By JENIBELLE HSU
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
And with this literary cliche, Madeleine L’Engle begins her science fiction classic, A Wrinkle in Time, that remains in book recommendation lists for middle schoolers today. Fifty-seven years later, heroine Meg Curry finally explores the big screen.
In the Disney adaptation of the novel, Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O’Keefe embark on a quest to rescue her missing father under the guidance of celestial guardian angels, the “Mrs. Ws.”
Just as the novel swept away the literary world, the film broke grounds in Hollywood. The director, Ava DuVernay, became the first African American woman to lead a live-action movie with a budget of more than $100 million. A trio of Hollywood leaders, constituting of Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, play the motherly Mrs. Ws. Moreover, the racially diverse cast spotlights a biracial lead actress (Storm Reid) as Meg Curry, empowering young girls of color in an new era of entertainment.
Yet, the strongest selling points of the film were its promising message that love conquers all and Meg’s relatable coming-of-age story from a cynical outcast to an courageous warrior.
In the infinite universe, Meg’s story truly stands out: as a daughter of NASA scientists, she envisions a bright future, but encounters new obstacles following her father’s disappearance. For example, she feels misunderstood as her peers taunt that her father forgot her and adults overlook her feelings. For the preteens and teenagers just beginning to establish their identities, the film’s sincere portrayal of the troubled teen reassures them that they are not alone and introduces a strong role model to a new generation.
Her real story comes when she, in Oprah’s wise words, “becomes a warrior.” The film resembles childhood favorites where children save the world, but also adds depth to common themes.
The most beautiful moments are, ironically, at Camazotz, the evil planet where her father is imprisoned. Amidst the darkness, she finally regains her confidence and confronts evil with her love for her family. This vision of a hero without light sabers or superpowers made Meg’s story uniquely human, and takes away distractions from central themes on people’s limitless potential and the power of the light over dark.
Nonetheless, in the eyes of movie critics, the cast’s moving performances and big-hearted messages do not fully compensate for the rapid pace and softened horror.
While Meg’s story flourished, the stories behind supporting characters are glossed over, impeding their own character development and painting an incomplete picture of Meg’s journey. Charles Wallace is a quirky child prodigy who willingly talks to strangers, but that is about it. Calvin is merely a nice kid from school who likes Meg. Consequently, they bring more confusion than personality to the narrative, detaching the audience from these equally crucial characters.
Furthermore, the most interesting questions were never answered. For example, who was the man with red eyes who greeted the children at Camazotz? Why was Dr. Murry imprisoned on the planet by the faceless antagonist IT? What is IT anyways? The plot not only has gaping holes, but also lacks a clear villain who an audience unfamiliar to the book can understand.
Although the film fell short of its storytelling expectations, DuVernay successfully delivers her “love letter” to young girls. So, before looking at the Rotten Tomatoes review, watch the movie with your younger siblings, and maybe you will enjoy it as much as they do.