immediate reaction upon being freed from his prison cell is to Wrinkle right the hell out of there (remember, he knows how to teleport, it’s how he got here in the first place). In both cases he has to leave Charles Wallace behind, because the kid is evil and dangerous now. Meg heavily objects to them fleeing in both cases, but in the movie, her objections manifest once again into her hijacking a Wrinkle. Although this time instead of teleporting somewhere else, she just gets left behind as her father and Calvin escape. In the book, her father’s actions are not good, but wise and understandable, in the movie, he has the same reasons, but removing the blood connection and making Meg’s desire to save her brother so great that she forcibly ejects herself from the teleportation, serves to make their father look a hundred times worse. It’s like he doesn’t give a crap about this random kid that he hasn’t seen since he adopted it as a baby (Calvin’s still predictably useless, oh yeah, in the book he also tries to mind battle the Man With Red Eyes, but unlike Charles Wallace, he’s wise enough to stop and keep his mind from being taken over).
So here’s the pretty major bit that was cut I referenced before. In the book, Meg, Calvin and her father all successfully Wrinkle out of Camazotz and leave Charles Wallace behind. There’s another few chapters of getting their bearings and explaining the situation, while in the movie, they head straight to the climax. In the book they meet the Mrs.es again and also get the help of this kindly monster called Aunt Beast. They decide that, despite the danger, they need to go back. Meg’s father would go back if he could, but his leg’s broken, and Calvin doesn’t know Charles Wallace well enough to go (the Mrs.es can’t go to Camazotz, that’s why they didn’t help out there in the first place), leaving Meg to go alone. She’s really scared, but she also really wants to do it because she loves her brother and wants to save him. Everyone else is worried, but also super supportive, which is helpful, as it’s outright said to her that she has to use the power of love to save her brother. Once again, she goes to Camazotz, by choice, this time understanding better the risk and danger of it, once again, this makes her an incredibly brave person while in the movie she’s just really emotional and screws up other people’s plans as a result, leaving her trapped in the dangerous situation.
So one way or the other, Meg ends up in Camazotz alone, and meets IT. In the book, because Camazotz is not wonderland, IT is a big pulsating brain sitting in the tower that is scary looking and oozes evil. But because Camazotz is wonderland in the film, IT is all around them and the climax takes place in a big landscape of synapsis. To cut a long story short, Meg loves the evil right out of her brother and together they escape. Yeah, that’s right, they escape. They don’t defeat the big bad. Camazotz is still conquered, everything is hell there. Maybe it’ll be liberated someday (in the book, in the film it doesn’t even exist so it doesn’t matter), but it has fallen too far into the Darkness to be saved by a bunch of kids. Instead, the only way to fight the Darkness (which still threatens all of existence) is for Meg and friends to return to Earth and lead good lives as good people, loving freely and battling depression and cynicism wherever they go. A pretty uplifting message for an ending that leaves an entire planet worth of people condemned to hell, and I can really respect the book for doing that, it’s why I harped on about the nature of Camazotz so much. The 2003 movie (that I thought I’d mention more) was much more faithful (Camazotz is real in that version for one), but it does mess up the ending by having IT seemingly kill itself and then Meg showing the people of Camazotz how to be individuals.
There’s not much else to say. Charles Wallace was successfully deITified and Meg’s father finally returns home to his wife after years of physical and psychological torture on an alien planet. Everyone is feeling pretty good and happy about themselves, The End. It was a good book, and, despite my complaints it was a an okay film too, but it falls extremely short of being a genuinely good film. I don’t mind people changing things when adapting something from page to screen, but it feels like almost every single change they made in this case served to heavily undermine the themes or under explore the characters. And well that kind of irritated me. Characters and themes are the heart and soul of a story. When you’re making something, these are things that you need to focus on the most and here, they kind of fell short of the original vision I think. While at the same time not being different enough to have its own, separate vision. And some of them, like Charles Wallace’s selective mutism and low level telepathy, would have been really easy to keep, but for whatever reason, they decided not to. The 2003 film is much lower budget and much less ambitious, but still manages to be a better film by just staying true to the heart of the story.
Also, one last, somewhat funny note; Meg’s father’s nickname for her is Megatron which, well…let’s say it just conveys the image of a very different Syfi Fantasy story.