A big-budget, CGI-driven Disney spectacle directed by a woman is huge. Representation is extremely important but does it necessarily make A Wrinkle in Time is a good movie?
Synopsis: Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil. (IMDB)
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kailing
Writers: Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell
Director: Ava DuVernay
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 109mins
For showtimes and more, check out A Wrinkle in Time on movietimes.com.
The Disney train continues to steamroll past everything in sight. Owners of titles such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Lucasfilm, Disney’s corporate lust for box-office domination is a searing feat of Hollywood power. For the past few years (and surely more to come), Disney has been focused on remaking every one of their beloved animated properties into live-action studio sludge. This time around they remade not a former animated film, but the Madeleine L’Engle 1962 sci-fi novel, A Wrinkle in Time, directed by the brilliant Ava DuVernay, making it the (unfair) “companion piece” to Black Panther. It has so much going for it, but A Wrinkle in Time is unfortunately not a good movie.
DuVernay’s passion in this story and its characters oozes off every frame, it’s very apparent that they’ve impacted her a lot but this passion didn’t quite translate for viewers. The film lacks a strong emotional bridge between the audience and its characters, with the brief introduction acting as a hollow shell to manipulate the audience into forming a connection between this family. The strongest connection was felt between the two children, Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but even then that relationship didn’t feel fully earned.
A Wrinkle in Time has an absolute blistering pace to it. There are no moments where our characters pause and collect themselves, there is no reflection. Everything feels rushed. The plot springs out and never allows itself to build and transform. No emotional weight or gravity is contained in any of the performances (except Chris Pine who gives an admittedly incredible performance as Meg and Charles Wallace’s father Alex) and Duvernay chooses to film a majority of the movie in extremely tight close-ups to draw emotion, except there’s no connection formed between the characters and the audience since the actors can’t form any logical human expressions. These tight angles detracted from the magic and the visuals too much; the stark juxtaposition seemingly used to envision a peculiar duality but instead points out the flawed CGI and bland performances.
The worst of the CGI blunders occurs with the introduction of Mrs. Which (Winfrey), (who is horribly underutilized) with terrible green screen shredding any potential investment. With that said, the film does succeed in its casting of Mrs Which, Mrs Whatsit (Witherspoon), and Mrs Who (Kailing). Witherspoon delivers a great supporting performance, even going so far as to morph into a perplexing giant flying seaweed creature. This and the scene that comes after were the only *truly* magical moments contained in the entire film. Kaling was surprisingly tolerable in her role, but her character is apparently “too advanced for language” so she only manages to speak in inspirational quotes to sum up her thoughts. These quotes are a heavy handed tool used to convey the themes of the film, which end up being a surface-level take with not much to say.
Themes of self-love and self-actualization are spoon fed to the audience until we start to gag. It never dives deeper, or has anything important to say about the subject, the only thing the movie has to say is that love is powerful and we need to love ourselves. Basic hope in the face of fear kind of stuff. Where the film find little success is in its blending of abstract dimensions.
A great part of the film was the 50’s style housing with the children bouncing the balls seen in the trailer which was absolutely edited to perfection. They should have kept with this set-piece a little bit longer as it worked well in adding a notional sense of doom and forewarning. The film then transitions to a gorgeous beach scene featuring colorfully punchy umbrellas flooding the screen with vibrant geometrics, blasting a somewhat out of place non-diegetic pop song that lends itself to somehow work. It was just too bad that these wonderfully dynamic scenes only last a couple of minutes. A major WTF moment that was somehow used used as a major self-realization moment for our protagonist was a scene involving Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium giving the audience what is essentially an instruction video on how to properly perform Buddhist meditation.
The ending is all wrapped up in a nice little bow for us, except some will be left contemplating the point of it all? Hope and love is always inside ourselves, we just need to love ourselves until it can burst out was the lesson to take from this. A Wrinkle in Time is a well-intentioned, beautifully misconceived film that fails to wring the audience into its tonally misguided emotional beats, and is sure to be a riveting topic for film criticism and discourse conversations for the foreseeable future.
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