2/10 They should call this movie A Wrinkle in Bad, because it’s so bad.
A Wrinkle in Time is based on the beloved 1962 young adult novel by Madeleine L’Engle. It follows Meg Murray (Storm Reid), who is tormented at school by classmates and at home by the disappearance of her father, Alex (Chris Pine), four years prior. She and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), a powerful psychic, are recruited by Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey) to become warriors of the light in an interstellar battle against the darkness, a giant, over-the-top metaphor for both communism and Satan that is responsible for all negative thoughts.
A Wrinkle in Time fails on a basic information transfer level. I have never seen a movie where I have so often found myself wondering what I’m looking at — and I don’t mean the cool physics stuff, which is mostly ignored, I mean characters will jump to the other side of the set from shot to shot. From a basic blocking, who-is-where onstage perspective, I don’t know what’s going on in most of this movie.
A Wrinkle in Time has a major shortage of wide shots. Most of the shots are super close-ups in which characters’ faces take up two thirds of the screen. It’s the root of the blocking problem, and combined with too-fast cutting, it gives the film a generally bewildering quality — viewers’ eyes are required to shift from one side of the screen to the other, sometimes more than once in a matter of seconds, as the film rapidly cuts back and forth between shots with different focal points. Watch this video on Mad Max: Fury Road and imagine the exact opposite.
I read A Wrinkle in Time as a child and I love that book and I know the story is accurately translated if you take out all the cool physics stuff — which was the coolest part of the book and really shouldn’t have been taken out anyway — but you’ve got to hate this reductive, childish plotline, particularly the way it’s told here.
Why does Veronica Kiley (Rowan Blanchard) bully Meg Murray? Well, it’s a product of a school system that locks kids who’ve gone all the way through puberty in with kids who haven’t started it for long stretches, as well as a self-hatred American society impresses into its girls that is expressed by — wait, no, none of that, it’s because she’s possessed by an interstellar smoke monster.
Why does Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) have a crush on Murray? Despite his popularity, he feels uncomfortable in his own skin and is drawn to Murray in part because she’s more overtly cast out — nope, sorry, wrong again, it’s because he’s a righteous boy who’s filled with light, and they resonate on the same frequency of love.
With most scenes seeming like they weren’t planned out, so many lines that don’t seem to fit together and a ton of offscreen dialogue that might have been dubbed, A Wrinkle in Time is a sure bet for production troubles, but it doesn’t seem to have had any. No reports of reshooting the entire film, no directors fired mid-production for doing exactly what they were hired to do, nothing of the sort. This movie is disorganized and incomprehensible because writer Jennifer Lee didn’t translate the book well enough into a screenplay and director Ava DuVernay didn’t get the shots to make it work.
Much of my excitement for this film was based on DuVernay, and looking back, it was for some pretty bad reasons. She rose to prominence with 2014’s Selma, for which she became the first black woman to receive a Golden Globe nomination for directing, which is just as much an indictment of Hollywood’s traditions of racism and sexism than an endorsement of her talent. Marvel courted her to direct Black Panther or Captain Marvel, its first movies to star a lead that is either black or a woman, as her rise to fame was concurrent with a sudden arms race to diversify superhero movies.
DuVernay has been set up as the messiah of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, but she’s just a director, one whose fame has forced her to jump from a $20 million Oscar season movie to a $100 million Disney blockbuster. She’s far from the first to miss that leap.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.