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Why Ava DuVernay’s A WRINKLE IN TIME is So Important Right Now

Last year, Wonder Woman became the biggest live-action blockbuster directed by a woman and the highest grossing superhero origin story film, among other achievements. This past weekend, Black Panther soared past box office predictions with numerous records of its own—it scored the second highest Marvel opening weekend ever—and more on the way, no doubt. Even if you discount the caliber and artistry of these two films (which you shouldn’t), the takeaway is clear: representation in pop culture is so, so important. Which is why we’re so excited about Ava DuVernay’s inventive new take on the classic children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time.

Madeline L’Engle’s science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time, first published in 1962, has racked up dozens of literary awards and inspired generations of readers and writers alike, but its upcoming film adaptation has the potential to join the ranks of legend. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Michael Peña, and newcomer Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters in just a few weeks, and is priming to have just as big an impact as Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Last spring, we were invited to the set with a handful of other journalists to explore L’Engle’s world brought to new life. Trust us when we say this fresh spin on the time-and-space-traveling story is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

For those unfamiliar, A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in a quadrilogy about the Murray family, led by young outsider Meg Murray. The child of impressive parents (scientists!) and brothers (athletic, brilliant!), Meg is seen by her teachers and peers as a troublemaker who hasn’t quite caught up. When her father (played by Chris Pine in the film) mysteriously disappears, she and her brilliant, precocious little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and new friend Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) encounter three magical beings: Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). From there, they are whisked away to alternate dimensions to rescue Meg’s father, learning about inter-dimensional travel, the dark forces of the universe, and their own personal power all the while.

As a child of what was seen as a “broken home” in 1962, when the novel was published, Meg has always been a champion for children who felt left out or too strange to fit in. But with DuVernay at the helm, A Wrinkle in Time‘s diverse cast and crew bring a whole new layer to the story. Though choosing a biracial young girl as the leading lady of a science fantasy action adventure is a huge step forward in representation, DuVernay hopes that this inclusive set and cast becomes the new normal. “I just wanted a cast that reflects the real world,” DuVernay told us on set, in between takes. “And we’re not doing anything that shouldn’t have already been done. The question is, why hasn’t this been done before?”

Though this discussion occurred months before the long overdue #MeToo movement, the importance of representation in front of and behind the camera has been important to the cast and creators of the film, including Reese Witherspoon. Wrapped in Balenciaga-inspired sheets and glowing gold, Witherspoon shared that she was excited to see DuVernay’s vision for the film. “I got emotional thinking [that] little kids going to the theater can actually see a character and actor that looks like them, makes them think it’s possible,” Witherspoon said. “And also to have women who are heroes, who are all different sizes and different races. Women are the heroes of a lot of kids’ lives, and to see that properly represented is way overdue and exciting.”

Of course, this much-needed representation is not even close to everything DuVernay and the incredible cast brings to the table. A Wrinkle in Time is filled with fantastical characters, inventive new planets, and an ancient evil that inspires fear in anyone who believes in knowledge or being different. That message is a big part of what drew Oprah Winfrey to play Mrs. Which, the Glenda in this “spaced-out Wizard of Oz.” Clad in a gorgeously intricate silver costume that wouldn’t allow her to fully sit down, Oprah leaned against a chair and spoke of her character as we all sat in rapt attention. “Mrs. Which is a combination of Glenda [the Good Witch] and Maya Angelou, so I hear both of them in my head as I am speaking,” she said. “I mean, I’m playing a supernova of the stars. She’s a supernova angel woman, wisdom teacher who has come to help Meg and her brother find their father, but in finding their father it’s about developing your own sense of belief, confidence and empowerment for yourself.”

Now more than ever, young women and men of all different backgrounds need to find that empowerment, to believe in themselves and in the goodness of the world. Storm Reid, the young actress who portrays Meg in the film, is the perfect ambassador for this message. “I hope [A Wrinkle in Time] inspires girls my age—everyone: women, women of color, different races, any gender—because I just want you to believe in yourself and know that you can do anything,” Reid said. “Nothing’s impossible, because in the word ‘impossible,’ it says, ‘I’m possible.’ Always know that no matter what, you can always do it and don’t let anybody tell you differently.”

Children and teens are often ignored or discounted, even though they have bigger dreams and ideas than most adults. We often accept the way things are because they’ve always been that way, but young people know and believe that things can always be better. Films like A Wrinkle in Time, Wonder Woman, and Black Panther give little kids inspiration to be as strong as the Amazons, and offer grown men and women the chance to themselves and their culture reflected in a mega blockbuster movie for the first time, and directors like Ava DuVernay can bring about social change through their portrayal of what it means to be a hero. And if you don’t believe us, believe Oprah: “We must now fight the darkness with the light. We are in search of warriors. Warriors who can bring back hope. That is what this movie is about.”

A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters March 9, 2018, and you can pre-order tickets beginning tomorrow, February 22!

Images: Disney

Want to read the book before the movie? We read it on Alpha Book Club! Catch up with us exclusively on Alpha.

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