It’s been months since Disney revealed the first trailer for A Wrinkle in Time at its D23 convention over the summer. But if, like many of us, you were one of the “indoor kids” growing up, then you likely also haven’t stopped obsessing over the upcoming adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved sci-fi/fantasy children’s book. And so far it looks like this could be a worthy take on the classic story.
Though L’Engle initially struggled to find a publisher for her novel, it’s enjoyed enduring popularity since the first edition was released in 1962. Previous attempts to adapt it for the screen have been lackluster at best; when asked by Newsweek in 2003 if a Canadian television adaptation (distributed by Disney) had met her expectations, L’Engle quipped, “Yes, I expected it to be bad, and it is.” Thankfully, nearly everything we know about the upcoming film so far promises a thrilling and satisfying end product, even for the discerning book-lovers among us.
The film, which will be released in the spring of 2018, tells the story of Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who gets pulled into an adventure involving alternate dimensions with her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and pal Calvin (Levi Miller). Their goal? Bring home their dad (Chris Pine), who has mysteriously disappeared.
Ava DuVernay is directing the $100 million-budget film, making her the first black woman to have ever led a live-action project of this magnitude. This is her first foray into the world of sci-fi/fantasy, and while DuVernay’s previous experience working on historical biopics like Selma and documentaries like 13 might make her seem an odd choice for guiding the time-and-space-traversing narrative of Wrinkle — populated as it is by tentacle-monsters, shape-shifting stars and a giant, evil brain — it’s her attention to detail and what actor Chris Pine (who plays Dr. Murry in the film) calls her “macro” way of thinking that will hopefully deliver a holistic vision for the complex story.
Another potentially innovative, exciting dimension to the film? The score, which is composed by Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood. Fans of the book will remember what an important element music is to the plot — during the children’s visit to planet Uriel, all of the centaur-like creatures are engaged in dancing and singing, and the alien on Ixchel who Meg calls Aunt Beast sings to her while she heals from the cold of space. (Mindy Kaling, who plays the Goethe and Dante-quoting Mrs. Who, has also said her character quotes modern artists like Jay-Z in the film.) But Greenwood is a fantastic choice as his background in experimental music, heard not only in Radiohead but films like There Will Be Blood and Inherent Vice, lends a textural dimension to the story that might otherwise be lacking in the more typical orchestral arrangements we’re used to hearing in sci-fi and fantasy films.
Speaking of textures, the film boasts Disney’s production budget, so we know the CGI visuals will be top-notch. Among the special effects companies reportedly at work on the film are Industrial Light and Magic (obviously), Captured Dimensions, Luma Pictures, and Moving Picture Company. Between them all, A Wrinkle in Time is getting the creative visual strength of every recent Marvel film, the Fast and the Furious films, The Lego Movie, the recent Alien films, and even Watchmen (whatever else you might have forgotten about the film, we guarantee Dr. Manhattan’s giant, blue, swinging parts of his anatomy are burned into your brain, for better or worse). Part of the reason L’Engle struggled for so long to find a publisher for her novel was that the story was so challenging, both conceptually and visually, that many worried it wouldn’t find a definite audience. The concepts behind her depiction of space- and time-travel are straight from Einstein, but she leaves much of the description up to the imagination (which is appropriate, as it’s a children’s book meant to stimulate the mind rather than hold one’s hand). But finally, it seems, effects technology has caught up with L’Engle’s vision — and hopefully DuVernay’s as well.
Finally, the diversity of the cast itself can only be an added benefit to the film. There seems to be little comment so far over the casting of Storm Reid as main character Meg (compared to the collective whining that arose when Idris Elba was cast as Roland in The Dark Tower, or the considerable cheerleading for Noma Dumezweni as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), but it’s a move that is as important symbolically as it is an attempt to cast a wider net for box-office sales.
Regardless of what you might believe the reasoning for such casting to be, it’s fairly well-accepted that representation among women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is disproportionately low, and women of color in STEM is even lower. And during a time where funding and accessibility to both the sciences and the arts are increasingly dwindling, a film that celebrates both while featuring a young, diverse cast saving the day is an extremely welcome breath of fresh air (like the oxygen-delivering flowers on the planet Uriel, if you will). Plus, the character of Meg Murry in the book is not your typical female lead; she’s belligerent, insecure, stubborn, and sensitive. In a word, she’s relatable for most teens, and a far cry from the pouting 20-somethings for whom we often struggle to suspend our disbelief in most YA/sci-fi franchises. The cast also boasts the talents of Zach Galifianakis, Reese Witherspoon, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (anyone out there writing a headcanon where Mrs. Murry grows old, dies, and spends eternity in San Junipero? Find me on Twitter if so), Michael Peña, and Oprah Winfrey.
Though the film won’t be released until March 9, 2018, it’s shaping up to have been worth the nearly 60-year long wait. All signs point to a film that can deliver the nearly-impossible to fans of this much-loved book, bringing in new audiences with modern music, visuals, and settings while also encapsulating the nostalgia of the story’s material itself.
Lauren is a freelance writer and artist who can be followed at @YasBruja.