WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Disney's A Wrinkle In Time, in theaters now.
Disney's A Wrinkle in Time has delighted young audiences on its way to a projected $34 million domestic opening, but for viewers who haven’t read the children's classic on which the film is based, it may be difficult to pick up on all of the story's subtleties. Author Madeleine L’Engle's 1962 science fantasy novel employed 256 pages to tell this complex tale, but director Ava DuVernay uses only 109 minutes to do the same job. So, it might be useful if we clarify a couple of elements of the story, and how it ends.
The basic premise is that a scientist couple figures out interstellar travel, and then the husband promptly disappears. Their two children are enlisted by a trio of cosmic entities to save their father and fight evil on other planets.
Screenwriter Jennifer Lee strips down the story so as not to confound audiences. For example, she removed Meg and Charles Wallace’s twin brothers, Sandy and Dennys, from the plot to make the Murry family a smaller, more intimate unit. She also basically combined IT and another dark entity from the book called The Black Thing. In the film, there's a black cloud that seems to be alive and spreading, but it's not named. While the Mrs. Ws explain a darkness is growing across the universe because of IT, they leave matters at that. In the novel, however, IT seems to be an agent of The Black Thing. Also, IT is described as a giant brain in the novel, but in the film the only sense we get of that is when Meg refuses to leave Camazotz without Charles Wallace, and they inadvertently “tesser” right into IT. It looks like they are in a diseased brain, as they're surrounded by what appears to be a matrix of huge synaptic cells.
The movie makes it clear that love is the frequency that allows for Tesseract travel, and the reason Meg has so much trouble with it is because of the anger she holds onto. However, we're also told she has the greatest potential and when she lets go of her negative feelings, she is able to free her little brother from IT’s influence.
Once she does that in the novel, the Mrs. Ws “tesser” them home, but in the film Lee establishes that these immortal beings can’t “tesser” to or from Camazotz. So, when Meg’s love liberates Charles Wallace, she also finally understands how to “tesser,” and it is she who gets them home. At this point the Mrs. Ws reappear and tell the children that they have done well and are now among some of the greatest warriors of the light the Earth has ever produced. It's implied that they may be called upon again in the future.
Directed by Ava DuVernay from a script by Jennifer Lee, A Wrinkle in Time stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michael Peña. It’s in theaters now.