I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time twice in my life ― and I’ll admit it’s been a while since the last time ― but I’m pretty sure the book failed to feature a very encouraging, five-story-tall Oprah.
Ava DuVernay’s new take on the classic, however, does. While DuVernay’s movie is largely faithful to the beats of Madeleine L’Engle, it also includes some notable changes ― actually, some giant ones. Among them:
In the novel, Oprah’s magical character, Mrs. Which, struggles to appear in a set form and speaks in a drawn-out voice. In the movie, Mrs. Which appears as a gigantic being, towering over everyone and everything. And we couldn’t help but wonder: Why?
Was it just to show off her big bedazzled eyebrows? Was it because she read The Secret? (I knew I should’ve read The Secret.) Is there even a reason?
Writer Jennifer Lee recently opened up to HuffPost about this inarguably important question, as well as a few other major diversions from the book moviegoers should know.
Why is Oprah a giant?
In the book, Mrs. Which is reluctant to take any form, Lee said. “I love the idea that there’s a character who was so evolved that even getting the mechanics of becoming human was problematic for her.”
The Mrs. W’s in the story all have their little (or colossal) quirks, Lee added. Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) is so evolved that she doesn’t need language, while Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) is the youngest, so she’s a bit naive.
“With Mrs. Which, [it’s] the idea of changing sizes, and that doesn’t seem to faze her,” Lee said. “It’s just this delicious thing to look at the absurdity of ourselves, and, yeah, she is the wisest, and sometimes you really need to just stop and listen, and it’s easy to do when she’s five stories tall.”
Oprah’s bizarre size is most apparent in a scene during which protagonist Meg’s (Storm Reid) younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) reaches out and brushes his hand across Mrs. Which’s enormous face as he flies by her. (Stay tuned for that GIF to take over the internet.)
“Ava gets full credit for that moment visually, and when I saw it, I burst into tears,” Lee said, explaining that another departure from the book involved creating specific connections between the kid characters and the Mrs. W’s.
“Whenever we make connections ... something wonderful happens, sort of the most evolved with the most innocent. So Ava looks for these beautiful moments to draw that out, and I love that.”
Why is the Black Thing simply called IT?
The original book describes an entity called the Black Thing ― seen as the personification of evil. There’s also an evil brain called the IT.
But in the movie, everything is just called IT.
“In the script stage for me you had the darkness, the Black Thing, and then you had IT, the brain,” Lee said. “Really, you have all these different things, and it was too complicated. In a book you can handle it, but it’s too confusing in a film. I chose the IT over any of the others for two reasons: One is the singularity of IT ... there’s a singularity to it that is very big and you can’t argue with it, no pun intended.”
The goal was to simplify and realize the “fundamental thing we’re speaking about here,” Lee said. “Let’s make it one thing and ... not give it an identity that can be pulled one way or another. It’s pure evil.”
What happened to the Bunsen burner?
As I mentioned, it’s been a long time since I read the book. But one thing I never forgot was that Mrs. Murry once made stew over a Bunsen burner. And I’m not the only one:
Like that time in your ninth-grade chemistry class when you first tried using a Bunsen burner, it pains me to say that people looking for this particular scene are gonna be burned.
Because the Bunsen burner was cut from the movie.
The burner was in an earlier draft, Lee said. But because the character was supposed to be a complex biophysicist, “we kept saying we need to ground it in truth, because we’re going to get so fantastical.”
″[People] always joke you have to kill your darlings, so the Bunsen burner had to go. But it didn’t go lightly,” she added.
Hmmm. The Bunsen burner scene was cut because the movie needed to be “grounded in truth”? Giant Oprah is cool, but making stew on a Bunsen burner? No way.
Lee did offer a more practical reason for the cut, saying, “I feel like [Mrs. Murry] is kind of writing all of the physics equations of the world. Does she have to make a stew? Can’t they get takeout? C’mon, let’s be honest.”
Fair. But if there happens to be a scene of Mrs. Murry’s Bunsen stew in the bonus features on DVD, I won’t be disappointed.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is in theaters now.