If you felt like the climax of A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t readily explain exactly what is going on or what the stakes are, you’re not wrong; Meg Murry’s nebulous love attack to save Charles Wallace comes straight from the book. However, the way this confrontation is set-up differs from the book in one specific way.
Spoilers ahead for A Wrinkle in Time.
In the book version of A Wrinkle in Time, Meg, Calvin, and her father actually do tesser off the planet Camazotz, briefly leaving Charles Wallace in the clutches of the Man With the Red Eyes and the IT. This means, Meg is out of the action for a chapter while she convalesces with a friendly alien named Aunt Beast, who is awesome. The movie skips over this, and just has Meg decide not to tesser and just stay on Camazotz to rescue her brother. Effectively, this plot shuffle doesn’t change much insofar as Meg is still where she needs to be to have the big showdown with the IT and Charles Wallace.
So what actually happens when Meg defeats the IT at the end of the movie? Does she just say “I LOVE YOU” over and over again and it destroys the evil powers? Easy answer: yes.
Unlike other children’s fantasy or science fiction novels, Madeleine L’Engle’s book isn’t overly concerned with explaining the “rules” of her universe to the reader. Every fantastical plot device in A Wrinkle in Time is allegorical first, and tangible second. Meaning, yes, the “the power of love” is all Meg really needed to defeat the IT.
The reader (and viewer) has to assume that the reason why her love for Charles Wallace breaks the spell, so to speak, is because Meg still loves Charles Wallace even though he’s saying awful things to here. L’Engle’s novel contains more than just a few overt Christian allegories, and this ending might be a spin on the concept of “loving the sinner and hating the sin.”
Still, the film version is decidedly secular, meaning Meg’s love for Charles Wallace is just that. Simple human love for another person. If this showdown seems confusing, it’s not the fault of the screenwriters — Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell —or director Ava DuVernay. That’s pretty much how it goes in the book, too.
A Wrinkle in Time is out now in wide release.
For a more scientific take on love, check this out.