With Spring upon us, it’s blockbuster-o-clock once more, and that means we’ll be taking a look at some of the biggest releases of the season – sure, A Wrinkle in Time isn’t the first big-budget box office draw of the year, but when we’ve got such different opinions on Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic young adult fantasy, it seems only right that we jump in and give both sides a fair airing. Without further ado, the argument for and against A Wrinkle in Time!
Well, it’s not often I find myself in this position: the last three times we’ve done this, I’ve always been the one with a bone to pick with the movie (or star) we’re dealing with, but this time, I’m on the defense.
Which isn’t to say that I think A Wrinkle in Time is a flawless movie. No, in fact, it’s kind of a mess. The plot is concertina’d in a way that renders the story brisk but blunt around the egdes, and the odd structuring leaves the film cut into two ungainly halves. Characterization is thin simply because there’s so damn much to introduce here, in terms on concept, location, and cast, and some of the slightly dodgy special effects do render far-off worlds looking like a rejected location from No Man’s Sky.
But here’s the thing: I loved it. Sometimes, as I have said so many times before, you can quantify a film’s faults in so many ways and still not find it in you to dislike it, and that’s certainly how I feel about A Wrinkle in Time. I’ve been a fan of Ava DuVernay’s work for a long time now, and there’s a pressing intimacy to her stories that is present here and really appeals to me in this context – growing up on magical young adult fiction renders Wrinkle a familiar story to me in many ways, and maybe it’s the nostalgic factor that draws me in here. Maybe it’s the performances, universally warm and engaged, or maybe it’s those big-ass ideas about the scientific power of emotion (and yes, I thought of this Simpsons gag too when the missing ingredient turned out to be love), or maybe that giant, compelling final act that seriously stuck the landing on a messily-plotted but thematically strong movie with big things to say about connection and kindness.
Or maybe, you know what, just maybe I liked it before it was a story told for the sheer joy of telling it. It didn’t feel like the start of a franchise, or a star vehicle, or a chance for DuVernay to make something more mainstream and crowd-pleasing. For all it’s faults, A Wrinkle in Time is a big, ambitious tale told with an earnest commitment by those recounting it, and for that, it managed to punch through that cynical, critical part of my brain and latch on to that soft, fuzzy, warm part of me that just wants to hear a good story.
By Louise MacGregor
Let’s be clear, I didn’t hate A Wrinkle in Time – but I didn’t really like it either. Unlike a lot of critics, I wasn’t nearly as hyped for the film: the main attraction for me was seeing what a director like Ava DuVernay could do with a story that has been long since been labeled unfilmable. Even if it was an absolute trainwreck, it would still have been worth a watch.
A Wrinkle in Time was hardly a trainwreck, but despite some gorgeous images (much fewer than I was expecting) and a strong emotional bond between two out of the three child leads, the film left me cold for about thre- quarters of its runtime. This tale of cosmic familial love and good versus evil rarely had anything new to say. The quest itself: in which Meg and Charles Wallace Murray, with the help of the three mysterious cosmic powers known as the Misses, search the universe for their missing father, never felt particularly threatening or awe-inspiring. Some of the characters were barely two-dimensional: love interest Calvin suffers the most here as it’s never really clear why he’s there in the first place, apart from eating a bunch of sand. Charles Wallace, played by the real star Deric McCabe, is wonderful, with Storm Reid as Meg is as awesome as her name, and their relationship really hits home, but the rest of the film fails to match them.
The planets that are explored don’t make much of an impression either. Only the It, which is poisoning the universe, feels like more than just green screen. In fact, it’s only when the kids get to the It, losing the safety-net of Mrs Which, Whatsit, and, Who, that things finally start moving. Some of the places shown in this dark place could have been freakier, although evil Charles Wallace is the stuff of nightmares – with this final act, A Wrinkle in Time almost makes up for how mediocre much of the film has been up to this point.
That’s my main problem. Not that I didn’t like the world, the characters, or the themes, but the story itself takes far too long to get going. Also, Daddy Pine was fine with just leaving his son to the rot in the It- and that’s going to cost him a whole lot in child therapy in the future.
By Kevin Boyle
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(header image courtesy of ComingSoon.net)