Disney’s new release, A Wrinkle in Time, a film adaptation of Madeleine l’Engle’s novel of the same name, follows the journey of siblings Meg and Charles-Wallace Murry and their schoolmate Calvin, as they search for Meg and Charles-Wallace’s father, who disappeared four years prior.
Their father was a scientist who, together with his wife, conducted research into space-time manipulation. He believed that by folding (or rather, wrinkling) the fabric of space-time, he could create a portal called a tesseract and thereby enable instantaneous travel to other worlds.
The children are aided in their quest by three mysterious women, who call themselves Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, each of whom is more than human. They inform the children that Meg and Charles-Wallace’s father succeeded in his goal, but is now in great danger. Together, they embark on a journey across the universe, encountering both beauty and horror, as they try to find their father and free him from the clutches of a great evil that threatens to corrupt the entire universe.
While I am ordinarily hesitant to watch a Disney movie oriented towards a young audience, especially one with a G rating, I found A Wrinkle in Time to be quite enjoyable on the whole. The actors all give respectable performances, and succeed in conveying some powerful emotion and characterization, especially Storm Reid as Meg. The movie spends a fair bit of time on character establishment, and I think this is a wise choice. Each of the characters we are introduced to is unique and fascinating in their own way, and serve to really draw the viewer in.
The movie delves into Meg, Charles-Wallace, and Calvin’s school lives, which wasn’t elaborated on in the book, but I think serves the film well by establishing a connection between them and the audience. Between the three of them, these characters struck a chord by reminding me of my own youth, and I imagine it will be the same for viewers both young and old.
The high point of the film is when we are introduced to Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. Each is imposing and awe-inspiring when first introduced, but it is from this point that the cracks start to appear.
Mrs. Who in particular was not portrayed as well as she should have been. I think they were going for an ethereal personality for her, but it comes off as more airheaded instead. What are perhaps the most iconic and well-known lines from the book, “Wild nights are my glory,” and “Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract,” (both spoken by Mrs. Who) are altered in the movie. They are said in the wrong order, the latter line is altered into something less evocative, and the former doesn’t mesh well with her other dialogue in the movie.
Nevertheless, as the protagonists journey across worlds, we are treated to rich scenes filled with special effects that inspire a sense of wonder. Exotic beings and beautiful backdrops abound. However, some of the camera techniques were painfully jarring. The sooner this shaky-cam fad dies completely, the better.
Unfortunately, in the last third of the movie, the story comes down with a serious case of CDS (Cosmic Deadline Syndrome). The film’s runtime is only one hour and 49 minutes, and it shows.
I don’t fault the director for spending extra time on character development at the beginning, since I feel the finished product benefits from it. However, the third act suffers from a lack of leftover time, and feels rushed. The characters lose some of their personality in the rush to wrap up the plot. We have neither the rich characterization of the first act, nor the special effects extravaganzas of the second, leaving the third somewhat bland by comparison.
I also think the Disney movie did an inadequate job of explaining the tesseract phenomenon, which is central to the story. I understand that this is a movie oriented towards children, and some of the advanced concepts might go over their heads, but the same is true of adults. They could have at least explained why, how, and under what circumstances one can create a tesseract.
A previous film adaptation (this isn’t the first) did this better, in my opinion. While Disney’s version is richer in many ways, the previous version did a better job of pacing itself, and giving all characters the weight they deserve.
All in all, I found Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time to be an experience that was both heartwarming and thought-provoking, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. That being said, I highly recommend reading the original novel in order to get the full experience.