Critics are largely panning “A Wrinkle In Time,” and Director Ava DuVernay is not taking it well. According to her twitter feed, white journalists of either gender simply don’t understand her vision for the movie.
Vulture editor Kyle Buchanan pleased DuVernay, when he said in a tweet “one of the most subtle, resonant” threads in the film that he discovered after interviewing her was … the character Meg’s insecurity about her hair. Reminder: This is a film based on a Christian-inspired book about an epic battle between darkness and light. But according to DuVernay, Buchanan nailed it.
“You were the only Caucasian journalist of any gender to see it, understand it and seriously ask me about it,” DuVernay tweeted in response to Buchanan.
Well, sorry, Ava, but it’s not just conservative, older white men who didn’t like the film. There are a lot of reviews by women and people of color who didn’t like the movie because it just wasn’t a good movie — a simple browse through published reviews will corroborate this.
The movie over-used special effects, and skipped so much of the source material that people had a hard time following the story. DuVernay is firmly planted in the belief that she is leading a crusade for young girls, especially young girls of color, by having made a movie full of hope and strong female characters. She did try to make this work, but by skipping the story of faith and God so very prevalent in Madeline L’Engle’s novel, she failed to create a cohesive narrative and the message didn’t land for most people.
It isn’t just Christian, conservative voices that are disappointed to see the removal of God from the story. Tara Isabella Burton noted the importance of Christianity to the Wrinkle narrative in Vox: “L’Engle’s Christianity was about balancing seemingly impossible ideas — paradox — and discovering and maintaining faith, in spite of the seeming chaos of the surrounding world.”
Back in 2010, Lucy Tang predicted that Hollywood would choose the secular route for production of this movie, and that it would be a mistake to do so. Tang wrote, “L’Engle’s life philosophy is the kind of happy religious pluralism in which Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and even scientists can live together in peace.” Whether or not the viewer was a religious believer, this message of inclusion and peace would not have come at a better time. Sadly, that message was deleted, and there wasn’t enough story left over to create a quality movie.
Being tapped to direct a big budget movie with so much expectation was undoubtedly a daunting task for DuVernay. The fact that the movie is being poorly reviewed must be bitterly disappointing. It’s certainly not the first time a director in the spotlight has deflected blame for a stinker by blaming the critics. DuVernay is taking an especially low road however, by singling out white reviewers for being too dumb to understand her film.
Screenplay writer Jennifer Lee spoke about the choice to remove religion, insinuating that L’Engle used Christianity as an archaic crutch to talk about the fight between good and evil. Lee said that there were “bigger issues” in the world today, and so they chose to remove God from their story.
Disney made a TV version of Wrinkle back in 2003, four years before L’Engle’s death. Religion had been entirely removed from this version as well, and the author did not like it. She said, “I expected it to be bad, and it is.”
The heart and soul of L’Engle’s novel is her own faith. Unafraid of criticism and actually being banned from very conservative Christians in the 1960’s, she included her faith, in addition to the idea that God shows light in people on earth as well. Lee apparently assumed that the only reason L’Engle included her faith was because she grew up in a time where she felt that she had to, and that assumption led Lee to write a screenplay that amputated the overarching theme of the book.
This would have been an incredible opportunity for DuVernay and Lee to use a considerable platform, along with modern special effects, to bring Madeline L’Engle’s story of light against darkness to life. They chose instead to oppose the light, the way it was written, and the story was weakened beyond salvation by CGI and a powerhouse cast.
Now, with opening weekend in the past, and the box office success quickly fading, it’s becoming common knowledge that this movie did not live up to the hype. DuVernay has been blaming internet aggregate sites, like Rotten Tomatoes, for stymieing ticket sales. The film has a dismal 42 percent combined rating on the site, and it’s even worse when only audience reviews are considered — 37 percent. DuVernay has implied that sites based on amateur user reviews are heavily flawed, and that the overwhelmingly white, male, professional movie critics’ write-ups simply don’t understand her “girl power” message.
For the first time ever, the number one and two movies at the box office had black directors at the helm, and one of those movies is excellent — it just isn’t “A Wrinkle In Time.”