‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Is Stunning, but Has a Confusing Message

A Wrinkle in Time is finally here after months of anticipation. The movie has some powerful players on and off the screen, starring Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Reese Witherspoon. The acting, therefore, is great, and the movie looks beautiful.

However, the story behind all these things is the weakest aspect of the movie. Meg (Storm Reid) and her prodigy little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) are put on a mission to find their father who has been missing for four years with classmate Calvin (Levi Miller). In order to do that, they have to travel through time.

Here are seven things to know about the movie, which is visually stunning but has a confusing message. Warning: spoilers ahead!

1. The movie spends too much time assuring the female lead about her looks

Meg stands in front of a blackboard.
Meg’s character isn’t insecure, so why does the movie focus on her looks?  | Walt Disney Pictures

It seems like one of the main messages of the movie is about Meg accepting herself. There is a moment with Mrs. Which, where she explains to her that the reason Meg hurts when she tessers because she wants to be someone else instead of accepting herself.

This fact about the main character seemingly comes out of nowhere. We do see her bullied at the beginning of the movie, but she also stands up for herself, seemingly showing that she doesn’t let the bullies make her insecure. There is also a moment when Meg is with Calvin in her backyard and sees that her bully spots them, so she hides. But we find out it’s because she’s trying to save Calvin from being ridiculed at school for hanging out with her, not because she’s ashamed of herself.

In another beauty-related moment, Calvin compliments Meg’s hair, and she tells him not to say that. This could be read as some sort of insecurity about her hair but I didn’t read it that way — especially given the fact the character proudly wears her hair out and curly the entire movie. We never see her ashamed of it.

After all of that, Mrs. Whatsit touches upon the point of self-acceptance again by giving Meg the gift of her faults. This is supposed to be funny, as Mrs. Whatsit has been pointing out Meg’s faults throughout the movie. But again, Meg always does a good job brushing off all her comments, emphasizing again that she is a pretty confident character and doesn’t need anyone’s validation.

Despite that, at the climactic point of the movie, Meg is offered to become popular. The popular version of herself is shown in a tighter outfit and straight hair. She turns this offer down, which shouldn’t be surprising given the movie doesn’t ever suggest she wanted to be anything like that or her bully in the first place.

Next: The romance in the story is uncomfortable. 

2. The romance of the story is awkwardly used as a tool of empowerment

Meg, Calvin and Charles standing in a neighborhood.
Did Meg need a boy to go with her along the way? | Walt Disney Pictures

Calvin joins the adventure to find Mr. Murray with Meg and Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace’s reason for this is Calvin is supposed to be diplomatic, but we don’t ever really see that. Instead, we see him gawk at Meg every time he gets, and his obvious infatuation is seemingly used to empower her.

He compliments her hair, which the audience is led to believe causes her to turn down the straight-haired version of herself later. He also tells her that she’s incredible after she comes up with a plan of how to get over a wall through physics. This is true, and what’s great about Meg is that she never doubts her intelligence throughout the movie either.

So it’s odd that the kid-oriented film feels the need to have a male character acknowledge all of her attributes as some kind of tool of empowerment when she never doubts them in the first place.

Next: This is missing from Meg and Charles Wallace’s relationship.

3. There is not enough leading to Meg and Charles Wallace’s standoff

Meg stands high above Charles and Calvin.
What should have been an exciting moment felt flat. | Walt Disney Pictures

Meg and Charles Wallace have a beautiful brother and sister friendship. At the beginning of the movie, Charles Wallace not only stands up for his father’s reputation when he overhears teachers gossiping, but Meg’s too. He also lovingly heats up milk for her when she can’t sleep.

So it’s kind of odd that the movie ends up pitting the brother and sister against each other in the end as a means of bringing them together again. It seems to create a problem that was never there in the first place between them.

If Meg and Charles Wallace weren’t so close originally and then brought together in the end, there would be a better arc.

Next: This character’s actions go without being addressed.

4. Mr. Murry’s actions aren’t really addressed

Mr. Murray looking at an experiment.
Why did he act like this? | Walt Disney Pictures

The movie is all about Mr. Murry disappearing for four years after tessering. When he finally meets his children again, he cries and apologizes for not putting family first. But this isn’t his last mistake.

When possessed Charles Wallace takes Calvin, Mr. Murray, and Meg to the It,  a hasty decision is made. Mr. Murry tries to tesser them all out of there, but Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace. After Meg saves the day and brings Charles Wallace back, it’s rightfully awkward.

How do you deal with a father who you went to save, but who then left the mission as soon as things got hard? The movie doesn’t directly respond to this, instead glossing over the tension and having everyone simply be happy that they are together again.

Next: The good thing is there is a different kind of diversity on the screen.

5. The movie highlights a different kind of diversity

Dr. Murray during a presentation.
The movie might inspire young girls to pursue science. | Walt Disney Pictures

The movie’s message about self-acceptance might not have been clearly done, but another one was. The movie is very much focused on science, and it’s great to see girls and women excelling at it.

We get a glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Murray explaining their research to other people. Although Mr. Murray highjacks their project and ends up being the first to time travel, when he comes back, he makes it clear that it was Mrs. Murray’s formula that got him there.

Meg also shows her incredible knowledge of science throughout the film, which ends up saving everyone. It’s sad that women in science aren’t seen often in pop culture. So it’s great to think that kids may see this and know it is possible.

Next: This character was a surprising treat.

6. Mrs. Who is a treat

Mrs. Who sits in a brown chair in a messy house.
Mrs. Who is fantastic. | Walt Disney Pictures

Although there are many questions about the origin of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit and what is motivating them, they can still be enjoyable. Mrs. Who is particularly worth pointing out.

She mostly speaks in quotes, which get some laughs from the audience. But she’s not always used as just comedic relief. In the beginning, most of her quotes are quite powerful and interesting, so we know this character is intelligent and has something to say.

Next: The movie is all over the place visually.

7. The movie is beautiful, but some of the effects are laughable

Mrs. Which and Meg balancing together.
The film has some problems with special effects. | Walt Disney Pictures

The movie is gorgeous and makes the adventure a treat for the eyes. However, some of the effects were laughable, like making Mrs. Which so much larger than the rest of the cast. That awkward effect becomes even more noticeable in the scene when Charles Wallace’s tiny hand touches her face as they fly past her. Despite the strange appearance of her character, there are some other stunning visuals to enjoy throughout the rest of the movie.

In the end, the movie is for kids, and they will likely enjoy this film. It has a mostly positive message and a fun adventure to follow. But adults might leave scratching their heads over the lack of real character development throughout the big adventure, despite the fantastic cast.

Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!