A Wrinkle in Time attempts to explore the edges of a fantastical universe and the introspective self-confidence of a young girl at the same time, resulting in a muddled experience that doesn’t quite come together despite its heroic ambitions.
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an academically gifted middle-school student who has become socially withdrawn since the disappearance of her astrophysicist father four years ago. She is stubborn, deeply troubled by her dad’s absence, and self-conscious about her looks, but finds solace in outcast-hood with her genius 6-year old brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). One day, a mysterious woman appears in the company of Charles Wallace, who calls herself Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and tells Meg that she has come to help find her father, trapped billions of light years away. Accompanied by classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), Meg and Charles Wallace must travel the universe to rescue their father from the clutches of an evil being known as The It.
A Wrinkle in Time is quite possibly one of the most beautiful films to ever cross the large screen, as a dazzling, colorful array of special effects bring distant planets to life with unabashed wonder. Bolstered by a passionate vocal soundtrack, the film makes for a sufficient children’s adventure film. However, it lacks the cohesiveness to appeal to older viewers, and its uneven pacing prevents A Wrinkle in Time from being truly memorable. The first quarter of the movie drags on establishing Meg as a loner, bullied by her classmates and misunderstood by her teachers. One hour later, when traveling from world to world, the children literally walk from one uncanny place straight into the next with barely any transition, making it difficult to follow or predict what will happen next. Despite the children risking their lives during their journey, they never encounter obstacles which force them to act beyond their initial sketched-out personalities, making it difficult to for audiences to empathize with their characters. Meg is the only person to undergo character development, as she learns to be confident and brave, but that was a given from the first few minutes into the film.
In addition, while the original 1962 Madeleine L’Engle novel may be too old for most readers to bother remembering exactly what happened, it should be noted that the film diverges from its source material on multiple levels, which include tweaking Charles Wallace into an adopted child, as well as the omission of the winged centaur forms of the trio of Mrs W’s.
A Wrinkle in Time is a milestone for the representation of women of color on the big screen. On the other hand, the dialogue is very heavy-handed about learning to accept oneself and the power of love, and having these themes literally spelled out unfortunately keeps them from connecting and resonating with adult viewers on a personal level. The performances falter at times, and this, plus the simplified personality of the characters, as well as the ambiguity surrounding their journey, combine into a story that doesn’t quite stick together even from a high fantasy standpoint.
A Wrinkle in Time is not a film for people who value three-dimensional characters and hard science. While claims that the original novel was inherently unadaptable feel rather farfetched, it appears that director Ava DuVernay’s ambitions to create a fictional hero for young girls came at the cost of the most magical and memorable elements of the source material.