The perfect blend of subtle sci-fi and bildungsroman, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was a staple book to my childhood, which I read and re-read several times over the years. It’s the kind of book that, as you grow, it develops different meanings with you. As a kid I was awestruck by the unruly magic of L’Engle’s expansive universe that defied modern logic, but as I grew was attracted to the powerful, more adult themes that the novel had to offer.
The book focuses on the internal struggles of Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as she copes with the mysterious disappearance of her father (Chris Pine), a quantum physicist who has discovered the capability to travel across dimensions of time and space. With the help of her brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and her schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller), she journeys across galaxies in search of her father who is being held captive by the darkest force in the universe: IT.
Entering the theater, I was excited to see the universe of my youth displayed on the big screen. And while I felt that director Ava Devurnay’s interpretation of the book encapsulated the general plotline and attempted to stay true to the magic of its origins, the film was strongly lacking in terms of computer-generated imagery quality which tainted the illusion.
After the first instance of space travel, the kids awake on a new planet, which is artificially bright and looks completely created out of a green screen. While I appreciated the attempt to use vibrancy to mimic the magical feel in which L’Engle describes other worlds, it simply felt fake. This wasn’t aided by the solely computer-generated characters such as the flowers and the strange, cabbage monster that just sort of appeared out of nowhere.
Not to say that all usage of light was bad, though. The end of the film features a variety of scenes in which Meg is shrouded in light, further emphasizing the theme of darkness versus light as well as stressing Meg’s personal transformation from the beginning in which she exhibited an aura of darkness and brooding attitude.
Some beautiful filmmaking was incorporated, such as at the beginning when Meg looks out the window and the camera intentionally blurs out of focus to display an array of hexagonal colors. As the scene continues, the camera displays a wide shot of Meg’s room, displaying her by her lonesome, surrounded by the dark of night in the direct center. I appreciated the deliberate intent behind each shot and each line of dialogue, yet I couldn’t help but feel as though at times it was almost too thorough.
The film contained many clichés which was an extreme detriment for me. I understand the significance of being able to utilize a film as a platform for reformation of social issues, but certain implications felt… not implied. Charles Wallace comments on the sheer size in comparison to humans of one of the magical entities of the film, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), to which she responds something along the lines of, “Is there really such a thing as a right size?”
Oprah might as well have broken the fourth wall. I’m all for loving your body and not conforming to standard body image types, but the line felt somewhat forced which made it slightly uncomfortable. And as the film progresses, the entities continue to enforce ideas of body acceptance on to Meg who ultimately comes to terms with who she is (shocker there, right). Overall, the main themes that the film encompasses felt overused and unoriginal, making scenes that could have been impactful seem almost cheesy.
The biggest accomplishment of the film was not in terms of the actual filmmaking itself, but rather its diversity of cast. Devurnay took a book that contained all white characters and transformed it into a film in which the family is of mixed race, and has several strong, African-American figures playing central roles.
While Ava Devurnay’s modern adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time tackled some bigger issues, it did little to compensate for what it was lacking in terms of actually bringing L’Engle’s science fantasy to life. It’s a great example of how filmmakers can use their art as a platform for social change, but definitely not the best representation of top-tier filmmaking.