With Disney’s overwhelming success of Black Panther, the pressure is on for director Ava Duvernay’s dream project, A Wrinkle In Time, to keep the momentum going. The fact that both movies feature a very diverse cast with Black leads I believe added onto that (as unfair as it may be). Duvernay, who has stated in several interviews that after tackling heavier, more controversial films such as the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma, and her work on the controversial Netflix show 13th, she wanted to delve into the something more “unrealistic” and light-hearted. And at its core, that’s what she delivered.
That said, I think A Wrinkle In Time had a lot of potential, but it was tragically wasted. (Which I will get into in more depth later). For those who don’t know the story, A Wrinkle In Time is based on the classic children’s fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle about a troubled 13-year-old girl, Meg Murry (Storm Reid). Who, after the disappearance of her father 4 years prior, discovers he is still alive. But the twist is, he’s trapped in an alternate dimension by an evil force known only as the “It.”
So Meg, her genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and new-found friend Calvin (Levi Miller), are then whisked away into this fantasy world by a trio of otherworldly beings known only as: “Mrs. Whatsit” (Reese Witherspoon), “Mrs. Who” (Mindy Kaling), and the leader of the group, “Mrs. Which” (Oprah Winfrey) to not only save Meg’s father but to save humanity altogether. Eventually, all of their searchings lead to a showdown with the “It,” which makes Meg face all of her fears and insecurities, and ultimately save her family.
“…he’s trapped in an alternate dimension by an evil force known only as the ‘It.'”
I’ll start by saying this…The costumes were amazing. Some of the sets were really inspired. And I like the chemistry between Storm Reid and Levi Miller. But that’s literally as kind as I can be because there are some major problems with this movie!
First, and the most glaring problem came from the annoyance of the little brother, Charles Wallace (Get used to hearing that name because they literally say it every other line!). You spend the majority of the film just trying to understand what he’s even saying. I wasn’t sure if it was bad audio, or if that’s just the way he spoke. But every scene he’s in took me so much out of the movie that it was hard to fully appreciate the other characters. I don’t want to spend too much time on this point because I don’t want to tear down a young actor (especially one as young as Deric) who was obviously doing his best. But it’s something that I wish Duvernay would have caught while they were filming… or at least in the editing room.
Another problem was simply, this movie gave us nothing to really root for. And what I mean by that is, for an adventure fantasy film, there seemed to be a lot of nothing happening. For example, there’s the scene from the trailer where the kids find themselves in a spooky, cookie-cutter, suburban nightmare where the inhabitants of the neighborhood seem to be under some kind of mind control. Instead of building the intensity and making it truly scary (within the limits of a kid’s movie), the scene basically dissolves into nothing, and the kids are transferred somewhere else.
If there were would have been an actual quest for these kids, it would have led to real character development. Instead, the kids were just thrown from one scene to another never learning anything. Adding to this, there was the confusion about what Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit were actually supposed to be or represent. From what I know about the book, these three were supposed to be stars that helped humanity along. In the movie though, it’s never explained, and they didn’t actually do much to help anybody. Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon (especially Witherspoon) did a pretty amazing job with what they were given. But Oprah Winfrey appeared to be phoning it through most of the film. Which is unfortunate considering she actually has strong acting chops.
“…I like the chemistry between Storm Reid and Levi Miller.”
The “villain” of the film was once again the lazy “death cloud” as seen in movies like Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Green Lantern. Completely uninteresting, and literally does nothing but possess Charles Wallace. Which was weird to me since they had Michael Pena play what seemed to be a pretty interesting, evil antagonist only to get rid of him 10 minutes later.
And last, there’s the character of Meg. Storm Reid did a fantastic job, without question! But, the movie didn’t do the character the justice of showing how intelligent the character is supposed to be. The movie sets up that Meg grew up learning physics and the way the universe works from her father. But through 90% of the film… we never see that! Not until the very end, and even then it’s just kind of thrown in there to bring it back that, “oh yeah, she is smart!”
Unfortunately there many other problems that plague this movie. Wonky CGI. Unresolved character arcs. Terrible sound. But the saddest part of all is the wasted potential for a new fantasy/adventure franchise. Do I think this movie will do well? Not really if I’m being honest. There’s not enough I feel to keep children entertained, and I think adults will check out pretty fast. Personally, I wanted this movie to be amazing. I am a huge fan of Ava Duvernay and really hoped this would be her breakout movie into the mainstream. But I don’t think this is the movie that’s going to take her there!
A Wrinkle in Time (2018) Directed by Ava Duvernay. Written by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell. Starring Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine.
5 out 10