A Wrinkle in Time

Studio: Disney

Jul 30, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A Wrinkle in Time is considered one of the seminal American science-fiction novels, written by Madeleine L’Engle in 1962, and serving as the first installment of her Newbery Medal-winning Time Quintet series. Renowned for its handling of complex issues (such as death, social conformity, and the concepts of good and evil) for its intended child audience, the series has attracted wonder and discourse the world over. This makes it the perfect bait for adaptations, of which there are several incarnations. James Sie’s 1990 play and Libby Larsen’s 1992 opera set the stage for the first filmic adaptation, which would arrive as the made-for-television movie directed by John Kent Harrison.

Though originally intended as a 2002 miniseries, it suffered nearly two years of release postponements and a massive recut by Disney into a single 128-minute film. This version aired in 2004 to dismal critical and audience reactions, with even L’Engle saying, “I expected it to be bad, and it is.” A six year lull persisted in the film’s wake, broken by Hope Larson’s graphic novel adaptation announcement in 2010, which was subsequently published in 2012.

In the same year, Disney announced that they had retained film rights to the novel and were developing the property as a $35 million project. This budget would blossom to the excess of $130 million due to the scope and imagination of the filmmakers over the next several years, throughout which Disney would manage a revolving door of screenwriters, producers, and production companies. In 2016, Ava DuVernay, deservedly riding on the success of her Academy Award-nominated masterworks Selma and 13th, was confirmed to direct this new adaptation; becoming the first African American woman to direct a major motion picture over $100 million.

There are oceans of creativity and passion at work in this film, and DuVernay continues to cement her position as an apex visionary of the medium. The child actors (most especially Storm Reid) are the backbone of the story, and deliver mostly amazing performances from the material they are given to work. Many liberties taken with the source material, whether they be narratively or aesthetically, are bold and striking ones and span a wide range (from whimsey to unsettling). Even when some decisions don’t exactly pan out, they still manage to evoke an appreciation for the experience.

However, that does not excuse the incessant choking on deus ex machina logic, shark jump-based plotting, and constant (yet needed) overwinded exposition dumps. Though the film is vibrant with sincerity and adventure, there is an inherent shallowness with these on-screen characters and their motivations, which cheapens the overall experience. This also is compounded by the odd choices in soundtrack at certain moments; sometimes they work, mostly they feel out of place, likening some sequences to that of an ill-placed music video interlude

The film received sizable press and promotional runups to its release on March 9, 2018, showcasing its highly diverse cast, stunning digital visuals, and highly imaginative production and character design. As the buzz built, it quickly became one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Also running on Disney Digital 3D, Real D 3D, and IMAX formats, A Wrinkle in Time opened to mixed reviews and lackluster worldwide box office returns, eventually being chalked up as an estimated $86-186 million loss. Disney quickly released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2018, a mere three months later.

Its multi-screen edition, with DVD and Blu-ray copies included, also sports supplementary features. An underwhelmingly brief bloopers reel and a few deleted scenes (which were right to have been removed from the final cut) kick these extras off, buttressed by a pair of music videos by DJ Khaled and Chloe x Halle. Delightful audio commentary by DuVernay, producer Jim Whitaker, co-writer Jennifer Lee, and a few other members of the crew add insight and further levity to the film, and is probably the main reason to buy this home release. The final piece is A Journey Through Time, the production’s making-of documentary; which is so well-designed that it sells the main feature a little too well.

Honestly, if I had seen the behind-the-scenes before the film, it would have made the initial experience watching the film far more underwhelming. That speaks for the strength of the supplement’s filmmakers, but not much for the actual Disney adaptation. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot to enjoy here, though ultimately A Wrinkle in Time remains one of those elusive novels that may never see a cinematic recreation that captures the character depth, subject maturity, and worldwide imaginations of its source. But maybe that’s okay.



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