09 March 2018

A Wrinkle in Jeans

Yeah, that was my best play on words.

There are quite a few mid-range flicks coming out this weekend that really aren't worth talking about. There's Gringo (2018), which I haven't seen much of but just seems insensitive, Strangers: Prey at Night (2018), which is a horror movie sequel to The Strangers (2008), which came out an impossibly long time ago, and The Hurricane Heist (2018), which is a cool idea, but also kind of insensitive considering the real devastating hurricane damage last year. It's also basically Hard Rain (1998).

Now, The Strangers is actually an underrated horror film, but one that's definitely become lost in the swarm of home invasion thrillers that have become their own genre in the past ten years. Really if we're not getting something very distinctive like The Purge (2013) or You're Next (2013), it's all the same crap. At any rate, I don't think any of these films will be culturally or commercially significant.

Little black kid physics
With that in mind, let's move towards A Wrinkle in Time (2018), which for the record I also don't believe will be commercially or culturally significant. Now, I want to come at this from a few different angles. First, let's talk about the source material and demand for this thing. This film is based of a 1962 book by Madeleine L'Engle, who has written quite a bit of popular and award-winning stories, although I have never ever heard of her or any of them. This is obviously because I don't read, but it's clear that at least 56 years on this book doesn't have the timeless mainstream appeal of a Seuss or Dahl.

And you can say that's for a number of reasons, according to my extensive research, L'Engle herself claims it could have been because of the complex mixture of adult and child themes, a blend of science and Christianity, or the fact that it starred a female protagonist. Some of this has merit, and we should never ignore 60s sexism, but these issues in classical children's literature would also apply to Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland. Sure I suppose those all lean more into fantasy than sci-fi, and the difference is that it's written by a woman, but to me, someone who thinks this movie looks stupid, seems like just generating excuses for a crappy played out story.

There's a fine line there. It's applicable, then, that this film is adapted now in an age where there's so much focus, particularly in cinema in giving women opportunities to direct and star in big budget films. It's such a double-standard sword, though, because if it fails it will fail because it starred women, not because it was a crappy movie. And yeah, for the record, I think this looks like a really shitty movie. I'm not into the gaudy costumes or byzantine storytelling at all.

More than that, though, this has what I'd now like to call the Tarzan / Lone Ranger problem. It reeks of studio desperation to make something happen with an old IP they've been hanging on to. There's an art to making a film look cool and not thirsty. Disney seems to want this to be a thing so bad that it's not that cool. Now, maybe it will appeal to kids, but what parents are reading 1962's A Wrinkle in Time to their whippersnappers before bed? There's no audience for this and Disney is trying to force it to happen.

And I say Lone Ranger problem because we've seen a lot of this. It's just an old brand that it sort of recognizable. This is even worse than the Lone Ranger, though, because people have heard of the Lone Ranger - they just didn't care. Same with The Legend of Tarzan (2016), which came out alongside The BFG (2016) two years ago. That's a good example of a beloved book whose adaptation came out egregiously too late. No one cared and no one saw it. This isn't good. I feel like I can't be the only one with these ideas. I want to somewhat praise Disney for at least avoiding a comic book or Star Wars or live-action Disney Renaissance adaptation for once, but this looks really lame. Maybe that's more the 31-year old dude in me, maybe kids will like it and it'll be great and I'll eat my words.

Don't forget President Oprah!
Except Ava DuVernay sucks. I haven't seen a lot of her documentary work, and maybe that's good, but Selma (2014) is pretty awful. It has this shield of critical bulletproofing because it's about Martin Luther King, Jr and it has a black woman director, which is just a unicorn for major motion pictures, but she's not Ryan Coogler. It took me a long time to come to grips with that. I sat for years after watching Selma and completely couldn't understand why folks loved DuVernay and wanted her to direct a Marvel blockbuster. Selma didn't know what it wanted to be - a gripping behind the scenes biopic or a gritty look at Alabaman racism? Thinking back I can hardly remember any distinctive scenes, and DuVernay's direction is so straight-forward and bland that nothing stood out or popped.

Now, because of DuVernay's involvement and L'Engle's comments on women in sci-fi, A Wrinkle in Time has also bulletproofed itself against real criticism. Because I now totally look like a racist sexist douchebag. And even in defending this position my dude-ness shines clearer. This is actually all a disservice to making films of actual black female merit (like Black Panther [2018], to cite the most obvious recent example. Or Girls Trip [2017], which is brilliant and amazing). It blinds real critical conversation and presents a satisfaction with current black director tokenism instead of asking for more voices.

So, that's a lot to take in and probably more than A Wrinkle in Time deserves. Maybe it will be good. I kind of liked Tomorrowland (2015). What do you think? You watching Hurricane Heist this weekend?

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