Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

'A Wrinkle in Time' an empty adventure

James Dawson Storm Reid on Playing Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time
Adrian Cunningham | 11 March, 2018, 01:19

I watched closely from across the hall at Disney while working on "Black Panther" as my big sister inspired her crew with love and navigated the challenges of studio filmmaking, adapting a book that many people called unfilmable into a movie that explodes with hope, with love and with women warriors.

Such a request is possible to varying degrees in a fantasy flick that's consistently magical, admirably earnest, admittedly freakish and borderline heady for the youngest of audiences. When we open on the new Wrinkle In Time film, directed by the uber talented Ava DuVernay, Dr. Alexander Murry, a brilliant physicist is avidly researching the space/time continuum (just like Doc Brown in Back To The Future), trying to discover how to travel quickly through the vastness of the universe.

When she and Charles Wallace run into a boy from Meg's school, Calvin (Levi Miller), who has taken a liking to Meg, he ends up coming home for dinner with them, setting the stage for the adventure to come. Which (Oprah Winfrey), another guardian-angel-like being, appears. Mrs. Eventually she trusted her initial impulse and went back to Reid. The three ladies are all fun and suitably magical.

"Tessering" is how the story's trio of female empowerment paragons put it. Meg learns the ropes with the miraculous celestial guidance of Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) tell the children that they need to search for their father - his children are the only ones who can find him, it seems. Which, playing her with an angelic presence recalling Della Reese. The team includes Director of Photography Tobias Schliessler, Production Designer Naomi Shohan, Film Editor Spencer Averick and Costume Designer Paco Delgado.

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Before they depart for such planets as Uriel and Orion, Mrs. Finally, we reach the evil Camazotz with a creepy, suburban nightmare, a tempting beach and a chaotic hell space. This carries into a larger social commentary with a montage narrated by Oprah, suggesting that a dark force called the "IT" is tapping into people's worst fears. It's well-meaning, but heavy-handed. The ad campaign, filled with bright colors and trippy visuals, was breathtaking, and on the heels of the massive success of "Black Panther", it was impossible to over-hype this movie. As characters speak on-the-nose dialogue - particularly a pair of school staffers overhead gossiping on the playground - we adults wish that the script didn't have to dumb its dialogue down for kids. "(We sincerely hope Kaling got to keep those Spongebob-square ruffled pantaloons.) freakish touches abound, from the questionable - sure, why not make an oracle Zach Galifianakis in guyliner! - to the inspired, like a creepy suburban nightmare of 1950s conformity, bouncing balls and dead-eyed kids". And successfully switching up the characters from the book - it was DuVernay's vision to make Meg African American and have her supernatural guardian angels be younger than their elderly literary counterparts - broadens the project's appeal. I happen to believe very strongly in hope.

Screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, based on the novel by Madeline L'Engle.

And "A Wrinkle in Time", while far from the transcendent work that the novel was 55 years ago, succeeds in telling an action-adventure story that is today being told often but which was so revolutionary when L'Engle told it in 1962: A girl saves the day. But if you're doing what you love, and being a regular kid off the set - you can be okay.