When it comes to non-franchised material and adaptations, Disney has too-often faulted. Their live-action movies just aren’t shaping up to what they used to be. Once a powerhouse that crafted Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, we are now left with The Lone Ranger and John Carter. The only successes they’ve found are with bought materials such as Marvel and Star Wars and the occasional pillage into their own back-catalogue such as The Jungle Book.
Films such as Oz the Great and Powerful and Tomorrowland falter critically and commercially. There just isn’t something gelling with audiences. So Disney have placed their faith in the great director Ava DuVernay. Could you she break this streak of failure?
A Wrinkle in Time, based on a popular book by Madeleine L’Engle, revolves round the young Meg who is suffering four years after the disappearance of her father. Disliked at school and disruptive, she lives in hope that she’d one day return. When Meg and her brother Charles Wallace are visited by three unusual beings, Mrs Who. Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, who tell them that their father is locked in a different dimension and it’s up to the children, alongside school friend Calvin, to find him.
I’m going to lay some cards on the table: The screening I went to for this movie was one of the most disruptive I’ve ever encountered so I think I’ve been somewhat lenient because I couldn’t connect to the film at the beginning. I believe this was partly the movies hastened exposition and partly the consistent phone using later-comers with their talkative children.
Tangent aside A Wrinkle In Time is somewhat spectacular. It’s gloriously colourful with intensely beautiful sequences. There’s a vibrant and visual world-building that will fills your heart with joy. This is match by the earnestness of lead Meg. Storm Reid is a terrific child lead, able to implement a wonderful emotional arc combating the absence of her Dad and her own low self-esteem. Reid is a watchable actress with the strength of a performer beyond her years. Young Deric McCabe is multi-faceted as the intellectual Charles Wallace and the bond between him and Reid as brother and sister is palpable.
The adults here are equally equipped to tackle their normal and supernatural roles, handling the and there is a good spiritual lesson about being who you are as well as an endearing centric father and daughter relationship.
It’s just shoddily put together. Many have been calling the book inadaptable and that applies here. The plot is so peculiar and there isn’t enough within the film to explain what the hell is going on. There is too little build up on the family beforehand for us to care a whole lot about Meg’s journey to her father, and it flits through grand scenes without a moments thought to explain to the audiences what the hell is going on. It’s complex yet tries for simplicity and this dilution doesn’t create a well-put together product. I think a lot of this comes from seeming nervous direction combined with very shoddy editing. There’s a lack of confidence behind the scenes that translates into a ill-conceived film.
This is best explained in the scene where we meet Mrs Who. Played fantastically by Mindy Kahling (who is rocking all the looks given,) the character is a peculiar one who has transcended age so much that she can only speak in quotes. She lives in a house filled with books that Charles Wallace guides Meg and love interest Calvin through. This should be fluid, from entering the house we should track their journey until the excitable reveal. It should be exploratory as Meg and Calvin tepidly enter, scared of what they might fine. Instead, the shots are jarring; skipping quickly between Mrs. Who’s movements and the books. We see her before Meg has even entered. If we were to follow the film through Meg’s steps, Mrs. Who should be there as soon as Meg sees her and not a minute before. This kind of set-up is seen throughout the film and it ruins the rhythm.
This is apparent within the soundtrack, which is definitely over-baring. Whilst there are good artists that feature on the soundtrack, it is used in all the wrong places. Dramatic moments are wasted because they’ve opted for a lyrical based tune rather than the soaring score by Ramin Dajawdi.
A Wrinkle in Time is neither as good as people are recommending or as bad as people are slating. It sits with it’s really impeccable elements and it’s really godawful ones too. It’s enjoyable and entertaining and there is enough to inspire a whole generation of children, adults, and filmmakers. However, the issues exist and, whilst it is admirable on a grand scale, it still yearns for absolute completion as though we have a draft version instead of a final one. It’s a large shame because DuVernay is an accomplished director (and, by no means, do the faults change the work she has done and can do and she shouldn’t be condemned for the problems here) and there are moments of pure genius here. It’s just that, much like Tomorrowland, it is confusing and, at times, messy.
A middling live-action fantasy romp, A Wrinkle in Time will find it’s audience… in time.
A final thought: I do believe this is factual evidence that Oprah is an omnipresent gigantic god-like being who has come to Earth to spread messages of love and strength, telling us all to “Be Warriors” and we’ll all believe it. Can we start a religion based on this? Because I’m game. Bring in the Godzilla-sized Oprah NOW!
A Wrinkle in Time is out 25th March