Sunday, 15 April 2018

Review: A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle In Time
Cert: PG / 109 mins / Dir. Ava DuVernay / Trailer

You'd perhaps hope, wouldn't you, that with a movie about temporal relativity, the attracted audience would be able to arrive at the time printed on their tickets*1. Now obviously that designated time includes a buffer for ads and trailers, but people were still entering the auditorium to watch the 10:50 screening of A Wrinkle In Time at 11:40. That's 23 minutes into the film itself. Why? I sincerely hope that everyone who rocked up after the BBFC card had at least seen the film before, because it makes little enough sense to people watching the whole thing; I can only imagine how the story comes over with the first quarter trimmed off...

Ava Duvernay's take on Madeleine L'Engles 1962 novel has been hotly anticipated for both its classical literary standing and the contemporary social-tweaks applied for our current times. It's the story of introverted 13yr old Meg (Storm Reid), hunting in the time-between-times for her vanished astrophysicist father (Chris Pine), accompanied by her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and friend Calvin (Levi Miller). On her quest she meets three the wise elders Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who hold the key to unleashing Meg's full potential.

So as I was late to this party, I know I won't be the first to say A Wrinkle In Time is all over the place. From an effects-standpoint, it's everything you'd expect (but certainly nothing more). From a plot point-of-view, it feels unfocused*2, and from a character-perspective everything's turned up to 11. Storm Reid gives a fairly solid performance in the lead role, hampered by a script which uses cliché and exposition as punctuation, a burden shared by almost everyone else she shares screen-time with. Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrew have studied at the Widow Twanky School Of Dramatic Performance for their parts, while Reese Witherspoon is having the time of her life over-acting with every single line and gesture she's been given. But on the plus side, I never thought I'd see the day where Chris Pine is the most naturalistic presence in a movie, and any director who can get that performance is okay in my book.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great moments in here, but there are far more that made me roll my eyes and wish that a film about scientists was less dismissive of science. As it rolls on, A Wrinkle In Time begins to feel more like a fable about philosophy which, ironically, someone hasn't thought about hard enough. In the first and third acts, the essence could only be more patronising if Ava DuVernay herself was manning the door, ready to hand out milk, cookies and pats on the head.

The main narrative problem could be that while we get plenty of faces on-screen, the villain of the piece is conceptual-evil. Love™ may be universal and occur instinctively within nature, but Actual Evil™ is subjective, so requires sentience and an assertion of malign-will. So there's nobody here for the heroes to actually defeat in a real sense, just a bunch of metaphorical lessons to be learned*3. Oh, and there's also that bit where Space-Winfrey tells our trio how vitally important it is that they stick together on their quest, then the film's finale essentially forgets that Calvin*4 is a character in the story, but they succeed anyway. Proving Space-Winfrey wrong. Way to go.

But y'know what? This isn't aimed at me. Which is fine. DuVernay's heart is in the right place (just about*5), and I've certainly seen less sincere fare aimed at youngsters. I can see what A Wrinkle In Time is aiming at. I mean, I think it flails wildly and misses, but at least it knew there was a target to begin with, and with Hotel Transylvania 3 on the horizon I think it's important we keep that in mind. Ultimately, I suspect the film is about Just Being Yourself™. I can't see any other reason that the makeup department would have waited until Space-Winfrey's grand, closing monologue before leaving her moustache clearly visible.

Inspirational literature or otherwise, A Wrinkle In Time is Interstellar, forced through the Disney meat grinder and served up as a happy-meal.
Exercise caution as appropriate...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well my instinct would be to say Tomorrowland or John Carter but truth be told, I enjoyed each of those more than A Wrinkle In Time.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Probably not.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
This will be a decent rainy-afternoon DVD.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The voice of Agent Kallus is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Today's audience consisted of lots of parents accompanying young girls, so the marketing push has partially succeeded, at least. The father directly in front of me also fell into this bracket, and spent the ads and trailers reading articles on his phone about petrol prices. Textbook. Although bear in mind that this was the film's third week of release, and by the second it had already been relegated to one screening a day before 11am. That's the same marketing-push limiting its own audience numbers, right there. [ BACK ]

*2 There's a thread laid out in act one where a NASA astronaut has gone missing 36 years to-the-day when Meg's father does likewise, and our story begins four years after that.The synchronicity is dropped in a way which indicates the NASA dude is a pretty important plot-mechanic. Then he's never mentioned again. So well done for that, I guess? [ BACK ]

*3 One of which is that an actual physical human man has been metaphysically imprisoned for four years by a concept, after thinking about stuff too hard - so what kind of message is that sending out? [ BACK ]

*4 And while I'm on, almost every time I saw Levi Miller here, I thought of a young Harrison Ford, either as Solo or Indy. Come on Lucasfilm, he's already on Disney's books, let's make this happen. And while I'm sure Alden Ehrenreich is going to be great as everyone's favourite Corellian pirate, maybe get Anthony Ingruber on the blower for the archaeology flick, yeah? [ BACK ]

*5 Mind you, Storm Reid is credited fourth in the closing montage, after Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling. That's not appearance-order, or alphabetical, it's just seems to be putting the kid further down the list, and after the annoying space-fairies. The hell? This is entirely Reid's film - and what kind of message is that sending out? [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment