Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
“The Happy Medium” who uses a crystal ball
What is the Occult? Answer
What is the true nature of spiritual darkness and evil in our world?
Are unregenerate human beings basically good deep down inside—or profoundly fallen, full of sin and enemies of God?
Is it possible, as the film sugguests, for one to become truly good and conquer spiritual darkness and evil ON ONE’s OWN, WITHOUT Jesus Christ?
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which—3 ancient supernatural star-beings/aliens (disguised as humans) who can transport people throughout the universe by means of a tesseract
The weird world of quantum physics
Is the universe really filled with extreterrestrial intelligent life? What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer
Are we alone in the universe? Answer
Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer
What is Christian LOVE? Answer
The story indicates that Earth and the universe is under attack from an evil entity
Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer
Is Satan A REAL PERSON that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
The problem of evil
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
Storm Reid … Meg
Oprah Winfrey … Mrs. Which
Reese Witherspoon … Mrs. Whatsit
Mindy Kaling … Mrs. Who
Levi Miller … Calvin
Deric McCabe … Charles Wallace
Chris Pine … Mr. Murry
Gugu Mbatha-Raw … Mrs. Murry
Zach Galifianakis … The Happy Medium
Michael Peña … Red
André Holland … Principal Jenkins
Rowan Blanchard … Veronica Kiley
Bellamy Young … Camazotz Woman
David Oyelowo … The It
Conrad Roberts … Elegant Man
Yvette Cason … Mrs. Teacher
Will McCormack … Mr. Teacher
Daniel MacPherson … Calvin's Father
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|Director:||Ava DuVernay—“Selma” (2014), “13th” (2016)|
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
“Be a warrior!” urges Oprah as Mrs. Which
Meg Murray (Storm Reid) is a 13-year old still trying to comprehend what happened to her Father (Chris Pine), who mysteriously disappeared four years before. The truth is, life is far from easy for Meg. She’s picked on by other students and regularly meets with the principal. Her adopted brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), tries to stand up for her, but inadvertently only makes things worse.
One day, in the middle of a stormy night, the Murrays are visited by a mysterious woman by the name Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). She reveals to the family that their father made a remarkable discovery about a “Tesseract”. The next day, Charles Wallace leads Meg and a school friend named Calvin (Levi Miller) to Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). It is through these two odd women that they find out that Meg’s father is alive and trapped by a dark force called “The It” (and no, this absolutely has no relation to the Stephen King novel). And it is up to these three kids to go save him.
“A Wrinkle in Time” definitely has some strong moments, led by some very colorful visuals. Some scenes are stunning, while some are a little over-the-top. One highlight includes a scene where the kids are riding on a leaf creature above mountains and valleys. The climactic action sequence is also visually-stunning. The costumes are interesting and very colorful, and could be a contender for next year’s Oscars.
The film has some solid performances. Storm Reid proves to be very capable as Meg. She convincingly shows both tough-minded and insecure sides of her personality. McCabe nearly steals the movie from her, with a likable personality and a strong commanding presence. While Witherspoon, Kaling and Oprah Winfrey are given top billing, they aren’t in the movie as much as you would expect. Witherspoon gets the most screen time out of the three, and she gives a likable performance as an animated, naïve universe traveler. Later in the film, they completely disappear for a long stretch, as if they are only there to be video game guides. Zach Galifianakis gets a strong scene, and Pine is a very likable presence as Meg’s father.
There are a handful of quiet scenes here and there that work very well. The reconciliation scene between Meg and her father, in particular, is one of the film’s best moments. However, these scenes (and just about the whole film) are undercut by repetitive and near-constant facial close-up cinematography. I did read this was a style that director Ava DuVernay utilizes. But I thought the technique was very distracting and even uncomfortable at times. Indeed, some scenes would have been better executed had they not been so close all the time.
Also, this film doesn’t take the time to adequately explain some particularly heady ideas. This error makes the overall story somewhat confusing at times, as the plot itself can get really “out there.” There are a few scenes that have some very wooden dialog, particularly between Meg and Calvin.
There are some strong reminders of the importance of unconditional love, particularly toward the end of the movie. ***SPOILEr*** The It possesses Charles Wallace to try and put fear into Meg and manipulate her to join the darkside. In order to defeat him and free her brother, Meg tells Charles repeatedly that she loves him regardless. It is through this that Charles is freed, and The It is defeated. Meg doesn’t win the day simply because of her own strength. She defeats it because of her unconditional love for her brother. This reminded me of 1 John 4:18, which reminds us of how love overpowers fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
The It (which is not too far from the being we know as Satan) tries to tempt Meg by showing her a “more likable” image of herself that he claims “will be popular” if she joins the darkside. Struggling with insecurity throughout the film, Meg grows to resist this temptation and embraces who she is, looks and all. She’s encouraged to embrace her faults, as they help make her who she is. It is through her growing confidence that Meg finds the strength to become (as the three Mrs. say) a warrior. I found this to be an echo of Psalm 139:14:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.
The film also emphasizes a positive message of forgiveness. Meg’s father apologizes for unintentionally abandoning his family, and Meg runs to him with open arms. In the meantime, Meg willingly risks her life for others. There’s a nod to the importance of honesty when The Happy Medium (Galifianakis) says, “It’s OK to fear the answers. But you can’t avoid them.”
Language: I heard one use of “oh g**.” Besides that, there are no other uses of bad language (the closest we hear otherwise is a use each of “dang!” and “shut up!”).
Adult Content: There is apparent attraction between Calvin and Meg, but they are only shown hugging once and holding hands once. Meg’s parents kiss once. There is some light flirting between Whatsit and The Happy Medium. One odd moment shows Whatsit changing out of her dress (we see the top of her shoulders at one point, and Calvin and Charles Wallace close their eyes in shock. It turns out, however, that she’s changing form off-screen into a leaf creature).
Violence: A couple of intense scenes might prove to be too scary for younger children. One disaster scene involves a raging cloud of dust running towards Meg and Calvin, causing tornadic-like destruction wherever it goes. Meg and Calvin hide inside a tree truck and are thrown over a cliff by this phenomenon. Another scene involves The It having scary glow-in-the-dark “arms” that quickly attack in a dark room—over and over again. Charles Wallace, possessed by The It, throws and drags people around. One character literally falls apart (robotically), and someone falls from great heights. Meg smacks someone in the face with a basketball (but she is reprimanded for this). Meg often wakes up in pain as a result of “tessering,” or mental travel. Someone gets kicked (off-screen).
Other: The It is apparently responsible for many bad things on Earth, we come to learn. Characters act selfishly and disrespectfully at times (but these behaviors are never encouraged).
One scene involves Eastern-style meditation. Buddha is quoted once, as are a few other religious figures. It is important to note that the original book reportedly quoted the Bible a handful of times. However, the movie seems devoid of these references, in a possibly intentional attempt to be more “inclusive.”
Based on the 1962 children’s novel, “A Wrinkle in Time” is certainly an ambitious film. DuVernay pulls out all the stops to make a visual blockbuster for the eyes that also speaks to the heart. Like “Black Panther” last month, “…Wrinkle…” breaks ground for the film industry by having an African-American female director at the helm of an expensive production.
That being said, despite the admirable ambitions it has (and some solid performances), I didn’t find this film in itself to be special. It may be visually impressive, but it doesn’t offer much beyond a typical “hero’s journey.” At the same time, it’s pretty heady and “out there,” which will make it more difficult for those who haven’t read Madeline L’Engle’s book (like myself) to really be engaged.
There’s a couple of scenes that will likely scare young viewers. And the film seems to lean toward a New Age worldview that encourages self-promotion over relying on a higher authority. On the other hand, the film does carry strong messages of unconditional love, forgiveness, and the dangers of insecurities.
I didn’t find it to be a bad film. And it’s certainly not as bad as some critics say it is. I give a lot of credit to DuVernay for trying really hard to make the film unique and different. As far as the aesthetics and some of the themes go, she succeeds. But the overall result makes the film’s visuals more unique and interesting than the story itself.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.