The evil in A Wrinkle in Time is truly evil— something you fend off and learn from rather than defeat and destroy. You may escape stronger than before and equipped with the skills to help others cope, but despite your actions, it will persist. And yet the movie doesn’t comment on this. The main kid, Meg, saves her father and younger brother from this evil force’s influence, and they escape back to Earth to fight another day, but little is said about how this was only a personal victory. Everyone just accepts that this is how things are, and that the fight will continue.
It’s the strangest thing in a strange movie. Strange not so much because the idea is odd, but that the idea is being said in a Disney movie. There’s no villain falling to their death. While there’s a family reunion, there’s no wedding or other proclamation stating that everyone lives happily ever after. While the greater good has been served, this isn’t a victory for said greater good. This is personal and intimate, and that just isn’t Disney’s bag.
Disney is moralistic, but it’s also very Old Testament in its attitudes. If you’re a villain, chances are you’ll get an eye for an eye styled judgment during the climax. The hero may not be the one who personally delivers this justice, but a “righteous” death is often how situations are settled in a Disney film. The king is killed and the kingdom is saved. Disney’s take on A Wrinkle in Time may avoid the more overt Christian themes of the original book, but it still possesses its decidedly New Testament style of salvation.
The main character, Meg, is very much a Christ-like figure. She’s troubled and struggles with her role as the daughter of a father who possesses transcendental knowledge, and in his absence she’s fallen astray. She embarks on a quest to find her father, and in doing so embraces her role as his daughter. She is the Warrior carrying on her father’s research into traveling across great distances in the universe, and using that ability to help individuals save themselves from the evil darkness that pulls at their hearts and leads them down the path of personal damnation.
And that’s the kicker there– it’s all about that personal connection. It may not be with God directly, but salvation in A Wrinkle in Time comes from one’s personal connection with their inner being. There’s a touch of the divine, but it only comes from that acceptance of what’s within yourself– that personal connection with God. You aren’t saved by God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, you’re saved by accepting who you are and embracing that instead of the self-doubt, fear, and anger of the darkness. And it isn’t your role to vanquish the darkness, it’s simply your role to help others who need an extra push into the light.
It’s very much not Disney’s standard fare, and pretty refreshing that they allowed this to stay intact, even if it ends up taking the form of a self-help seminar with a massive cgi budget.
That’s where A Wrinkle in Time flounders. While the ideas behind it are pretty fascinating, it’s all delivered in a manner similar to something like The Secret. Which is fitting, because Oprah Winfrey plays one of the god-like Mrs. who guide the kids along their journey, and she hocked that garbage back in the day. All of that self-actualization ends up taking the form of platitudes and sayings tossed out with little commentary– the phrase is the meaning, which makes it all kinda empty. Even one of the Mrs, Mindy Kaling’s Mrs. Who, speaks only in inspirational quotes, as if she were one of those $5 pocket books at the cash register at Barnes and Noble. It’s all very earnest and sincere, but it’s also very surface level and easy. It’s that person who is a really great, kind individual who posts feel good memes and nothing else on Facebook. You wish they’d use their own words, and it’s irritating as hell, but you also don’t want to say anything because you know it comes from a good place.
Thankfully A Wrinkle in Times makes up for a lot of that with its weird special effects sequences. The flying leaf monster is awesome. The creepy 50s suburban Stepford Wife stuff works for the few seconds it’s on screen. The movie doesn’t shy away from making its effects sequences downright strange. This isn’t hordes of cgi drones smashing into each other in repetitive battles, the effects draw a picture of genuinely alien things. To lump it in with all the super hero movies and other young adult adaptations isn’t really fair, because the effects are being used for a largely different purpose.
But it’s a shame that the pop songs sprinkled throughout the movie are as bad as you’d expect from a Disney movie. If anything really bogs down the movie, it’s that. Still, it’s a part of that annoyingly sincere veneer that permeates the movie. It’s odd, naive, genuine, and kinda annoying. That’s better than most would-be franchises.