If you’ve been to the movies recently, you’ve probably seen a trailer for A Wrinkle in Time. This whimsical, fantastical film is based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. It is one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2018. It’s also one of the most ambitious and expensive films Disney has ever made. The combination of the film’s enormous budget and sci-fi theme make this film a huge risk for Disney.
Show Me the Money
The reported budget for A Wrinkle in Time is over 100 million dollars. That’s an extremely risky amount of money to spend on any movie. To put that number into perspective, the most recent Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Shape of Water, had a budget of only 19.5 million dollars. To begin making a profit, A Wrinkle in Time will need to make a whopping 210 million dollars at the box office. Needless to say, the movie will need to sell a LOT of tickets to make that happen.
Originally, a version of A Wrinkle in Time was released as a made-for-TV movie in 2003, but many thought it was a bust. Catherine Hand, a producer on both the 2003 and 2018 films, says she believes this was due to major budget constraints. The cast and crew couldn’t afford to bring such a fantastical world to life with the money they had. It makes sense that Disney has invested so much in the current adaptation.
Critics of the 2003 version said the main issue was the underwhelming set design and cheap-looking visual effects. With the current inflated budget, Disney should be able to create an otherworldly and magical set. The previews and promotional photos that we’ve seen so far implies that the film’s done its job. They should also be able to execute the necessary visual effects to make even the most fantastical scenes feel real and natural. Even from the trailer, we can see Disney’s determination to accurately capture the whimsical nature of the novel. We will have to wait and see if it pays off.
Science Fiction Is Risky Territory
This certainly isn’t the first time Disney has delved into such a whimsical world. After all, Alice in Wonderland was a huge success. However, A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most sci-fi heavy storylines Disney has ever tackled. Tomorrowland, Disney’s most recent film with heavy sci-fi elements, such as time and interdimensional travel, flopped at the box-office. The lacking appeal of interdimensional travel to a mainstream audience, especially a Disney one, could pose a problem.
Additionally, many sci-fi films already have a fanbase and a franchise to fall back on. For instance, Star Wars already has a strong following. A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t have the luxury of loyal fans. It will need to earn them. Exciting storylines and visual effects aren’t enough to make a great movie (sorry, Tomorrowland). A Wrinkle in Time needs to also connect with audiences through its characters and themes. This will require strategic moves on DuVernay’s part to make this movie palatable for classic moviegoers and sci-fi geeks alike.
The DuVernay Factor
A Wrinkle in Time is in competent hands with Academy Award-winning director and visionary Ava DuVernay. However, she has little experience in the fantasy/sci-fi realm. Some hardcore science-fiction fans may be doubtful of her ability to handle complex sci-fi elements like time travel. To deliver on these concepts, the film will heavily rely on visual effect and green screen work, which could also be a concern. These things are very technical and could be difficult to navigate for a director who has little experience doing so. If incorporated poorly, they could result in an immersion-breaking experience for moviegoers.
However, DuVernay is known for her creative storytelling. People admire her work for its ability to capture stories in unlikely and unique ways. One of her most well-known films, Selma, for example, was called “a triumph of efficient, emphatic cinematic storytelling” by a New York Times critic. For A Wrinkle in Time, there is no doubt she will rise to the challenge in an exciting and never-before-seen way. Finally, we get to see a woman of color direct a story about a young African-American girl. It’s a perspective we don’t often get in Hollywood, and it should bring something new and important to the screen.
Despite the risk, a cast of diverse, talented and well-known actors and actresses such as Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, will certainly help draw in fans. The star-studded cast will help Disney appeal to its more mainstream audience. These well-respected artists also already have huge fanbases. By promoting the movie on social media, these celebrities will be able to get their loyal supporters to see the film.
Perfecting a cinematic version of A Wrinkle in Time is certainly a risky endeavor. However, if it is done right, it could be a huge success for Disney. Either way, A Wrinkle in Time promises to bring a new and exciting approach to the beloved genre of science fiction.