A Wrinkle In Time: a lovely, messy, warm, flop

Hand in hand: Reese Witherspoon and 14-year-old Storm Reid star in A Wrinkle in Time. © Disney

Does it matter what film critics think? A Wrinkle in Time adapts a beloved American fantasy novel. Some reviewers praise the film as revolutionary — others say it is a “noble failure”.

It was a dark and stormy night…

This opening line has been a cliché for almost 200 years. It is also the first sentence of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time, which has now been adapted into a Hollywood film. (It hits UK cinemas today.)

The story that follows is anything but a cliché. It is about a science prodigy, Meg, who jumps through space and time via tesseracts.

She is guided by three “celestial beings”. First is Mrs Whatsit (played by Reese Witherspoon), the youngest at 2.3 billion years old. She is joined by Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) who speaks in quotations. Then there is the wisest and most powerful of all: Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey).

The film has been called “revolutionary” for its diverse cast and crew. Behind the camera is Ava DuVernay, the first African American woman to direct a live action movie with a budget over £100 million.

There is just one problem: critics do not actually like it. It is “tonally all over the place”, wrote Variety. “Tentative and overprotective”, said The Guardian. In general, the professionals have admired its vision and performances, but concluded that something is “missing”.

Should people care what they think?

Poison pens

No, say some. The movie is aimed at children, not snobby adults. And anyway, professional reviewers are pointless in the age of social media. Audiences often disagree with them, and now it is easy to find out what the public thinks online. Everyone’s a critic, as another old cliché says. Good.

We should listen to film critics, argue others. They understand movies on a level that many of us don’t. They do not pan films because it is fun; they have a duty to be honest so that cinema fans do not waste money on bad films. With social media so crowded, an expert opinion is more valuable than ever.

You Decide

  1. Do you see films based on their reviews?

Activities

  1. Write a 100-word review of a film you have seen recently. Remember — do not just write whether you liked it or not, but include why you felt that way.

Some People Say...

“If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children.”

Madeleine L’Engle

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The film is released today in the UK (Friday March 23). It has been out in the US since March 9, where it made $33 million in its opening weekend; a modest amount considering its $100 million budget. For comparison, Black Panther made $202 million in that time.
What do we not know?
Why audiences are not going to see the film in as large numbers as expected in the US.

Word Watch

200 years
It first appeared as the opening line to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
Tesseracts
In geometry, a tesseract is a four-dimensional cube. (With “time” being the fourth dimension.) In A Wrinkle In Time, it is the name for a fifth dimension which allows people to travel great distances instantly.
2.3 billion
Or, as she says in the book: “2,379,152,497 years, 8 months, and 3 days” old.
Disagree
According to data analysis by Gizmodo, audiences love Warcraft and Love Actually , but critics hate them.

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