That A Wrinkle in Time invokes the monster-victim dynamic that’s so central to what makes It tick, though, only helps the latter stay relevant. Red and Pennywise diverge from one another in a few key ways: Notably, Red doesn’t eat children, because L’Engle isn’t that kind of writer, DuVernay isn’t that kind of director, and A Wrinkle in Time isn’t that kind of book, and he’s an extension of the plot’s true antagonist, not the true antagonist himself. That would be the Black Thing, an interstellar cumulonimbus of evil that’s taken over the planet of Camazotz and which communicates through Red like a hand puppet.
Red wants to enslave our plucky young leads -- Meg Murry (Storm Reid), her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and her friend Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) -- as the Black Thing has enslaved everybody caught in its orbit. Arguably that’s preferable to being devoured alive, but if Red’s goals are unique from Pennywise’s, their methods are the same. Pennywise dupes Georgie Denbrough by assailing him with the sounds and smells of the circus, cotton candy, carnival rides and (pop pop pop) popcorn. He deceives Georgie with an inviting illusion and goes in for the kill. That’s his modus operandi for most of the picture, though Georgie is the only child gulled by enticement. The rest, Pennywise bewilders with terror, the best weapon in his arsenal.
Bewilderment is Red’s tactic of choice, too. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin land on Camazotz, a facsimile of Earth betrayed by its observable peculiarities; suburban homes, each identical to the others, form a ring around them, and in each driveway stands a child bouncing a ball in time with their neighbors. The rhythmic pulse of their recreation nearly drives Charles Wallace to tears. Camazotz is composed of recognizable details, but they’re just a veneer for the planet’s alien consciousness. Before long the neighborhood fades away, and the kids find themselves on an overcrowded beach where they meet Red, who immediately pushes food, drink, and the temptation of endless idyl on them. He’s a beacon for Meg and the gang, lost in the chaos of their surroundings.