Be A Warrior

Ava DuVernay

Storm Reid
Oprah Winfrey
Reese Witherspoon
Mindy Kaling
Chris Pine

After a brief flashback, we are introduced to teenager Meg Murry [Reid]. Her parents, Dr Alexander Murry [Pine] and Dr Kate Murry [Gugu Mbatha-Raw] were working on the concept of travelling across the universe in seconds with the use of frequencies but four years ago Alexander disappeared. Since his disappearance, Meg’s performance in school has slipped and she has become anti-social. Her younger brother Charles Wallace [Deric McCabe] has been conversing with a stranger calling herself Mrs Whatsit [Witherspoon], who, along with a quotation-spouting Mrs Who [Kaling] and the wise Mrs Which [Winfrey], explains the concept of “tessering,” the ability to travel across the universe. Realising her father is alive, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin (a boy from school played by Levi Miller who tags along – more on that later) set off on a journey across the expanses of the unknown to locate her father and combat an entity of pure evil called “The It.”

At its core, A Wrinkle In Time is your classic hero’s journey tale with decent messages of female empowerment and self-worth throughout. Taking the cynicism of genuine teenage anguish and countering it with beauty and fantasy, it feels very reminiscent of The Chronicles Of Narnia, which is unsurprising considering the strong Christian overtones in the source material. This adaptation goes one step further with the messages and presents us with another positive progressive point by utilising a diverse cast; all of whom are exceptionally talented individuals that any feature would be lucky to count among their number; the problem is, most of them falter because this film is, ultimately and very disappointingly, remarkably mediocre.

As mentioned, the cast involved are fantastic, the adult performers can be divided into two sets: the human contingent and the celestial beings. Then we have the child actors, who are frankly breathtakingly good. Storm Reid commands the screen magnificently, holding her own with acting heavyweights while giving us a very real and relatable portrayal of an untethered teenager, Deric McCabe is eerily brilliant as the eerily brilliant Charles Wallace, displaying skills far beyond his years and Levi Miller acts as a commendable support – even if his character’s devotion to Meg feels so very sudden and unearned. Meg’s parents are perfectly fine – two scientists, one grounded, the other a dreamer – but the real sticking point is the Mrs W’s; Whatsit, Who and Which. At times these are really enchanting performances with personality, flavour and majesty, other times they are irritating, unnecessarily cryptic and surprisingly useless. But in fairness, that’s absolutely no different from any other mentor role in YA fiction adaptation; you could even use those words to describe Gandalf so maybe it’s simply a genre trapping that I shouldn’t bemoan too much.

Walking into this feature, alarm bells were sounding almost immediately. After a very promising opening prologue, the film sporadically flusters, trying to establish characters and a version of quantum physics that will effectively power the story. By the time Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin tesser (a term I came to despise by the end of the film) to the planet Uriel, the film had committed some pretty damaging developments to get them there. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that despite the uphill struggle, A Wrinkle In Time manages to overcome its terrible pacing and genuinely improves as it progresses. Which brings me to Ava DuVernay. Often, when transitioning from independent dramatic features to big budget action adventures, a director’s style can be stifled or shifted. This is largely due to time constraints and visual effects restrictions, meaning basic coverage is prioritised. While this isn’t true throughout the entire film, there was a noticeable difference between the Earth-based footage and the otherworldly scenes, that left a detrimental impact, meaning things that should have been overwhelming and jaw dropping fell flat for me. But while it didn’t always succeed, we shouldn’t exactly chastise films for their reach exceeding their grasp. Having said that, films with really important and powerful messages, deserve genuinely fitting housing and it’s always greatly disappointing when they fall short of that task. The delivery of the message does not weaken the message, it merely highlights how it could have been delivered better. Matthew Stogdon. British/Irish.

I really wanted to like this movie but the truth of the matter is that my dissatisfaction with it is contained. The spotlight of scrutiny should allow filmmakers to fail without being recorded as a strike for all female directors or films of that genre. With this movie being released in the US a couple of weeks before the UK, I’ve seen far too much pressure put on this feature, as if the future of diverse, female-led family films hinges on this film’s success or failure. The best comparison I could give is 2015’s Tomorrowland; it too was a Disney live-action feature full of colourful world-building and a stellar cast that turned out to be thoroughly mediocre and wholly forgettable. Despite its failings, nobody gasped and asked if Brad Bird’s career was at risk, nobody wondered if science fiction films would continue to be made and nobody posited that George Clooney would never act again. So to summate, this film is a perfectly fine family feature, the themes are substantial but the execution wavers all too often.

Release Date:
23rd March 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoiler heavy content follows**
The film ends with Meg saving her brother, restoring (if only for a brief period) light to the universe and bringing her father home after four years of absence. The implications of this ending are frankly world changing and present so many questions. Honestly, where do we go from here? Does Alexander Murry present his findings, explaining that we can now travel across the universe if you focus on the frequency of love and let your mind go? I know this film tries to push belief in one’s self but it also pushes a heavy scientific message and you can’t just pull an Interstellar and say “it was love all along.” Even explaining that we can transport our bodies across infinite planes by aligning our neural pathways and releasing a specific chemical that secretes when we feel what we perceive as love would be a bloody stretch. Also, the redemption of the malicious bully irked me. I get what the film is trying to say: everyone is managing their own drama, so try to see the world through their eyes they are suddenly nice to you but because you wave and smile? You can fuck right off with that shit.

Notable Characters:
In addition to the three celestial guides, there is a figure called the Happy Medium, this being an obvious play on words between balance and foresight, played by Zach Galifianakis. More so than the other figures, the Happy Medium is irritatingly human. His function makes sense but like a lot in this film, the execution doesn’t seem to fit.

Highlighted Quote:
“To you, I give the gift of your faults. You’re welcome”

In A Few Words:
“Uneven and messy but carries with it an admirable message which almost excuses these flaws”

Total Score: