(This review contains spoilers for A Wrinkle in Time, book and movie)
Last Friday, I checked out A Wrinkle in Time with a couple of friends. The movie ticket cost me Rp. 60 000 (around $4.20). Wanting to enhance my viewing experience with the heightening properties of salted buttery maize, I paid Rp. 55 000 (around $3.85) for a bag of popcorn large enough to erase the memory of every episode of the Inhumans TV series. Thus, I paid a grand total of Rp. 115 000 (eight-point-oh-five big ones) to enjoy A Wrinkle in Time at my local cinema, an adaptation of a fantastic book I cherished as a pre-teen, expecting a promising director and a promising vision to immerse and indulge me after a week of one too many unsavory moments.
Unfortunately, the popcorn wasn’t enough to drown out the emptiness in my wallet where Rp. 115 000 used to exist.
The bland and insipid popcorn was perhaps the perfect culinary companion on my miserable 109-minute-long journey. The book ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle is a surreal and phantasmagorical cosmic odyssey detailing an epic battle between the forces of good and evil which transmogrifies from grand and sweeping to intimate and personal in a heartbeat. The impostor ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Ava Duvernay is a baby-proofed, sugar-coated Disney movie that sandpapers the overarching themes of the book, with any semblance of adversity, stakes or odds so Disneyfied I expected Zendaya to pop up in the middle of the movie and paint the Disney Channel logo in a corner of the screen with a pixie dust wand. Honestly, the only fun I had watching this movie was from roasting it for all I was worth with my mates.
A Wrinkle in Time centers around Meg Murry, a thirteen-year-old socially outcasted girl who is haunted by the disappearance of her father and the malicious gossip about her family spread by the people around her. Her little brother Charles Wallace is a prodigious child with an uncanny ability to fathom reality and empathize with his mother and sister who is regarded as sub-normal by most people. One dark and stormy night, a gathering of the Murry family is interrupted by a stranger dressed in white, who had been invited by Charles Wallace. After a short exchange, Mrs. Whatsit states something (“There is such a thing as a tesseract”) which visibly upsets Mrs. Murry before leaving.
Over the next few days, Charles Wallace introduces Meg to two other quirky, mysterious beings, Mrs. Who and Which, who exude a strange, unearthly air of otherworldliness. Along the way, Meg and Charles Wallace meet Calvin, a boy at their school who is Meg’s senior, whom they decide to bring along when visiting the three beings. The three Mrs reveal that they can help them find Meg’s father, and invite the trio to join them in searching for her father and fighting the great cosmic evil that has kept him captive for so long. They agree, and the three Mrs transport them away from Earth via ‘tessering’, a form of travel by ‘wrinkling’ space and time. Soon, the three engage in an interplanetary quest to vanquish the great evil and bring Meg’s father home.
Despite my my initial optimism and eagerness to love this movie, movie does not live up to the original book by Madeleine L’Engle. Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is flawed in many respects, mainly due to a messy, uneven screenplay, saccharine, sugar-saturated thematic content, and unremarkable acting that ranges from middling, mediocre to personality-deficient that make this movie downright eye-roll worthy and even boring at times. Amidst these glaring and unpalatable faults, this movie’s only redeeming graces (in my opinion) are its spectacular visual aesthetic and the performances of Storm Reid as Meg Murry and Chris Pine as Meg’s father, Mr. Murry.
Upon viewing the film, I believe that the director and screenwriter of this film, Ava Duvernay and Jennifer Lee, were so empowered by and identified with Meg’s journey to such a degree that they forgot to challenge her with actual adversity and stakes instead of such overwhelmingly underwhelming odds. The broader religious strokes of the book, which deal with Good and Evil, are scrubbed thoroughly by the cogs and gears of the Disney machine; the subtler aspects of the three Mrs (the implication that they are heavenly angels) and of the evil IT are smoothened out by the movie’s vague and interpretation of “cosmic warriors” against the “darkness”. I wouldn’t have been surprised had the three Mrs asked Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin to fight the evil by brushing their teeth at 9 o’clock sharp every night and always finishing their vegetables.
The performances of Calvin and Charles Wallace certainly tickled me something terrible. Levi Miller as Calvin is so utterly devoid of personality, character and life that Calvin serves only one purpose in this movie; he is a walking compliment, a bouquet of flowers that breathes, emotional validation come to colorless life on the big screen and nothing more. His empty gaze and unending praises seem to almost intentionally hammer home one point; unlike the fierce, intelligent, willful Calvin of the book, he only exists to affirm Meg’s personal value. In fact, half of this movie involves its supporting characters emotionally validating Meg. Despite the potential of his insufficiently explored backstory, Levi Miller drains Calvin of any charm whatsoever. In addition, I found Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace thoroughly irritating whenever he was onscreen. The Charles Wallace of the book is established as a serious and mature personage much more advanced than the body he inhabits. However, Deric McCabe plays Charles Wallace as one would expect from a Disney Channel sitcom. Perhaps it hasn’t been long enough to rid my mouth of that dreadful taste, but I cannot stand to see Charles Wallace without flashing back to the days of KC Undercover and Jessie. Blech. Repulsive.
A Wrinkle in Time’s only saving graces are the heart of its story (the love between Meg and her father, and her determination to find him) and its splendid visuals. I enjoyed almost every bit of its aesthetic and every shot of its gorgeous settings, except for the final showdown between Meg, Charles Wallace, and IT. In the final confrontation, Meg must try to pull Charles Wallace away from the dark influence of the evil IT. Every aspect of this scene bothered me, from the insipid, tedious and trite dialogue to special effects that made Charles Wallace look like a Power Rangers villain floating against a green screen CGI reject out of Doctor Strange. In fact, I almost felt angry during this scene as it felt like a ridiculous disservice to the beautifully executed final chapters of the book. All I could do was ridicule the slow-moving cheesefest with my friends and joke about getting a refund.
In conclusion, A Wrinkle in Time was a true disappointment on many levels. After the pathetic 2003 movie, I can only hope for a fantastic Spider-Man: Homecoming-style reboot by some well-funded indie movie company Disney sells the movie rights to, which is as fantastical a premise as this movie surpassing Black Panther on its opening weekend. Despite Chris Pine’s emotional, sympathetic acting, Storm Reid’s likable, equally sympathetic heroine, and some spectacular visuals, A Wrinkle in Time was actually A Wrinkle in Disney’s Time; dazzlingly dull and powerfully lifeless. Out of 10 points, I would give it 4.5 points. I wanted to like this movie, but I couldn’t. Unless you’ve got kids to entertain for 109 minutes, this movie offers little more thrills than a motorized supermarket child’s rocket.
A Wrinkle in Time stars Storm Reid, Chris Pine, Oprah Winfrey and others. Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe. PG (Of course).