Is Christianity bad for the box office? Hollywood thinks so—and has had that thought for quite a long time. Perhaps Hollywood is misguided, as the liberal adaptation of a religious story did poorly at the box office. Critics claim a “confusing storyline” and a muddled message in Disney’s latest remake of the classic, “A Wrinkle in Time”.
The latest film version is adapted from the book by Madeline L’Engle. Although Disney Studios and Oprah Winfrey were behind it, the movie was a big box office failure, despite the hype leading up to it. This is a small sign of hope for our country.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is one of the most beloved of all books ever written for the young adult audience, so adapting it for the big screen a second successive time seemed like a foregone conclusion. Oprah Winfrey signed up, as did stars Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine.
Fox News reported that the movie cost $103 million to make—not a huge amount by Hollywood standards, but still nothing to sneeze at. Disney first released the movie adaptation in 1962 and wanted to remake the movie for a more modern 2018 audience.
The story is a science fantasy that involves traveling to the far corners of the universe for the novel’s heroine, 13-year-old Meg Murry, who must travel to save her father.
Disney hired director Ava DuVernay, who has been in the spotlight lately for her civil rights film “Selma” and more recently for her social justice documentary entitled “13th,” about racism in the American prison system. DuVernay described the prison system as a modern-day form of slavery.
It is a wonder that this was not a red flag to Disney. The film earned only $33 million on its opening weekend. The turnout was very disappointing to Disney and abysmal, really, given all the hype surrounding the director, the stars and the movie.
Industry experts say to double the production cost to get the break-even cost for a studio. For Disney, that would mean the film needs to earn $206 million just for them to break even. With only $6.3 million on opening weekend in foreign box offices, that may not likely to happen.
The film seems destined to be a huge financial disaster.
So what went wrong? Plenty.
Some film critics say that the removal of the religious theme that was so prominent in the book is the main reason for its crash at the box office.
The film never mentions God or religion but portrays a central evil versus light theme. The removal of the original author’s religious overtones seems to have struck a nerve with the audience.
Removing the key element of religion loses the narrative, turning the film into what critics are describing as bad, flawed storytelling with a muddled message that turned into a muddled mess.
The author L’Engle had always stated that Christianity was central to her novel. “If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle said in her description of A Wrinkle In Time.
The author even went on to describe the book as “my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. However, DuVernay removed all references to God, Jesus, angels, and messengers of God.
The book has always had a devoted following by all ages—Christian or otherwise. Most readers don’t even describe A Wrinkle In Time as a Christian book—but it is a book that does include religion.
Some critics say that the film doesn’t have a clear antagonist (a.k.a The Devil) and that left the movie as an “astrophysical abstraction” in the words of one such critic.
Everyone had high hopes for DuVernay as a director. She was the first African-American woman to have a production budget of $100 million and was expected to make a very empowering movie.
Disney had hopes that the movie would become a new instant classic for today’s youngsters, but many of the dramatic moments come off as just ridiculous.
The characters were described as “off-kilter and bland”, despite heavy hitters like Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Khalig. Apparently, Witherspoon has the most screen time and dialogue, but critics say it doesn’t take long before her character becomes annoying and overbearing. Winfrey floats through the movie making gloom and doom statements about darkness falling over the universe, but with the Christian element removed, her statements don’t make much sense.
One critic summed it up this way: “Jesus is out, self-worth is in, and it’s coming for your children via a $103-million orgy of special effects that starts with a giant astral projection of Oprah and only gets more insane from there. At one point, Reese Witherspoon transforms into a giant piece of flying kale.”
The movie was not intended to be a comedy, but a southern-fried Witherspoon turning into a giant leafy green certainly seems hilarious.
Critics say that many of the culturally significant moments the book is known for, ended up being “cheesy” in the movie. One critic said it seemed more like a Hallmark Channel movie than a movie from the most powerful studio in Hollywood.