A Wrinkle in Time is visually stunning, but it’s not going to be remembered based on its visuals alone. Though the graphics were stunning, they cannot compensate for the story.
A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg Murray (Storm Reid), her brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and their friend, Calvin (Levi Miller), as they search for Meg’s long-lost father. They meet three supernatural beings and are transported across the galaxy to find Meg’s father (Alex Murray, played by Chris Pine).
I know it’s the route the novel takes, but there is no need for Meg to find her father. He disappeared four years ago. In any other situation besides a fantasy novel (and the fantasy movie), we would say that he’s not coming back. I spent the first half hour thinking about all the other kids who were in similar situations and how a movie that helps kids come to term with grief and parental absence could be beneficial.
That doesn’t happen here. Instead, the kids travel to the planet Camazotz, which has been poisoning the universe with malevolence, with the intent of freeing Alex Murray. When they do find him, there is a peculiar absence of time. Her father has to ask Meg how much time has past because he looks indistinguishable from the day he left. This issue with time also shows up in the plot. The evil entity on Camazotz, the It, is defeated rather easily. Universal evil is introduced and defeated in about an hour and a half.
The enemy is defeated by love, specifically Meg’s love for Charles Wallace. This was underwhelming and disappointing. A person can easily say they ‘love’ everybody in the world, and they might sincerely believe it, but that alone doesn’t accomplish much. The truth is: love is weak. Yet, figures from the 20th century provide proof to the contrary. MLK’s love was not weak. Gandhi’s love was not weak. They shook empires.
In A Wrinkle’s universe, a person has no incentive to be smart, wise, thoughtful, or creative if love can accomplish everything for them. The fact that love conquers all is not a fact— it’s a proof. It requires daily work and effort to bring it about. What would’ve been truly fascinating and incredible is if we jumped into the future twenty years. This film could have been much more inspiring if we saw a vision of committed love: a love that connives, learns, and heals. If in the course of the story we moved a decade into the future and saw Meg in her twenties, still committed to reconnecting her family, than this film’s plot could’ve been truly groundbreaking. What if she sought wisdom, skills, knowledge, passion, patience, resourcefulness, creativity all with the intention of returning to Camazotz and bringing her family back together? Camazotz is described as “the planet with a thousand faces.” What if she came back when she knew she’d be able to see through each and every one?
You can’t defeat evil in an hour and a half. It can take a lifetime. Even more sometimes. What we should be doing is preparing kids for that reality. Defeating cruelty and injustice requires communicating love in every way you can foster and hone. Kids who grow up committed to this vision have a greater chance of building a brighter world.
“Love defeats evil” is the moral of many kids’ books. Another iteration is not helpful. It doesn’t help people think about love in new and innovative ways. It’s taken as abstract, rather than instructive.