Inspiration gets lost in “A Wrinkle in Time”

Updated: Jun 10, 2018

4K ULTRA HD REVIEW

Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) appears to tween hero Meg Murry, played by the charming Storm Reid. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)

“A WRINKLE IN TIME”


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018: PG for thematic elements and some peril; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes, Vudu (4K), YouTube


Best extra: Commentary with Director Ava DuVernay First Assistant Director Michael Moore, Visual Effects Supervisor Richard McBride, Screenwriter Jennifer Lee, Producer Jim Whitaker, Film Editor Spencer Averick and Production Designer Naomi Shohan

THE BEST way to enjoy “A Wrinkle in Time,” adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal winning classic, is if you’ve never read the book. Even then it’s a tough go.


But give her credit; Director Ava DuVernay clearly points out the changes in the commentary she shares with filmmakers and in “A Journey Through Time,” two of five bonus features on the presentation from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. She was clearly inspired, and, listening to her, the changes make sense and sound good. Characters are multi-racial, girls can be smart and caring, while still battling insecurities and flaws; adoption is a good thing, and loving parents are not infallible. We should all stay positive and not allow negative thoughts or the actions of others lead us to the path of darkness and self-destruction.

Producer/actor Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, one of three good witches.

And on and on. None of this is new, especially if you’ve seen “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the past or heard any of Ms. Winfrey’s interviews or talks. She is a genuine light in this world, and stars here as Mrs. Which, one of three good witches who appear to help tween hero Meg, played by the charming Storm Reid. We love the messages; it’s the overall patronizing attitude that gets in the way of loving the film.


Meg is the brilliant biracial daughter of two genius-level parents played by Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mr. and Mrs. Murry are deep into quantum physics. They believe people can “wrinkle” space, transporting themselves to any point in the universe with a thought. Their peers can’t hold back the laughter and, in a fit of ego, Mr. Murry wrinkles away, just as the couple’s newly adopted son, Charles Wallace, arrives.


Chris Pine as Dr. Alex Murry.

Meg is bullied at school.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Meg's mother.


Four years later, Mr. Murry is still at one with the universe while his daughter flounders, bullied at school and misunderstood by her adults. Her only friend is her devoted little brother (played by scene-stealing Filipino Deric McCabe) and Calvin (Australian Levi Miller), the handsome guy in her school who has a major crush on her.


After an especially bad day, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) appears and disappears out of nowhere. Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin also encounter Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) before Mrs. Which shows up to offer Meg a chance to find her father. The mystic ladies open the portals of the universe; the kids travel to amazing lands and encounter the big evil IT, not to be confused with anything created by Stephen King, but pretty bad. They meet the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) and Red, minion of IT, played by an unrecognizable Michael Peña.


And yes, just as we knew all along, they find Dad, too.


Meg's devoted little brother (played by scene-stealing Filipino Deric McCabe)

VIDEO

Ever since “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, it’s been understood New Zealand is another planet. That’s again verified when “A Wrinkle In Time” uses it for the beautiful planet, Uriel. Color is amped to the max here as Mrs. Whatsis declares the flowers “speak in color.” The gossipy orange-red blossoms can also fly and create a soft landing for Calvin, when he drops from the sky. (It’s my ‘American Beauty’ shot,” Director Ava DuVernay says in the commentary.)

Color is truly a high point on the 4K Ultra disc. The Blu-ray looks good, but color is luminescent on 4K, especially in settings like Uriel and in the witches’ costumes. Even bleak scenes such as IT’s black landscapes shot-through with lightning flashes and shadowy crevices have noticeable radiance.


The 4K was upscaled from 3.4K; detail and texture are sharp throughout. Complexions of the multi-national cast are natural.


Meg and Calvin played by Australian actor Levi Miller.

AUDIO

Like the visuals, sound is large scale and full range. Both the 4K Ultra Blu-ray and Blu-ray have a Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks. There are plenty of effects throughout to fill the room, while the Atmos track adds height to moments when the group is “tessering” around the universe, flying or battling the Big Bad.


The score is by Ramin Djawadi, who also composed for “Game of Thrones,” “Iron Man” and “Pacific Rim.” Her fans will recognize Sade’s voice as she returns to perform a background song.


EXTRAS

There are five and they are filled with factoids and fun. The commentary with DuVernay, First Assistant Director Michael Moore, Visual Effects Supervisor Richard McBride, Screenwriter Jennifer Lee, Producer Jim Whitaker, Film Editor Spencer Averick and Production Designer Naomi Shohan should have been confusing. It’s not. She carefully introduces and credits each speaker, calling on them for their observations and experiences. The end results are a lively conversation. For more clarity, listen to it with the subtitle option; it names each speaker.


DuVernay, who also directed “Selma” and “13th”, and is the creator/executive producer of “Queen Sugar,” a hit on OWN, addresses casting and technical details as well as changes from the book. IT was originally written as a giant, pulsating brain, but film effects and audiences have progressed since the book’s 1962 publication. The new, lightning-streaked setting represents the electric flash of the brain’s interior thought process.


There are four deleted scenes that can be viewed with or without commentary from DuVernay. A big gripe comes from learning how “Ant on a String” was excised. It describes and shows what “Wrinkle’s” tesseract and tessering is. “That question is answered in this scene that we deleted from the original film… because we think you get the answer to the question in different ways throughout the movie,” she says.


She was wrong. It’s too easy to confuse this tesseract with the ones from other sci-fi movies. It would have been nice to have this one explained from the start since the story is built around it.


Still, cutting the “Aunt Beast” scene was a good move. There’s something unsettling, if not nauseating, about the vision of Meg nestling on a pulsating, carefully coiffed brown wig. It’s nothing like a puppy or kitten.

“A Journey Through Time” is a detailed 30 minute making-of with interviews from the filmmakers and cast. There are two music videos: “I Believe” performed by DJ Khaled with Demi Lovato, and “Warrior” performed by Chloe X Halle. There’s also a blooper reel.


More clarification, less pedantry, and faster pacing would have helped this two-hour film. “A Wrinkle in Time” has some very good moments. Unfortunately, they are buried in a mess of good intentions.


— Kay Reynolds


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