The 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time has been adapted as a film (twice), a play, an opera, and a graphic novel. Its four lesser-known sequels in the Time Quintet seem never to have been adapted or to have reached the same level of popularity. I didn't even know until recently that A Wrinkle in Time was part of a series!

Why is this? Usually a trilogy or quintet of books will be spoken about in the same breath, but A Wrinkle in Time seems to exist in most people's minds as a stand-alone story, and to always have been adapted as such. What was "wrong" with the later books that they never got much attention and never got adapted?

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    I've not read them, but the reason that sequels often don't get adapted is because they depend too heavily on the earlier books.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 11:59
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    Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but A Wrinkle in Time is weird, and has often been stated to be "unfilmable", and the sequels get weirder. They also don't really follow each other, bouncing back and forth in time with characters entering and exiting the narrative.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 12:16
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    The later books kind of drift further away from norms in story telling and get less easily relatable if I recall correctly. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 19:48
  • If you read the rest of the series, it’s possible that you’ll have some understanding, assuming you agree with me that the first is definitely the strongest of them. IMHO the first chapter of “Wrinkle…" is one of the best first chapters ever written. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 22:12
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    I think a lot of it has to the quality (real or perceived) of the novels. A Wrinkle in Time is a remembered by many readers as a tour de force. The later books are not bad, but people do not seem to get excited about them in the same way.
    – Buzz
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 2:27

2 Answers 2


In addition to Fuzzyboot's analysis there's a couple of other things playing against this

  1. Book series don't often get all their books made into movies. CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia (7 books) has, at best, made it through The Silver Chair (Book 4) before having interest wane. In 2006 Eragon was made. It's part of The Inheritance Cycle series, and the movie clearly hints at the story continuing, but it was canceled due to poor reception and revenues.

  2. While the series still remains in the fantasy realm, it becomes considerably slower as the books progress (Wrinkle was published in 1962, while An Acceptable Time, the final book in the series, was published in 1989). Some of this is due to L'Engle writing the Polly O'Keefe series, which parallels the Wrinkle series, but is not nearly as heavy on the fantasy aspects. As such, there are many fans of Wrinkle but not so many of the latter books

    So, in short, buy A Wrinkle in Time and love it. Borrow A Wind in the Door if you are invested in the characters and want to see more between Meg and Charles. Skip A Swiftly Tilting Planted unless you really like history and not a lot of plotline. Be entertained by Many Waters but don’t think of it as a historical text. Also, read the tie-in series called the O’Keefe Family series for more about Meg and Calvin’s family.

Put a different way, Wrinkle suggests a Lord of the Rings-style world, where there's big, sweeping powers behind the scenes, leading to a big climax. Instead, it becomes more accidental time travel and YA drama.

  • It actually seemed like they had no plan on continuing with Eragon. Some of the changes they made would make it hard to film the second book without considerable alteration. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 18:49
  • @MichaelRichardson Per Wikipedia Originally, Eragon was supposed to be the first in a franchise based on Paolini's Inheritance Cycle book series with Fangmeirer shooting both Eldest and Brisingr back-to-back. However, following the poor reception of Eragon on its release, the planned franchise was cancelled.
    – Machavity
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:21
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    @AustinHemmelgarn Actually it fits perfectly for that reason. Narnia's stories are increasingly disjointed (Book 6 precedes Book 1 chronologically, and Book 5 takes place within the timeline of Book 1). While there is some progression of Wrinkle, the books do not really tell a contiguous long-running story, they just contain the same characters
    – Machavity
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 3:07
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    The difference with Lord of the Rings is that it was originally conceived as one book. Tolkien was forced to split it into 3 or 6 books because his publishers thought it was just too long. Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 15:56
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    Another decent analogy could be Ender's Game. It also has a whole series of books that follow after it, but it has the same problems as Wrinkle. The stories aren't all that similar to each other, they aren't as popular as the original book, many of the characters don't carry through from book to book, and they get increasingly esoteric and weird. I would argue the Ender's Game movie was better then the Wrinkle movie (though it was by no means great), but it didn't do well enough to justify taking the significant risk of producing a movie for a sequel nobody read
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 21:27

I do not have any official word from people who have adapted the first book, but as per my comment, A Wrinkle in Time is a weird book, often stated to be "unfilmable" and the sequels get weirder in some ways. A Wind in the Door starts right after the events of the first book with a new set of extradimensional teachers and a new cosmic threat that involves both stars being snuffed out and making Charles sick.

Instead of flinging themselves across the universe, Meg, Calvin, Progo, and Principal Jenkins (Meg’s nemesis from Wrinkle, who plays an important role in this story) save Charles Wallace from within by shrinking down and doing battle on a level that’s both cellular and metaphysical. There’s a lot of psychic speaking without words (“kything”) and celestial singing—as well as a very charismatic but non-verbal snake named Louise. All told, and even with blessedly less Charles Wallace this time around, this very interior story would be hugely challenging to adapt.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet has a massive time jump and involves time travel to try to ensure a South American dictator doesn't incite nuclear warfare by manipulating his ancestors, with the help of a magical unicorn. Many Waters brings in Sandy and Dennys and is a coming-of-age story involving Noah's Ark. The stories don't really follow each other and would likely sell to different crowds.

And probably more salient, the 2018 adaptation lost a lot of money and it looks like it's not just a matter of Hollywood Accounting.

A Wrinkle in Time grossed $100.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $32.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $132.7 million. A combined $250 million was spent on production and advertisement. Following Disney's Q2 earnings report in May 2018, Yahoo! Finance deduced the film would lose the studio $86–186 million, and in April 2019, Deadline Hollywood calculated the film lost $130.6 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues.

I don't have any information on what the return or liability on the 2003 adaptation was, but it was not well-received by critics:

As Diane Ortiz from The University Wire described it, the novel's first film adaptation was a "dud", emphasizing its lack of substantial acting and special effects.[6] In her same article, Eberson acknowledged a similar inadequacy in the special effects and explained how they did not meet the hopes of the creators nor the viewers. Nick Mangione, from Geek.com, suggested that many of the problems associated with the film relate to the creator's decision to dumb-down the concepts from the novel.[7] Mangione pointed out that in her novel, L'Engle trusted her audience and knew they would be able to understand the complex thoughts of the characters.[7] He believes that the film version shows no trust in the audience and spends the entire time simplifying everything and neglecting any of the more complex ideas. Mangione further stated, "It's almost impressive how they managed to take every major location and plot beat from the novel and get absolutely none of it right."

Madeleine L'Engle didn't like it either

NEWSWEEK: So you've seen the movie?
Madeleine L'Engle: I've glimpsed it.

And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.

  • 6
    So... there's a wrinkle in production?
    – Machavity
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 14:50
  • @Machavity: Unlike the eponymous scene in the book, I don't think they're going back.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 14:56
  • "this very interior story would be hugely challenging to adapt" - I dunno, "Fantastic Voyage" (1966) was an interior story with a pretty good adaptation to film ... "shrinking down and doing battle on a level that was cellular" - sounds pretty much the same, actually.
    – davidbak
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:15
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    @davidbak: "Fantastic Voyage" was a film first, then Asimov was persuaded to write the novelization. One of the effects of novelization is to make the film look extremely faithful to the book. Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 13:29
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    @davidbak: I seriously cannot tell if you are joking about the meaning of "interior story". Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 13:30

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