A WRINKLE IN TIME
4K Ultra HD Edition
Review by Gordon Justesen
Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael
Pena, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine
Director: Ava DuVernay
Audio: Dolby Atmos 7.1.4, DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2018
It’s been a long, exasperating journey for getting the classic novel A Wrinkle in Time translated into feature film form. Disney has actually had their hands on the property for quite a lengthy period. So long in fact that they actually had a TV movie version made in 2003, which was disastrous to say the least and garnered harsh feedback from the book’s author, Madeleine L’Engle.
Ever since it was first published in 1969, many have determined L’Engle’s book to be simply un-filmable, which may explain why Disney waited so long to make a feature film adaptation. But in attaching an eye-catching cast and a truly talented director in Ava DuVernay (whose Selma was easily the best film of 2015), it looked as though this much loved fantasy novel was finally going to have a most successful big screen translation.
Having now seen the movie, I can come to two conclusions. The first being it is occasionally quite beautiful to look at. The second being that the book remains un-filmable. If it took almost 50 years for a movie adaptation to come to life, and this is the best we got with all this immense talent both in front and behind the camera, then it’s all too clear that there’s no hope in sight for this story away from the written pages.
It breaks my heart to say this, because I seriously felt that in DuVernay’s hands, we were going to get absolute magic. And though it does happen in brief spurts, for the most part this is a vastly incoherent mess of a movie. I’ve never read the book, but even I can tell that huge chunks have been left out in this adaptation...chunks that I’m convinced would’ve helped this movie much more sense.
The story consists of Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a teen outcast whose life is even more turmoil ever since the disappearance of her father (Chris Pine), a noted scientist who studied worm holes and conceived an unusual theory about space travel. Eventually, Meg is greeted by three outlandishly dressed women, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who have arrived to use their powers to help Meg find her father.
One of the main problems with the movie is its handling of these three goddess characters, in that their powers seemed limited and are not fully conveyed well. Mrs. Which, for some reason, is giant-sized (which looks pretty goofy in the movie), and Mrs. Whatsit, for no other reason other than the movie putting the effects budget to good use, transforms into a flying garden creature that looks like a leftover from Avatar. And Mrs. Who is just limited to delivering motivating quotes said by other famous people (I hate that Mindy Kaling, who I love so much, had to get the short end of the stick amongst the three women).
Meg’s presence allows the goddesses to overcome their limits, such as traveling to a dark planet...which cannot be done without Meg’s “strong will”. But Meg also happens to have a lot of self doubt and insecurity and has to learn to overcome that. So you see, we are supplied with one tired cliche on top of another in what feels like typical origin story fare, which is becoming so tiresome and repetitive in movies of this sort.
But what really sinks the whole show is the inclusion of two additional characters. The first is one of Meg’s classmates, Calvin (Levi Miller) who believes in her because...reasons, and is along for the journey but does not even react once with amazement to the things going on around him. Even Bella Swan occasionally reacted to stuff.
The second character is Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and in case you forget his name, you needn’t worry as the name is uttered in what feels like a gazillion times...and that’s just in the first twenty minutes. It’s never fair to pick on kid actors, but this is one of the more terrible acting jobs I’ve ever seen from anyone. This is made even more worse by the fact that he is literally the focus of the final act of the movie, and it even seems like he has more screen time than Meg, who should indeed be the focus.
And it makes this an even more heartbreaking case because a film with such a diverse (and mainly female) cast and helmed by such a wonderful director in Ms. DuVernay should add up to something truly remarkable. But in spite of those elements, in addition to being well intentioned and having occasional visual beauty, A Wrinkle in Time is unfortunately nothing more than a misguided mess. Whatever potency and wonder this story is known for has unquestionably been left on the pages of its source material.
On a more positive note, the 4K UHD presentation from Disney is easily one of the grandest and visually amazing ones to be seen all year! The HDR really brings this elaborate world to life on your home screen in a way that I’m convinced is even superior to that of a big screen (not that I would ever knock the theatrical experience). Detail is flawless and jaw-dropping at every turn and just about every single visual element manages to really pop off the screen and amaze the senses!
The same can be said for the Dolby Atmos sound mix that does wonders with moments of silence just as it does with that of effects driven sequences. Throughout this presentation, not a single sound element is spared, as dialogue delivery is terrifically spot on and music playback is balanced perfectly with the additional surroundings!
Included on this Disney release (and located on the standard Blu-ray disc) is a commentary with Ava DuVernay, first assistant director Michael Moore, visual effects supervisor Richard McBride, screenwriter Jennifer Lee, producer Jim Whitaker, film editor Spencer Averick and production designer Naomi Shohan. We also get a thirty minute documentary titled “A Journey Through Time” which takes a look at various aspects of the production, as well as a Blooper Reel, Deleted Scenes and two music videos; “I Believe” by Demi Lovato and “Warrior” by Chloe X Halle.
Even with so much talent involved, something major had to have gotten lost in the translation to the big screen with A Wrinkle in Time. But even as a movie on its own, it would still come across as a seriously unfocused mess. Visually grand at points, but that’s about all the points I can give it.