Early reviews are in for “A Wrinkle in Time,” with many critics taking issue with the film’s heavy use of CGI and numerous plot holes. At the same time, most celebrated its message of female empowerment and diversity that director Ava DuVernay brought to the screen.
Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s classic, 1962 fantasy novel, “Wrinkle” features the star-studded cast of Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine, and breaks barriers, with a woman of color helming a live-action studio tentpole. However, critics questioned some of the visual effects choices in the film and largely agreed that the star power couldn’t fix problems in the story itself, with issues of tone, dialogue, and character development.
Most pointed out some redeeming qualities in the film, which, much like “Black Panther,” takes important steps forward for black representation in Hollywood, particularly with the casting of Storm Reid as heroine Meg Murry.
In his review for Variety, Peter Debruge writes that some of the film’s missteps take away from the importance of this representation, saying, “A bad sound mix and over-reliance on music drowns out a good deal of the film’s dialogue. At the same time, the design aspects of the film are so consistently distracting that we risk losing sight of its best ideas — not just literary, but also a colorblind agenda that has the potential to change the landscape entirely.”
“A Wrinkle in Time” hits theaters on March 9. See highlights from the critical response below:
“Despite such bold choices as casting Oprah Winfrey as an all-wise celestial being and rejecting the antiquated assumption that the lead characters ought to be white, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is wildly uneven, weirdly suspenseless, and tonally all over the place, relying on wall-to-wall music to supply the missing emotional connection and trowel over huge plot holes. Juggling so many extreme look changes it comes off feeling like a tacky interstellar fashion show at times, the film hops from one planet to the next too quickly for us to grow sufficiently attached to adolescent heroine Meg Murry (Storm Reid) or invested in her quest to find her missing father (Chris Pine), a scientist who disappeared four years earlier just as he thought he’d found a breakthrough means of traveling great distances through space via something called a tesseract.”
“The power of love can only do so much in Disney’s misbegotten ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ Director Ava DuVernay tries hard for a big-hearted fantasy adventure akin to ‘The NeverEnding Story’ with an enchanting teen heroine and sparkling visuals. Still, those positives can’t help ‘Wrinkle,’ which is plundered by a woeful, head scratching adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s sci-fi children’s classic.”
“While it is an unquestionable moral good, it is also, as a movie, a heartbreaking disappointment. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is the very definition of a noble failure. It looks great and features a cast to die for, but it lurches from one awkwardly-staged episodic moment to the next, with little in the way of tension, urgency or defined stakes. Its splashy cast all seem to be acting in slightly different movies, with few of them (among the children and adults) hitting the right tone for the admittedly challenging source material. Even with strong imagery and its value beyond profits or IP extension, it barely holds together as a stand-alone 109-minute feature.”
“So ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ hits that unfortunate un-sweet spot common to big-budget science-fiction/fantasy, where the spectacle feels more summarized than experienced. (Not helping much: Ramin Djawadi’s oddly terrible score, screaming emotions like an overgrown thought balloon covering up its own illustration.) Almost nothing works, but there are bursts of real camp energy. In one scene, Witherspoon suddenly shapeshifts into a giant flying leaf, probably the next hot trend after urban beekeeping. Later, Meg and her friends visit a surreal conformist suburb that becomes a mob of color-blasted beach umbrellas — images of Norman Rockwell-ish Americana gone nightmarish.”
“I would describe the overall experience as satisfaction rather than awe. “A Wrinkle in Time,” faithful to the affirmative, democratic intelligence of the book, is also committed to serving its most loyal and susceptible audience. This is, unapologetically, a children’s movie, by turns gentle, thrilling and didactic, but missing the extra dimension of terror and wonder that would have transcended the genre. Thankfully, though, Ms. DuVernay has dispensed with the winking and cutesiness that are Hollywood’s preferred ways of pandering and condescending to grown-ups. The best way to appreciate what she has done is in the company of a curious and eager 10-year-old (as I was fortunate enough to do). Or, if you’re really lucky, to locate that innocent, skeptical, openhearted version of yourself.”
“The sheer exuberance of this movie can provoke more than a few seemingly discordant reactions, sometimes in the same instance. Whisked alongside the characters through one space-time wormhole after another, I found myself wishing that this “Wrinkle” were more focused, more disciplined — that its ceaseless flow of fantastical images cohered into a revelatory new application of L’Engle’s themes and insights, rather than an earnest, sometimes awkward reiteration of them.”
“It’s a film with lots of Disney-sparkled bells and whistles. It’s also a film that is so pure, to the extent it’s almost jarring to take in given all that’s going on in the world and how jaded we’ve allowed entertainment to become. But all of that is secondary to the film’s—and we’re wary of turning anyone off by even saying the word—importance. Its mere existence is important. Director Ava DuVernay is the first black woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million. She paints her film with expensive, but colorful strokes. At nearly any turn in which she could buck convention, she cast colorblind.”
“At times, the choices DuVernay makes seem antithetical to the traditional big-budget adventure tale. Early in the film, she employs the vérité techniques she honed in low-budget indies — intimate, handheld cameras, lingering on a person’s face before cutting to two hands touching, or maybe the back of someone’s neck, followed by an extreme close-up on a profile. And forget the establishing shot orienting you in a place; in these first scenes, DuVernay is most concerned with the people, always ready to begin and end with them filling the frame.”
“There’s so much to like about Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ It’s the rare family adventure movie with a young African-American girl in the lead role. It puts a premium on diversity. It’s unafraid to earnestly proclaim that love can drive out darkness. And yet it also carries the burdens of trying to turn its source material, Madeleine L’Engle 1962 award-winning novel, into a regular feature. The result is a film that always feels like it’s taking two steps back for every step forward. For every moment of colorful imagination, you have a CGI overload that makes the characters feel untethered from their surroundings. For every honest bit of character development, you have stilted dialogue that falls flat. Instead of leaping through adventure, the film frequently feels like it’s stumbling from scene to scene.”
“‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is for all the girls – and boys, and non-binary kids, and teens and adults and the elderly – who’ve ever been a Meg. It’s a flawed film that entreats us to love flawed things, up to and including our very own selves. Maybe that sounds like a hoary cliché now. It didn’t feel like one when I was watching the movie, which is so disarming earnest that I fell completely under its spell.”
“Jesus is out, self-worth is in, and it’s coming for your children via an $103-million orgy of special effects that starts with a giant astral projection of Oprah and only gets more insane from there. At one point, Reese Witherspoon transforms into a giant piece of flying kale. It almost doesn’t matter that the movie is too emotionally prescriptive to have any real power, or too high on imagination to leave any room for wonder; DuVernay evinces such faith in who she is and what she’s doing that ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ remains true to itself even when everything on screen reads false.”