Creative to a fault
A Wrinkle in Time (2018): After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
I really don't know what to say about this film. On the one hand: it's REALLY messy. The film bites off WAY more than it can chew and feels frantic, chaotic, and incoherent. On the other hand, it is really creative and has a lot of visually stunning setpieces. This feels like 2018's version of Cloud Atlas: director (and real-life warrior) Ava DuVernary swings for the fences with this version of A Wrinkle in Time and this kind of over-the-top big budget film is rarely seen in Hollywood nowadays. Especially with someone like Ava DuVernay leading the way. I'd say if you have kids, you should go without question: support the personnel behind this film and the choices made and your kids will have a ball as they see their imaginations come to life. I was in a full room for this, and the children around me were enthralled, to say the least. Juuuuuust don't think too much about it, because it is pretty absurd.
Let's go against my usual MO and start with the bad. The film does bite off WAY more than it can chew. The pacing is disastrous, and every scene feels like it should be its own movie. This really tanks individual character arcs, to the point that even the main characters can be pretty forgettable. The character Calvin (played not-so-well by Levi Miller) is the quintessential example of this. Calvin's arc is practically nonexistent to the point that I actually forgot all about it before the movie ended. At the end Calvin reminds us of his arc and I said to myself, "Oh ya, that was a thing!" This guy is one of the three main human characters in this story! I mean, I get that Levi Miller didn't portray him particularly well, but he didn't get any decent writing behind him, either. (He's the "token white guy" that's just there to "look pretty" and support the protagonist, so I can't complain about that being a white male for once.) Also, the other male character, Charles Wallace, wasn't played very well either. Poor Deric McCabe. He wasn't very good, but he didn't have any good dialogue to work with either. Hey, a note to any prospective screenwriter out there: if you're going to have novice child-actors in your movie, you have to give him some good dialogue to say that they would actually say. Here it is obvious that an adult is writing their lines. From the actual first line spoken by Charles Wallace, I was thinking to myself, "Nope. No child would ever talk like that." The biggest problem with this film, though, is also its greatest strength for a younger demographic: the setpieces. We'll get to the positives of them in a moment, but the negatives are impossible to ignore: each setpiece feels like its own movie, and we're never in a new setpiece long enough to truly appreciate it. We travel to 3 (I think?) different worlds throughout the brisk 109 minute runtime, but we never spend any more than 10 minutes at any of them. Because of this, the "rules" of these worlds feel haphazard, and only there to service the overall story. Never once did I think to myself "Oh, how are they going to get out of this?" because I knew a convenient "rule", like flowers being able to band together (really?) to break someone's fall would come in and save the day.
THAT SAID. This is also the part that kids will love, because they aren't thinking about the "rules" of an individual world when they see it. They'll just be in awe of these setpieces. I don't blame them: the worlds we visit throughout the runtime are breathtaking. The visuals are incredible, and I did wish we had spent more time investigating these landscapes. Oprah Winfrey literally towers over everyone as Mrs. Which, (my favorite part, by the way) and Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling clearly had a blast portraying Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, respectively. And Ava DuVernay found herself (and Hollywood) a STAR in Storm Reid. Her portrayal of the main character, Meg, is the hero we all need, and one that I think a lot of people (myself included) can relate to. If there's one thing to come out of this film, I hope it's the rise of Storm Reid. Meg is a strong protagonist that doesn't need men to come in and save the day. I loved how she even used science to get out of certain situations, even if that science was.....shoddy, to say the least. I haven't felt this excited about a child-actor since Jacob Tremblay burst onto the scene back in 2015's Room. For all the film's faults, and for all its shortcomings with the other two main characters, it did manage to knock its main character out of the park. Expect Disney to milk that for all it's worth.
In conclusion, while A Wrinkle in Time does bite off more than it could chew, (I think it could've benefited from being split into two films, believe it or not) it does so from the stance that Ava DuVernay and company left it all out on the table. I respect that, and I think because of this the film is still worth a watch, even if it is on Netflix/Disney's upcoming streaming service in a few months versus in the theater. There is a difference between "swinging for the fences" (ex.: Cloud Atlas) and "throwing a bunch of ideas against the wall and seeing what sticks." (ex.: Last Flag Flying) The former is much more enjoyable to watch, but it's also much tougher to do. Unfortunately, "swinging for the fences" and missing still leads to the same result as "throwing a bunch of ideas against the wall and seeing what sticks" and missing. The former just managed to look a lot cooler as it unfolded.
The Critique: A Wrinkle in Time is creative to a fault. Incoherent (but beautiful) setpieces dominate this overly ambitious film, and poor dialogue sinks the performances of two of its three child-actors, despite the excellent performance of its third, Storm Reid.
The Recommendation: I do think it's worth seeing if you have kids. It's going to be better than a lot of the kids movies that are out there. Everyone else? Buy your ticket for A Wrinkle in Time at the theater to support it, then go and sneak into Black Panther again.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
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