By Tracy Wang
‘A Wrinkle in Time’, one of the most beloved books of all time, has come back for another try on the big screen. About a thirteen-year-old girl missing and finally rescuing her father from the dark planet of Camazotz, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a science fantasy novel that challenges how we understand space and time, but most importantly, the film directed by Ava Marie DuVernay is sure to shake us all a bit with its multiracial casting and its relevance to a society fifty-six years after the book’s first publication date.
Meg Murry (Storm Reid), a young girl who has never recovered from the disappearance of her astrophysicist father four years ago, is bullied at school for her reluctance and refusal to engage others. Though her little brother Charles Wallace Murry has complete faith in her, his extreme intelligence and his outspoken view of her only make everyone else laugh harder at her. With her classmates always mocking her, she finally snaps and throws a ball onto one of her classmates’ faces. The principal also does not know how to deal with her, and tells her she cannot use her father’s disappearance as an excuse to act out.
Back at home, her mother also asks her to write an apology letter to the principal, and she feels even more alone than before. One day, a popular classmate, Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Zane Miller), comes to look for her, and Charles Wallace takes them to see Mrs. Who, an astral traveler who quotes famous people all the time. Soon, all three astral travelers arrive at her backyard, and asks her to become a warrior to rescue her father. What will they encounter in the universe? Will Meg finally be able to accept who she is, and save her father from the dark force?
A film that is already generating many conversations and attention before its release date, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is surely gaining its popularity and significance with its casting and choice of director. The film is the first one with a nine-digit budget that is directed by a woman of color, and the nice surprise does not end there. The casting is filled with actors of multiracial backgrounds, and Meg Murry is even played by a young actress who is not the usual heroine we see on the big screen.
Our delight and surprise in seeing a major Disney film directed by a woman of color and with Reid as the main character instantly makes this a revolutionary film that helps set a different kind of heroine for all the children in the United States and around the world. What else do we need other than a biracial young girl as the lead heroine in a major film? The director and casting choices indeed make ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ stand out, but does the rest of the film stand out as well?
From the beginning, the performance of the cast, especially that of Chris Pine in the role of the missing father, and the effect make the film one of the most eye-pleasing movie. We follow Meg and her friends on the dangerous journey of finding her father on an always-shifting planet, and we fall or fear along with her. However, the advanced effect and design of the film somehow distract us from the plot points or the emotions of its characters, since we are constantly marvelling at the stunning effect, instead of soaking up the characters’ emotional roller coaster rides.
What’s more, the film seems to situate us in the setting for far too long than needed. At times, we are entertained by the three whimsical-looking and wise astral travelers who are played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, but more times, we are waiting for the action and adventure to begin.
When Meg’s will in finding her father lands all of them on the dark planet of Camazotz, we are excited to have some actions starting, but other than the first big challenge of a wood sprouting up all around them, and a dark force chasing them, we encounter more of the internal turmoils and challenges instead of the adrenaline ones. We experience a rising action that has been building for so long, but ends too soon for us to really say this is a film of the journey to find her father.
Interestingly, the internal turmoil coincides with all the negative emotions Meg has toward herself, and the only way she can save her father is to let her light outshine the darker forces. The transformation of a girl who cannot find any beauty in herself to a girl who is brave enough to take on the whole world is the climax of the film, and delivers the crucial message: everyone is special, and we all need to find ways to love who we are, even our faults.
Though ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is said to be steeped in Christianity, the important messages of the film can be looked at without any religious lens.
One of the most affecting scenes comes when Mrs. Which (Winfrey) takes Meg on a journey of seeing how people are captured by darkness, and how darkness can be all shapes and form. Jealousy, prejudice, and discrimination are always among us, but what we need to do is to believe in kindness, love and family that are all forms of light, to embrace who we are, and to always fight for what we believe.
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is breaking boundary, and gives us some fabulous women of color who are heroines on screen and behind the scene, but the beauty of it lies in our watching a film that is filled with multiracial actors who all come from one big human family, and our reassurance that the next generation can have this biracial heroine, who was once alone and afraid, but is now brave, confident and ready to embrace the world.