I saw A Wrinkle in Time today and it occurred to me while watching it that I don't remember ever being disappointed by a movie when I was a kid. Not that I didn't see bad movies back then. Just, I guess, I didn't care or didn't notice. The magic of whatever story it happened to be up there on the big screen (or later on the small screen as we rented a lot of movies on VHS) was bigger than my sense of narrative, maybe. Bigger than my need for great performances.
An entertaining script was more important than a good script. Fantastic details or plot twists and turns could make up for faults in the production.
When I run out of these on repeat childhood films I'm writing about through phase 4 of this blog, maybe I will hunt down movies I saw way back when that look, now, like they probably weren't any good. I'm looking at the top box office for 1984 right now and really only noticing one that might qualify: Ice Pirates. It's a good year for movies, actually; the top 10:
As you can see, 5/10 I've already written about in this blog. I will get to two more of them in the next week or two. But separate from my subjective view, those are all movies that got sequels, or remakes, or still get mentioned to this day.
A Wrinkle in Time, by the way, is made up of individual scenes that work, (some) performances that work, but the overall plot is so minimal (in the film version at least) as to not be worth the time and the effects. It feels more like some studio exec realized there was a beloved fantasy novel that hadn't made it to the big screen yet. There's no sense that, for comparison's sake, Ava DuVernay has loved that book since she was a kid and was dying to make it like there is in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or, for another comparison, I've got last night's episode of Supernatural paying as I'm writing and it's a frickin crossover with Scooby Doo, which should be ridiculous, or should be shallow nostalgia-bait. But, the script--by way of Dean--loves Scooby Doo and all of its tropes.
M Arbeiter has a piece at Nerdist that makes a great argument about Ready Player One.'s misunderstanding of pop culture. Basically, the movie is so busy making references, telling us what certain character's favorite films or games are, but it never offers up real explanations as to why they love the things they love, it never even really tells us that pop culture is something worth loving. It assumes that we love pop culture and easter egg references, because that is how it performs at the box office. But, in the end the film tries to have some message about spending time in the real world, a message the film has not really led to, and certainly hasn't earned. In fact, it's a little offensive to invite an audience in, depending on them loving all of the pop culture bits and pieces you're co-opting, and then tell them they're somehow wrong, at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
A Wrinkle in Time assumes that some of us love the book, some of us love fantasy, some of us love big screen spectacle. But, it never manages to be something itself. It's got a nice message about accepting yourself, and it even earns it better than Ready Player One earns its go outside and live message. But, the movie itself... It assumes we care, rather than giving us reason to care. One scene of father and daughter as setup before father is gone is cheap, Hollywood simplicity.
As an adult, a (somewhat) discerning movie watcher, I want more.
Show this kind of stuff to me as a kid, though, and I will be bewitched and want more in a different way.