‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Book vs. Movie: The Biggest Changes Director Ava DuVernay Made

Director Ava Duvernay has finally done what many said was impossible: Adapt the 1962 classic children's novel, A Wrinkle in Time, for the big screen. While the reviews are mixed for Duvernay's film, the opening weekend box office—$33 million—signifies at least some level of success.

A made-for-TV film, also by Disney, was attempted in 2003. Before her death in 2007, author Madeliene L'Engle told Newsweek the film met her low expectations: "I expected it to be bad, and it is."

This time around (for better or for worse), DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell made several changes to L'Engle's beloved text. Here are the most significant modifications made from the book to Disney's 2018 A Wrinkle in Time.

Meg's other brothers

AWrinkleInTime5a984e1269945 FROM LEFT: Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Storm Reid as Meg Murry, Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry. Walt Disney Motion Pictures

In L'Engle's novel, Meg is the oldest of four Murry children, not two. Sandy and Dennys Murry, Meg's 10-year-old twin brothers, were omitted from the film. In the book, Sandy and Dennys are the "normal" Murry children: friendly, athletic and average students. They don't have much of a role in Wrinkle in Time, other than to serve as a point of envy for Meg. However, in book four of the overall series, Many Waters, Sandy and Dennys star as the protagonists—so apparently Disney isn't planning to delve into L'Engle's sequels anytime soon.

Charles Wallace

AWrinkleInTime5a984e1d6d42e Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Walt Disney Motion Pictures

Played by the adorable Deric McCabe, Meg's genius baby brother is pretty close to the version L'Engle wrote in her book. But for those keeping track, in the book, Charles Wallace is the biological son of Murrys, while in the very first scene of the film, we learn Charles Wallace is adopted. DuVernay said she made that change to honor McCabe's Filipino descent. 

Charles Wallace is also less knowledgeable in the book than he is in the film—while he does grasp the situation much faster than Meg, he did not know who Mrs. Whatsit, Who and Which were right away, as he seems to in the film. Also, for what it's worth, the book version of Charles Wallace is five years old, not six, as he is in the movie. 

The Murry family

Perhaps the most obvious and widely-praised change from the book was to cast the Murrys not as a white family in Connecticut—as they are in L'Engle's book—but as a multi-racial family living in California, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry, Chris Pine as Mr. Murry and Storm Reid as Meg Murry.

Mrs. Which

AWrinkleInTime5a78960a830c2 Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Walt Disney Motion Pictures

In the book, Mrs. Which has trouble verbalizing, being the oldest of her three ethereal friends. She doesn't speak often, and when she does, her speech is slow and slurred. However, because Mrs. Which is played by Oprah Winfrey, and because no sane director would keep Winfrey in a corner, Mrs. Which has plenty of perfectly well-spoken lines in the film. 

The book-version of Mrs. Which also has trouble materializing, and sometimes doesn't bother with a physical form. DuVernay substitutes in a giant Winfrey instead. In the book, Mrs. Which is described as a more traditional witch, with a beaked nose, long grey hair and a broomstick. But again, this is Oprah, people!

Mrs. Whatsit

a-wrinkle-in-time Mrs. Whatsit's non-human form in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Walt Disney Pictures

While actor Reese Witherspoon captured the spirit of the young Mrs. Whatsit, one significant change was made to her character: her non-human form. In the book, when Mrs. Whatsit "changes" to carry the children on her back, she becomes a beautiful centaur. L'Engle described Mrs. Whatsit as "a nobly formed torso, arms and a head resembling a man's, but a man." The children have a moment of confusion, not sure what name or pronouns to use on this new creature, but the creature assures them "Mrs. Whatsit" is fine.

In the film, Mrs. Whatsit transforms into something that resembles a plant-like stingray. Maybe DuVernay thought the genderswap would be too confusing for a young audience?

Aunt Beast 

Perhaps the biggest change made in the film adaption was the removal of Aunt Beast, a strange, tentacled alien who lives on the dark planet Ixchel. Aunt Beast cares for Meg after she, her father and Calvin "tesser" away from Camazotz, leaving Charles Wallace behind. Screenwriter Jennifer Lee told CinemaBlend that she had a scene written for Aunt Beast, which was cut. "We all fought for her, including Ava," Lee said. "But the truth was what it did in the book for Meg that it could do, took away from the journey that needed to happen in the film."

The Happy Medium

a-wrinkle-in-time-zach-galifianakis-600x400 Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Walt Disney Pictures

In the book, the Happy Medium is a jolly woman. The film swapped the character's gender by casting Zach Galifianakis in the role. With this casting, there's some playful romantic tension between Mrs. Whatsit and the Happy Medium, which is also new.

The tornado

In the film, Meg and Calvin flee a tornado as soon as they land on Camazotz. Then Meg realizes the only way to escape the tornado is to let it pick them up. It doesn't really add up, perhaps because this scene is not in the book at all. Undoubtedly, a Disney producer likely decided this film needed a bit more action.

The Central Intelligence 

AWrinkleInTime5a984e17902d5 FROM LEFT: Storm Reid as Meg Murry, Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace and Levi Miller as Calvin in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Walt Disney Motion Pictures

In the book, the children meet the red-eyed man and IT at the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building, described as a great entrance hall with marble benches. In the film, this building where the IT lives gets a fascinating makeover: It can transform into different settings. The children meeting the Man with the Red Eyes at a crowded beach, as they do in the movie, is a totally new visual, too.

Meg's bully

A girl named Veronica, played by Rowan Blanchard, lives next door to Meg in the film and picks on her at school. This character does not exist in the book.

The religious undertones

This is a subtle but significant shift in the film adaption—the absence of Christianity. L'Engle's book wasn't exactly subtle about its Christian themes. At one point, the creatures on the planet Uriel sing a Psalm from the Bible. When Mrs. Whatsit is naming the great fighters of planet Earth in the book, Jesus is the first on her list. When Mrs. Which takes that line in the film, Jesus is omitted.

DuVernay chose to avoid L'Engle's overt religious themes, keeping A Wrinkle in Time a secular film.