By Billy Jepma ’18
When talking about influential childhood storytellers, it rarely takes long for Madeline L’Engle’s name to come into the conversation. She is a master of fantasy, and one of the rare writers able to seamlessly merge childhood adventure with a mature and nuanced subject matter.
L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” series is undoubtedly her most beloved work, but for all of their fantastical exploits and powerful characterization, they have so far proven difficult to adapt to the big screen, and unfortunately, that trend seems to continue here.
Disney’s attempt at adapting “A Wrinkle in Time” in a big-budget movie has its heart and soul in the right place, but fails to capture what made the original book so enduring.
While “A Wrinkle in Time” is directed with care and style by Ava DuVernay, the film’s plot struggles to truly find its footing, and where the book thrives in its subtle characterization and symbolism, the new film is often heavy-handed and clumsy with its themes.
Visually the film is an achievement, and somehow manages to take the cosmically abstract environments of L’Engle’s prose and convert it into breathtaking vistas and sweeping colors. DuVernay’s sense of scope is one of the film’s strongest qualities, and even as the plot stumbles in creating a compelling reason to invest in its cast of characters, the ever-evolving visuals ensure that its audience never grows tired of what was on-screen.
There are moments where the special effects are not as strong as they could be, but in a world of flying creatures, floating islands, and cosmic beings, the not-quite-believable CGI is easily forgivable in favor of simply enjoying the colors and spectacle that DuVernay carries the audience through.
What is less easy to look past, however, is the shallow characterization of much of the film’s cast. While the actors themselves are all extraordinarily talented, and do good work with what they are given, their dialogue and motivations feel murky and ill-defined, resulting in a plot that never claims a tangible sense of urgency.
Thankfully, the film’s young protagonist, Meg Murray, fares better than the rest of the cast. Young actress Storm Reid carries herself with applaudable confidence in the complicated role, and despite not being given the most developed of material to work with, she gives Meg the kind of personality and heart that is lacking in the rest of the film.
There’s not a single bad performance in the film, but rather an excess of good performances from an excess of talented performers. The problem comes from a screenplay that simply feels rushed.
The experience of watching the film is undoubtedly an enjoyable one, but it has none of the aplomb or lasting appeal that L’Engle’s novel does.
For a children’s fantasy flick, “A Wrinkle in Time” is sure to be a hit, as its exciting adventure and endearing characters are easy enough to get behind, and in that sense it is hard to hold anything against the film too harshly. It is, after all, a film for children about children.
However, that does not make the film’s seeming inability to embrace the emotional nuance and complexities of the source material any less disappointing, as its greatest failing is not what it is, but rather, what it was so close to being.