The main theme from one of my favorite childhood books, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, can be encapsulated in one line as Meg is struggling against the mindless conformity that is IT: “Like and equal are two entirely different things.”
Director Ava DuVernay has seemed to seize upon this line as inspiration for her vision of A Wrinkle in Time: a vision that reimagines what the Murry family looks like (from a Caucasian family to a kaleidoscope of color), the composition of the Murry family (Charles Wallace is now an adopted Asian child, and there is no Sandy or Dennys), and who the Mrs are (each portrayed by an amazing woman from a different background: Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey); and it’s this diversity that made me hopeful for a great and unique film.
However, in making every effort to promote diversity and convey the maxim “Like and equal are two entirely different things,” DuVernay (who is breaking the mould herself as the first black woman to direct a movie with a budget over $100 million) makes a flaw fatal to the film: for like and equal to be different things, you have to acknowledge the differences in the first place, and DuVernay does not do that in her film.
For those that enjoy art or color, if you add color upon color, you end up losing the vibrancy of each color as they all blend into and become the ‘color’ black… and this very principle can be applied to the movie.
The first flaw is in the art and direction of the movie itself (how it looks): the overreliance of special effects doesn’t give you a chance to slow down and catch your breath (especially on Camazotz, but that’s another issue in-and-of-itself past the scope of this review); the music is nearly omnipresent in the movie, yet in the various sounds and instrumentation, there is not one distinct theme to distinguish itself; the acting of Storm Reid (Meg) and Deric McCabe (Charles Wallace) is not nuanced enough to evoke the deep, unique, emotions that are in the book (though I do enjoy the acting of the Mrs in their limited roles); and even the general tenor of the movie feels rather bland… the way it’s written and acted, makes it hard to believe that any of the characters are in any real mortal peril or are engaged in an epic struggle between the light and the darkness.
However, the deeper flaw resides in the content of the film (what it’s saying) in that while every slogan or tagline in and of itself is different (“Be a warrior,” “Embrace your faults,” “Be a light in the darkness,” “Reach your potential,”), they are all, in essence, synonymous with some fluffy, and ultimately forgettable, notion of ultimate self-fulfillment or of “making the world a better place”; whereas in the book, the stakes are much, much higher: it is good vs. evil itself and each of us with our differences and imperfections play a crucial role in this battle.
So, while I applaud the vision in the diversity of the cast, and the Mrs in particular, this effort from a very promising director is not particularly different than the standard fare and will be one that gets lost and forgotten somewhere in the annals of space and time.
I’d give it 2 stars out of 7.