A beautifully attempted misfire that awes with its visuals, costume design, and a deeply loving message. Ultimately, they cannot save the poor pacing and script decisions. If you have a young person in your life, take them to see this immediately. If not, you’re better off waiting for cheap seats or streaming.
The Good: A visual feast with a deeply resonating message and a whole lot of heart.
A Wrinkle in Time is, above all else, beautiful to look at it.
Art directors Greg Hooper, David Lazan, and Jeff Julian bring a combined resume dedicated to spectacle, with movies like Cloud Atlas, Passengers, and The Artist under their belts. Alongside a massive visual effects team, they bring to life complex and beautiful worlds – amber crystalline caverns, floating fields of flowers, and kitschy crowded beaches among them.
Complementing the landscapes are the costume designs for Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling. From designer Paco Delgado, whose previous work includes Les Misérables and The Danish Girl, their costume aesthetics match their characters perfectly, feeling both alien and fantastical.
The result of the work here is a perfect marriage of the tones of the film – there are both science and magic, reason and wonder. And, most importantly, strengths and flaws.
It is this last pairing that comes through so powerfully in the narrative. Storm Reid, in her first leading role, carries and exemplifies this duality throughout. She must recognize not only her strengths but also her flaws. A more traditional narrative would have her overcome them. Here, she must accept them.
The greatest triumph of this film is the way it handles Reid’s conflict. This is the first major live-action studio blockbuster, to my memory, that removes violence as a means of resolution. To see a young, science-minded black woman attempt to solve an inter-dimensional crisis not through violence, but through dialogue and empathy? That’s a special thing.
The Bad: Scenes with no purpose, a lack of clear motivations, and shallow performances hurt the overall product.
Unfortunately, all the heart in the world does not erase fundamental flaws.
A Wrinkle in Time takes breaths here and there, but for the most part, the pace is incredibly quick. There is little time to take in all of the fantastic imagery, to process any of it. Scenes move from one set piece to the next, characters talk for a few seconds before entering through the door, and then they’re off again.
Typically, this kind of pace means that a movie is very lean, missing key moments that might make the characters feel more fleshed out.
Here, the film suffers somewhat uniquely from diametric problems. Those key moments are often missing, forcing the audience to fill in what they can and connect dots. At the same time, there is a host of scenes that are utterly meaningless, perhaps beyond the spectacle of it all.
One such scene, near the beginning of the second act, finds the heroes on a lush grassland planet. They roll down a hill, then stop for important exposition, there’s a gorgeous visual effects piece, a character falls from the sky, and the villainous MacGuffin is introduced. And absolutely none of it matters.
While beautiful, the scene in question did not move the plot along, introduce character conflict, set up anything, or develop any relationships. This issue played out through most of the movie. The audience is left continuously asking for more detail, i.e., “what are Reid’s motivations? When was that character flaw introduced?” while also wondering why there is time spent at all in other areas.
Unfortunately, the leading cast did not have the gravitas nor chemistry to distract from these issues. Reid is a delight and plays well off Deric McCabe, who plays her brother. McCabe steals nearly every scene he is in. The same cannot be said for Levi Miller, best known for portraying the titular boy in 2015’s Pan. While the foundations are there, Miller clearly needed more direction and help than he was getting. His chemistry with Reid is flat and invites no curiosity or intrigue.
Beyond the three newcomers is a veteran cast that, given the names, one would expect to have played better than it did. Witherspoon, Kaling, and Winfrey pass from scene to scene, delivering their given lines and moving on. There is no sense of character save for Witherspoon. They bring their own natural charisma, but it is not utilized in any meaningful way. Only Chris Pine escapes this, somehow falling into a role that feels tailor-made for him.
The Ugly: Sometimes things aren’t for you – and that’s OK.
Let’s be clear: A Wrinkle in Time is not a failure, by any means. While not a financial juggernaut, a $43 million opening weekend is nothing to scoff at. The Halloween costumes alone will probably make back its budget.
More importantly, while it suffers from pacing and character issues, the movie performs its primary goal admirably: telling a compelling sci-fi/fantasy tale about a determined and complex young girl, to a young audience.
Will my 9-year-old sister notice the sudden inclusion of previously undeveloped character flaws? Nope. Will she feel whiplash from the breakneck pace of changing character relationships? Definitely not.
But she will notice that the lead character of a major blockbuster film, from Disney no less, is a young girl interested in science, just like her. She will notice the determination and strength of Reid’s character, and the loving sibling and father relationships.
So in the end, it doesn’t matter if I did or didn’t like it. It wasn’t for me. And it doesn’t have to be good to be inspirational, or important.
“Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides-Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)-who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are soon transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them.” – Rotten Tomatoes