‘A Wrinkle in Time’ gets an early drubbing from the critics

The early reviews for Ava DuVernay's adaptation of the classic children's novel are not great.

Tue 13 Mar, 2018

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Atsushi Nishijima/AP

In certain circles, it’s been hard to avoid the hype for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation of a beloved children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle; not just because of the popular source material, but because it’s the first big-budget action film to be directed by a woman of colour, its protagonist is a young mixed-race girl, and its cast features some absurdly big names. (Oprah).

L’Engle described herself as a writer first – ‘Christian is secondary’ – but the ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ novel is relatably Christian, in a very C.S. Lewis way (church-goers and publishers in the 60s, predictably, bristled against the witches and dark forces in the book). So the film is an interesting case: because despite its philosophical core, the script and the film itself have been held up as totems of liberal, post-Christian values.

We could be thankful that the project has bypassed America’s ‘Christian’ film-making machine, but it looks as though the weight of expectation may become a bit of a curse for the film instead, as many early reviews have been doling out ‘hard truths’. And interestingly, there’s an undercurrent of conversation about ironing out L’Engle’s Christian faith into weak platitudes:

The film has the feel of an iPad video pawned off on a toddler so Dad can make comforting mac and cheese – here’s a bite-sized lesson about loving yourself and a jumble of pretty colors.  -The Guardian

Considering the changes that were made to the story and the schmaltzy platitudes liberally spooned out by screenwriter Jennifer Lee, one gets the feeling that she and the director either didn’t fully grasp the material or didn’t think the audience could. -Dark Horizons

It’s especially awkward around the good / evil, light / dark dichotomy, which is never really put into more relatable terms. [The book] is open about its religious imagery… [but] L’Engle never had her Mr. Murry standing in his lab shouting “Love is the frequency!”  -The Verge

Screenwriter Jennifer Lee had this to say:

[L’Engle’s] intention was looking at the ordinary real hero in an extraordinary situation. The power of love in this world, and we stayed very true to that. And her lens through it was Christianity and everyone has a different lens in.

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