If there was ever a director to take on the challenge of turning A Wrinkle in Time into film, Ava DuVernay would be it. The 1962 novel was known for challenging the boundaries of science and fantasy, delving into sensitive issues children would encounter throughout life. Before DuVernay, only one director sought to bring Madeleine L’Engle’s work on-screen: John Kent Harrison. Disney backed the project which aired on ABC just three years before L’Engle’s death. L’Engle’s opinion of the film was lacklustre when asked by Newsweek if Harrison’s version “met her expectations.” She replied, "Yes, I expected it to be bad, and it is."
Aesthetically-speaking, L’Engle likely would have been at the very least intrigued with DuVernay’s adaptation of the literary classic, with the combination of glittering costumes, ethereal landscapes and, of course, Oprah. However, despite the blockbuster-worthy cast including Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis and Rowan Blanchard, it’s impossible to negate where the film misses.
A Wrinkle In Time centres around heroine Meg Murray (Storm Reid) and her younger brother Charles Wallace who - guided by mystical guides Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which - go searching through the universe for their father who has been missing for four years. Their journey becomes dangerous as they travel to a planet that holds all evil. While surrealist scenery is breathtaking and the adventure is riveting, the plot often feels rushed as Murray tesseracts - travels through space and time - throughout the sprawling universe. The use of the soundtrack curated by DuVernay may be full of lauded artists like Sade, Sia and Kehlani, but the way it conveys emotion comes off at times as schmaltzy. Instead of letting the characters’ emotions drive the plot line, the music is used as a stand-in for scenes that rely on the characters’ emotions. The music is something that will likely be appealing to a younger audience, but takes away from the movie if you’re above the age of 15.
While L’Engle’s book is full of complex themes, it seems as if two hours wasn’t enough time to explore all of them and to allow Reid’s character to fully develop. For children, the movie adaptation will likely be a fast-favourite because of its cinematic elements, but adults who have held onto A Wrinkle In Time as a staple of their childhood, they will likely find some magic missing in the movie.
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