Release Date(s)2018 (June 5, 2018)
Studio(s)Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment (Walt Disney)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a thirteen-year-old girl who’s struggling in school and in life a few years after the mysterious disappearance of her scientist father (played by Chris Pine), who was studying fantastical forms of space travel. But one day, a series of magical intergalactic beings begin to appear in Meg’s life (played by Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey, respectively), seemly led to Meg by her little brother Deric. They claim that Meg’s father is still alive but needs help, so with the wave of a magic “tesser,” Meg, Deric, and Meg’s best friend Calvin are off to see the Wizard on an inter-dimensional rescue mission.
All right. So…
I don’t know what the hell happened here, but this movie is well and truly ungood. And I say that as someone who’s never read the Madeleine L’Engle book upon which its based, so I had no other concern than I was just hoping to enjoy a charming fantasy adventure film. But the script here is not well written, the action is disjointed and oddly staged (especially once the film gets into its virtual worlds), the choices of camera angle, movement, and framing are odd (there are times when actors fall out of focus with the slightest motion, faces are framed too tightly, eye-lines don’t work, and the camera is handheld for no obvious reason), and the film’s editing is… well, languid would be a generous word for it. In terms of emotional energy, movement, and pacing within scenes and from scene to scene, this film is lifeless. On the upside, the casting is generally good. There are moments when it’s just the actors working one on one, in close proximity in the same shot and with no visual effects involved, where they connect with each other with genuinely moving emotion. But those moments fleeting and then they’re gone. The production design is gorgeous too and Ramin Djawadi’s score generally delivers. But everything else about this film is a miss… and a mess.
A Wrinkle in Time was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 3.4K) using ARRI Alexa cameras and Leica spherical lenses. It was finished as a Digital Intermediate that I’m guessing is full native 4K, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. It’s been given a high dynamic range grade in HDR10 and is presented here in the 2.39:1 wide-release theatrical aspect ratio. This is actually a beautiful image, its framing issues aside, and a significant upgrade over the Blu-ray presentation. Fine detail is a tad soft but still wonderfully nuanced. Contrast is excellent, with deep blacks and bold highlights, marred only by a brief scene late in the film that’s very dark where the blacks tend to look a little crushed. Colors are wonderfully rich, lush, and exhibit lovely subtle shadings. I spotted a tiny bit of color banding in the sky on a couple of visual effects shots, but those minor flaws aside, this is a beautiful image.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD compatible). The mix is actually quite a nice match to the visual quality, delivering excellent clarity and fidelity. I don’t know if another mixing team did this work or if Disney has altered their practices in response to complaints from A/V enthusiasts (I hope it’s the latter), but this is actually one of best sounding Atmos mixes I’ve heard on a Disney 4K title yet, at least tonally. It’s a genuinely full sounding mix, with a pleasingly wide and natural soundstage, smooth object positioning and movement, and pleasing spaciousness. The mix shifts in character almost effortlessly as the story moves from one environment to another, with fine atmospherics. The film’s action rarely demands much of its soundtrack, particularly on the low end of the register, but the Atmos mix is more than up to whatever it’s tasked to deliver. Additional audio options include English, French, and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, with English 2.0 Descriptive Audio. Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
There are no extras on the 4K disc, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc adds the following extras all in HD:
- Audio Commentary by director Ava DuVernay
- A Journey Through Time (30:28)
- Deleted Scenes with optional commentary (4 scenes – 9:36 in all)
- Original Songs Music Videos (2 songs – 7:48 in all)
- Bloopers (1:36)
This content might be mildly interesting if the film were better. As it is, I watched hoping to find out what went wrong. This seems to be a case where everyone had absolutely the best intentions and it just didn’t come together. I think the crux of the issue is two-fold. First, it seems as if DuVernay struggled in helping her actors to deal with this film’s visual effects (think Phantom Menace syndrome). Second, it feels like she and her cinematographer here (Tobias Schliessler) just did not click somehow. I’d really like to see DuVernay team up with Bradford Young again. Young (whose work includes Solo: A Star Wars Story, Arrival, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) is an extraordinary visual talent and his teamwork with DuVernay on Selma resulted in the director’s best effort. Anyway, you also get a Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert.
A Winkle in Time has lots of pretty pieces, and well-intentioned choices, but they sadly don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. In fact, they barely feel connected to one another at all. Honestly, Disney’s 4K release looks great and sounds better than most of their offerings on the format lately, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to anyone over the age of ten. That’s a bummer, because I was actually eager to see what DuVernay could do with this material and I was rooting for (and open to) a great experience. But such was not to be. I assume the book is better, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’d rather eat the book than watch this film again.
- Bill Hunt