ryan coogler

Hate to say it, but A Wrinkle In Time is not good by Ryan Hill

 
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In Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, people communicate with flowers, Mindy Kaling speaks in quotes (ranging from Gandhi to Chris Tucker), Oprah Winfrey’s first appearance looms large over everyone (it is Oprah after all) and the film’s emotional anchor is played by Captain James T. Kirk, though in fairness Chris Pine is a good actor. That’s A Wrinkle in Time. If that sounds like a mess, it’s because it is a mess. And that stinks.

Adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, the film stars Storm Reid as Meg, a 13-year-old who’s been in and out of trouble since her scientist father (Pine) disappeared without a trace. She has an adopted younger brother, who’s been palling around with three mystical women known as the W’s, played by Kaling, Winfrey and Reece Witherspoon. Once Meg learns of this, it’s decided – by the others – it’s time for all of them to look for her father.

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In a taped message before the film’s screening, DuVernay said she made Wrinkle with the intent of making the audience feel like they were 12 or 13 again, and in that regard the film is a success. With a vibe similar to other kid-oriented fantasies like The NeverEnding Story, Wrinkle feels like a blockbuster made specifically for kids. That also means scenes play out longer than they should, dialogue is overly simple, and the children in the film are never in danger, even when they are. One scene is supposed to have Meg being violently whipped around, but she never really moves.

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The bigger issue with Wrinkle is that what works in a book won’t always work in a film. Some of the film’s visuals are fantastic, but there isn’t much of a plot. Meg isn’t a very active main character most of the time, doing little more than complaining as the others hold her hand, whisking her off to different places in the universe. There, they ask the locals, be it Zach Galifianakis or a bunch of flowers, if they saw her dad. Once the answer is no, the W’s whisk the kids off to the next place.

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It’s not until the third act that the plot kicks in and a villain takes shape. That doesn’t even get into the bits of stunted, awkward dialogue lifted straight from L’Engle’s novel, which was first released in 1962.

A Wrinkle in Time marks a watershed moment for minority directors, especially coming so close to the amazing success of Ryan Coogler and Black Panther. Wrinkle is the first film directed by a woman of color to feature a budget or more than $100 million. That’s a big, big deal. Directors, regardless of sex or race, deserve the chance to make bigger-budgeted fare like Wrinkle, and an influx of different perspectives can only make commercial films more interesting in the future. Wrinkle just isn’t one of them.

Black Panther's Wait was Worth It by Ryan Hill

 
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It’s taken entirely too long for something like Black Panther, a superhero movie starring an African American, to see the light of day. In the period leading to that film’s release, Marvel has given us movies about a guy who communicates with ants (Ant-Man), two movies featuring a talking raccoon (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2), Doctor Strange and three Thor films. Granted, those are all enjoyable – save Thor: The Dark World – but it shouldn’t have taken so long for Black Panther to become a reality.

The saving grace for the delay is that Marvel, and especially writer/director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole, did Black Panther right. It wasn’t rushed, like, oh, Justice League. The property was handled with care and precision, resulting in a film steeped in African culture, with fantastic, three-dimensional characters, gorgeous costumes and a wonderful theme. Even the villain, typically Marvel’s weak spot, has layers. It’s a film everyone should get behind.

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Taking place soon after the events in Captain America: Civil War (probably on the same point on the Marvel timeline with Spider-Man: Homecoming), Black Panther finds the newly crowned King of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), mourning the death of his father and the responsibility of becoming a new king in a changing world. Wakanda, home to the metal that created Captain America’s shield, is technologically far ahead of the rest of the world, but they’ve remained largely hidden, afraid of influence and corruption from outsiders. That fear leads one outsider, the twisted Erik Killmonger (Coogler mainstay Michael B. Jordan), to try and use Wakanda’s technology to make it a superpower.

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In a short period, Ryan Coogler has become one of the best directors out there. At 31, he’s already directed the devastating Fruitvale Station, his Rocky update Creed was a crowd-pleaser, even netting Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination, and with Black Panther he’s proven adept at handling blockbuster entertainment without letting special effects swallow up the important things, like character and story. Arguably the film’s only real weak spot, the plot hews a little too close to the average Marvel fare, but the focus on the characters more makes up for it. Black Panther is more than a big budget action spectacle. It’s a personal film that deals with real emotions and themes, which makes Black Panther resonate more than any other Marvel entry.

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Marvel’s Phase Three of its cinematic universe was always going to be interesting. Having already made three Iron Man movies, three Captain Americas and three Thors, the studio has not only exhausted some of their biggest properties, but their level of quality is established such that movies like Black Panther can be made. If Panther is any indication, the Marvel films may be moving in a direction more exciting and diverse than ever before.