Wow. Disney have made a movie in 2018 that is not a remake or a reboot of an older franchise. I may have to sit down for this one because as you all know, I write this reviews standing up. That’s what everyone does right? Anyway, I think we all know that Disney have struggled over the last few years to make live action films that aren’t remakes. But who can blame them really when those remakes make so much money? So it’s nice to see that Disney are going to bring a beloved book to the big screen instead of an older property. But is A Wrinkle In Time good enough to stop their obsession with remakes?
Meg (Storm Reid, 12 Years A Slave) is still mourning after her father (Chris Pine, Star Trek) suddenly disappeared four years ago. However three beings, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon, Wild) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling, The Office) appear and reveal to her that her father has ended up in another world and are there to help her find him.
So I would like to tell you about the characters and the various depths they all have as three people, Meg is accompanied by adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe, Stephanie) and random boy Calvin (Levi Miller, Pan), cross the universe looking her father. However that wouldn’t last long because they have no character. Meg is downtrodden and while there is glimpses of her being a bright and intelligent girl, it’s all hidden behind a permanent frown which makes her hard to root for as a lead character. Calvin has less character than that. He shows up, tags along and is hungry sometimes. That’s the extent of his character. And those three beings should be interesting but while they have some character, it’s just a singular trait. Mrs. Which is a leader, Mrs. Whatsit talks a lot and Mrs. Who speaks in inspirational quotes, so basically your mum’s Facebook feed. There is just nothing to the characters.
But nothing is preferential to the character that Charles Wallace has. He is the younger brother and is a genius and boy will he tell you that he’s a genius. He is the most annoying thing in a movie that does get to be pretty annoying. This is the sort of child role I dislike, the one that does not talk like a child, act like a child or do anything like a child. It gets to be really annoying very quickly and you wish him off screen every time he appears. And that name. That god damned name. Every time it is said, and it is always said as Charles Wallace, it drives me up the wall. There’s something about someone being referred to with two names all the time, even in drastic situations where a shortening to Charles would be more beneficial, which makes me want to destroy the cinema seat in front of me.
And for the longest time, the plot seems to lack direction. For the first 30 minutes, the movie seems to just play about with the three beings on Earth with Charles Wallace teasing their existence and why they are, him keeping these secrets for no reason is another reason why you get to hate him very quickly, before heading out into the universe. That’s when you think the film is actually going to do something. But then they faff around on this green planet for a while before they head to another world with someone who sees the future and that’s where the movie starts in earnest. You quickly lose patience because you just want them to get on with trying to find Meg’s father but they are taking their sweet time doing it. I get they need to establish some things beforehand but they can do it a lot quicker and simpler than what they do here.
I feel like the movie is trying to have a positive impact though which I do respect. The movie really wants to spread a message of hope and happiness and using big metaphors to explain small emotional moments is one of my favourite tropes in film. This one tries to explain the sadness in the universe through a dark being called The It which the movie shows causes all the suffering in Meg’s life including the stereotypical bully she has and Calvin’s abusive father. The film really does try to have a big emotional impact and if there was more work on the characters themselves, maybe spend more time with instead of faffing about like in the first hour, I feel there would be some very good moments towards the end.
The best thing about the movie is the visuals. I’ve criticised this movie a lot but if anything comes out of it with any credit it’s the director Ava DuVernay (Selma) because she makes this movie look stunning. The camera work is great and everyone one of the worlds they visit look brilliant. That opening green and vibrant world is magical and the best ongoing thread the movie has to keep is wondering what brilliant world they are going to visit next and how that’s going to look. It is top work from the special effects team who I imagine had a lot of fun realising these worlds and DuVernay seems to rejoice in showing them off to us. The worlds have more character than the characters at least.
A Wrinkle In Time is very flashy and very nice to look at. But it has very little else going for it. None of the characters are interesting and those that are anything other than bland are really irritating. There is an attempt to make an emotionally resonant film but if you have characters who are basically nothing but the emotion you need them to be to make the scene work, it isn’t going to make the impact you want it to. Considering the people behind this movie and how beloved the book was, I expected so much more.