Wondrous meandering: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a stunning, flawed adventure

A Wrinkle in Time (Photo: Disney)

A Wrinkle in Time
3 out of 5 Stars
Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell, Madeleine L’Engle novel)
Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Rated: PG for thematic elements and some peril

Synopsis: Four years after the disappearance of her scientist father, Meg, an antisocial teenager, embarks on an adventure with her younger brother Charles Wallace, a schoolmate and three magical beings to discover what happened to her father.

Review: It’s been years since I read Madeleine L’Engle’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” Honestly, about all I can remember is the Pegasus that was displayed on the book’s cover. There is no Pegasus in this film version.

The protagonist’s story is easy to follow. Meg loved her father and his absence has left her with a bitterness and lack of faith in the world. Everything that follows will either re-establish her belief in society or tear it completely to the ground.

Everyone else, including the magical companions, aren’t very developed. We are given a few simple traits, but very little backstory or clue into what motivates them beyond the fact that there is something evil that is threatening to devour the universe. That evil, commonly referred to as “It,” is a darkness that drains hope and happiness from everything it touches. Evil doesn’t necessarily need to be all that defined, particularly when it appears as a disembodied energy or cancerous web.

The undefined nature of the supporting characters and their guides, however, is a bit problematic in the sense that their importance to the narrative is a little ambiguous in this version of the story. Characters seem to disappear without explanation, which is kind of odd considering one of the gifts given to Meg is the advice of “staying together,” which is advice that goes against the rest of the story. There is always someone missing and most of the time the characters don’t seem all that troubled about the companion who is no longer with them.

The narrative itself feels more like a series of short films loosely stitched together, rather than an adventure set in a highly detailed world. We are told a few interesting tidbits, but it never feels cohesive. It is beautifully strange in appearance, but I couldn’t really tell you anything about the various locations they visit or the rules that govern what is possible and what is impossible in any given place.

In some ways, it almost feels like Meg’s story is being made up as we go along with the idea that the supporting characters will get detailed in the next draft of the screenplay or the next novel.

And yet, the film is still enjoyable. It is beautifully designed and has a fantastic message that should be heard by adults and children alike. Considering the darkness that currently surrounds us and the various lines of belief that divide us, a film filled with hope is a welcomed thing.

If you had any interest in seeing “A Wrinkle in Time,” I still recommend that you do so. If you were sitting on the fence, then I suggest a matinee screening. Despite its flaws, the film really needs to be seen at the largest screen you can find.