A Wrinkle In Time (2018) (Review)

Disney's A Wrinkle In Time has seemingly split audiences down the middle; those professing their love for Ava DuVernay's blockbuster, the first (!) nine-digit production from a black woman, have enjoyed the colourful spectacle and empowering message; and those who have failed to warm to the film's charm, deeming it messy and irredeemably flawed. The truth (in my eyes) lies somewhere in the middle; it's a solid slice of entertainment that will likely please younger audiences but it constantly threatens to collapse in on itself due to the porous screenplay, caused by the plethora of plot holes present in the story. Is it worth exploring the Wrinkle?

A Wrinkle In Time follows Meg Murry, a gifted but unconfident young girl who, with the help of three astral travellers, her brother and friend set off on a quest to find her father, who went missing after discovering a new planet. With an strong ensemble consisting of Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and helmed by DuVernay, the talent is clear -- so why isn't the film quite a sum of its parts?

Saturated colour and eye-popping spectacle make A Wrinkle in Time a visual treat; while the trailers gave me cause for concern and its undeniably overwhelming in its usage at times, the CGI is largely well-rendered and wonderfully bright. DuVernay's camera movements are smooth and sharp, giving the film a magical quality that makes it effective viewing for the most part. You do feel like you have been transported into a beautiful new world, evidence that DuVernay's direction is indeed effectual, with a clear ambition and vision imbued throughout. 

Across the board, the cast are solid. The young performers are charismatic enough to carry the film, supported by the fine work from the more established performers; Winfrey is impressive in a role that feels tailor-made for her; Kaling is charming and benevolent; and while Witherspoon is let down by a script that overcompensates for her character with silly behaviour and rather irritating qualities, she brings to it an energy that cannot be disputed. Pine is fine and Mbatha is under-utilised which allows Reid to lead the way, boosting what should be a bright career ahead of her. For his age, McCabe is decent (but hindered by the script's dialogue) while Miller gives another promising turn (although more assured in Better Watch Out). 

With such talent and vision assembled then, why does A Wrinkle In Time not make for a stronger viewing experience? It mainly comes down to a weak story and even weaker script that frequently threatens to collapse in on itself. Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell's screenplay, based on Madeleine L'Engle's novel of the same name, is filled with so many plot holes that it becomes a carousel of unexplored tangents and unresolved loose ends which the film neglects to fulfil. It jumps from set piece to set piece without much in the way of connectivity tissue, finding a conclusion that doesn't feel earned, sketching characters arcs that are shelved along the way. Dialogue is awkwardly clunky and heavy-handed, with its beat-to-beat narrative wearing thin. It can be disjointed and awfully creaky at best, totally incompetent at worst.

Yet, even still, despite the obvious shortcomings and flaws of A Wrinkle In Time, I found myself moved by the message of empowerment beneath the unsatisfying script. It's well-moralled and well-meaning, with a great sincerity that runs through the core of the piece, inspiring and certainly sweet with its themes and metaphors. Despite not always developing as organically as desired, it narratively sticks to the Disney formula so rigidly but does still feel bold and more daring somehow; it takes risks and while it frequently falls short, seems fearless and valiant in the moment. A lot rests on A Wrinkle In Time (more so than should) so it's disappointing that the final product couldn't become something stronger -- it's a film you really want to succeed.

In isolation, the soundtrack brimming with empowerment pop anthems is an enjoyable listen but used in the film, it can seem forced and strained. It feels like it was made for the film rather than alongside the film.

So A Wrinkle In Time isn't the gem we all wanted it to be, although it isn't through lack of trying. Ava DuVernay's vision is commendable and she along with her solid ensemble give the support an unstable screenplay needs but it sometimes isn't enough. It's serviceable blockbuster filmmaking that will be enjoyed by its younger audience for its colour and sweetness, as well as those less critical of the various filmmaking aspects (which are less than desirable here). Frankly, it's a bit all over the place, messy and scattered. I wanted A Wrinkle In Time to be better but it's packed with heart and soul -- that's more than can be said about a lot of the material filling our cineplex currently.


Summary: A Wrinkle In Time combines the bold and ambitious vision of Ava DuVernay and some fine performances from the ensemble to colourful, empowering effect -- but its screenplay, filled with a multitude of plots holes and unresolved arcs, threatens to collapse Disney's latest effort at any given minute.