"A Wrinkle in Time's" Original Magic Brought to the Big Screen
By Lauren Azrin
Picture three children on the back of a flying, leafy creature with wings expanded to catch the wind. They soar over vast, lush plains and sharp mountaintops, looking down on a magical and imaginative world below. As the children let go to float on the wind, laughter surrounds, and the actor's smiles are contagious. This scene is just one example of how director Ava DuVernay has captured the essence of A Wrinkle in Time’s childlike magic in her new adaptation of the 1962 novel written by Madeleine L’Engle.
A Wrinkle in Time was first introduced as a science fantasy novel, winning American novelist L’Engle the Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carrol Shelf Award. It was first adapted in 2003 in a Disney television film, untouched by cinema until now.
The plot follows a troubled student, Meg Murry (Storm Reid), whose grades are dropping, most likely because of the disappearance of her scientist father, Mr. Murry (Chris Pine). She lives with her mother, Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is also a scientist, and her genius younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). The plot takes a twist when they discover three supernatural beings disguised as humans, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who say they may know where Meg and Charles Wallace’s father is.
These three magical creatures, along with Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller), Meg’s fellow classmate and budding love interest, team up to find Mr. Murry. Mrs. Which explains that he may have tessered, or folded the fabric of space and time, to travel to the planet of Camazotz, which is now turning dark as it’s being taken over by an evil creature, the “It.” The film follows the treacherous trip of these three children as they journey through great challenges to find Mr. Murry and get home safely.
Meg starts out as a fearful and nervous child who can't tesser properly and is a constant outsider. Whether it's on earth or another planet, she just can't seem to fit in. The transformation she undergoes to conquer what terrifies her and to have the courage to take impossible steps to reunite her family is inspiring to anyone at any age. The themes this movie portrays about good against evil and battling darkness are relatable to anyone who's ever faced a challenge, and it's incredibly motivational as you watch Meg's transition. The movie helps its viewers to understand that there will always be a more dominant group or person in society, like the "It," and that the only way to maintain control is not to conform, but to stay true to who you are. Cheesy? Yes, but the way this film captures the essence of being yourself can be viewed as more powerful than most movie's attempts.
DuVernay's goal wasn’t to do your classic Disney cliché film lacking diversity and women in power. Her film takes the darker and edgier side of Disney, one aimed to fit into our ever- changing 21st century world. That is why she made some changes to L'Engle's original vision, taking L'Engle's original white family in Connecticut and changing them into a multi-racial family living in California. She switched up the ethnicities of her cast, with an African American Meg who lacks her character's original red hair color, molding the plot to a different time in which film and media are more inclusive. Charles Wallace is now adopted, again, a theme more common today than it used to be. Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who are all played by diverse women of different cultures, portraying how women can be heroes of all different shapes, sizes, and races. While some of DuVernay's many changes feel like a great attempt to make A Wrinkle in Time more present, some changes, like the ones she made to set, plot, and design, just feel unnecessary and like a slap in the face to L'Engle's original ideas.
The film was a child's dream from start to finish with magical creatures in magnificent costumes, a breathtaking set, and a planet filled with fantasy. If you're into this kind of childlike magic, then A Wrinkle in Time fulfills any need to feel the whimsical creativity of a child's imagination. However, if you tend to lean more towards realistic films or mature characters, then A Wrinkle in Time may not be the perfect fit. The film felt a little slow at first and almost lost the attention of its viewers as we waited for a hook, making the beginning feel like a long series of unrelated magic tricks before it really got to the point. The magic of the original novel is still preserved in an overall entertaining film, but if the book already feels like a classic not deserving of a superficial makeover, then you may want to shy away from the new film.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Stars: Storm Reid, Chris Pine, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, Rowan Blanchard, Michael Pena, Andre Holland
Genres: Science fiction, fantasy
Running Time: 2 hours