A Wrinkle In Time and Not Enough Space to Explain it All

10 Mar

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Disney’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle‘s young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time is going to fall by the wayside like Tommorowland. The premise of the book is great. The big screen execution is muddled. Changes will always happen when making a movie from a book and the star power behind the three Fatimas – Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) cannot carry the film. They are not the stars of this piece. Their etheric portrayal suggests their presence is important to guide Meg Murry (Storm Reid) on her journey of self-realization. This tween lost her astrophysicist father (Chris Pine) to some in-between realm and since then has been living in a haze.

When considering much of the story is told in Meg’s perspective, any extra bits of explanation is saved for later. Her adoptive younger brother, Charles Wallace, is the only person who stays positive. When he finally invites Mrs Whatsit into the Murry household, the adventure is about to begin.

Part of the tale takes on an Alice in Wonderland quality. The out worldliness of Who, Whatsit and Which (The Three Fates) become more like Fifth Element meets Avatar. When considering some imagery shows many string-like objects tying the universe together and they can travel along them, this theory is not too far-fetched. And the aliens Meg encounters recalls Contact. These moments needed to be deep instead of fleeting. In a tale about Meg coming of age, there’s only one moment where she is taught to keep a steady balance between the now and uncertain future. She defers to facts to keep her sanity afloat and while that did not help her in school as she’s regularly bullied, this film has too much in its two-hour runtime.

A few shining moments include when Meg tries to explain a few magical moments like flying scientifically. These bits of revelation caught my interest because she proves that she can be as bright as Charles.

In this film, the antagonist is Dark Matter given sentience. This element was theorized way before the book was written and L’Engle might have looked at these radical case studies before penning this book. While her work has a Christian flavour, it’s the alien material I am drawn to. Had this movie been a non-Disney product, I get the feeling the artistic design team would have wanted to borrow from many a book cover from Del Rey Publishing’s collection of H.P. Lovecraft anthologies. The grey tones and supernatural mystique suggests defeating this entity is tough. It can do more than possess people.

Had these universal force been given any other name, Entropy and Azathoth come to mind. The source material feels dated, and if it’s to jibe with a modern audience, the changes would make this work a story of its own instead of an adaptation. Much of the ideas presented in the original work is fascinating, but to have this story told through the Disney lens diminishes this product. Youths will find the message about finding personal strength empowering. Adults looking for an explanation of this world’s mythos is likely to be let down. Not even a second film can expand the material fast enough to save this world.

2 Stars out of 5


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