Marvel Studios’ upcoming Black Panther film, directed by Ryan Coogler, is being celebrated for the cast’s inclusivity and the film’s respect to African culture (at least so far). Finally, it seems Hollywood is getting it right. The plot centers around Wakanda, a fictional African nation that is the most technologically advanced place in the world, and stars an almost exclusively Black all-star cast – including Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B Jordan, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya and Sterling K Brown.
Understandably, Black Twitter is excited for this. It’s all of our favorite actors, playing some of our favorite characters – some of the coolest characters in Marvel Comics, finally getting their due on the big screen. And that’s all well and good. But something that’s being criminally overlooked, which I would argue is just as important if not more, is Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle In Time film.
A Wrinkle In Time is an adaptation of the popular fantasy/sci-fi novel by Madeleine L’engle. It follows the story of Meg, a young girl who aspires to math and science like her father. He is studying a way to travel through time and space in a way that doesn’t follow the laws of physics. When he disappears, three celestial beings task Meg and her friend Calvin with the responsibility of finding him – and stopping an evil threat to the universe.
Now, why, you might ask, is this so important? The plot is a little generic – some of these aspects we’ve seen before in other films, such as The Wizard of Oz. What will make this so unique?
First off, most importantly, the film is being directed by Ava DuVernay. If you haven’t heard of Ava, she’s one of the most famous Black female directors of all time. She was Oscar-nominated for her work on Martin Luther King biopic Selma (though she didn’t win, to many people’s chagrin). She has consistently, week-to-week, delivered thoughtful and engaging episodes of her series Queen Sugar, which focuses on the life of a Black farming family in New Orleans. Her Netflix documentary 13th called attention to mass incarceration of Black men and women in a way that won it several awards.
And Ava is just getting started. Apart from A Wrinkle In Time, Ava is also attached to helm a heist film that was created by Twitter to star Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o as scammer women who target wealthy white men; she’s circling an adaptation of one of Octavia Butler’s works, a revered Black science-fiction writer whose work still has not been adapted to the big screen; and big franchises like Marvel, DC and Star Wars have courted her for projects. At one point she was attached to make Black Panther, but had to drop out due to creative differences.
If you don’t support A Wrinkle in Time, you are failing to support a woman of color who, frankly, deserves it. Ava has paid her dues to the industry many times over, proving again and again that she’s far more talented than her more successful male white counterparts. She dazzles and excels with character, visuals and writing, and from the looks of the Wrinkle in Time trailer she looks to do the same there. If we want diverse directors to be hired, we have to support their work – particularly when the cast of said work is diverse as well.
Which brings me to my next point: Ava has racebended a considerable amount of characters in the novel. Meg Murry, the lead, is being played by Storm Reid, a mixed-race actress. Her mother is portrayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Her principal is portrayed by Andre Holland, and two of the witches who take her on her journey are portrayed by women of color – one Oprah Winfrey, one Mindy Kaling. The diversity of her cast is unusual to say the least, and it’s something we almost never see in fantasy films, particularly ones made by Disney.
Black Panther is a special situation, because it’s Black characters from the comic books. They couldn’t exactly change the race of T’Challa and his cast; they would be fundamentally changing the story, and the point of it. T’Challa’s Blackness is something special, something that adds to his royalty. But with A Wrinkle in Time, these characters could have been any race. They could have been white. But Ava chose to make a majority of them people of color – which is tremendously important.
If A Wrinkle in Time succeeds at the box office, it could open the door for not only more directors of color being given budges of $100 million+, it could also lead to non-white leads being cast in films. Maybe, our dream of seeing Percy Jackson adapted with three non-white leads could actually happen. Or maybe, Hollywood would finally begin to accurately cast films based in Asia; their upcoming adaptations of Akira and Your Name could actually star Asians, which is tremendously exciting.
But also, A Wrinkle in Time is extremely important for young girls – seeing themselves reflected in a film that tells them they can aspire to STEM, to have dreams that relate to math and science. Meg is incredibly smart – just as smart as any of her male counterparts, and that is something worth celebrating.
Go see A Wrinkle in Time, please. Go see it multiple times, even if it isn’t a good movie – which I highly doubt. Ava has yet to do anything but deliver. And A Wrinkle in Time looks to be yet another slam dunk for the director.