• Ben Erickson

A Wrinkle in Time

Review for A Wrinkle in Time originally published in the March 2018 issue of Film Score Monthly:

A Wrinkle in Time is a sci-fi fantasy adventure film directed by Ava DuVernay, with a screenplay adapted by Jennifer Lee from the well known 1962 book of the same name, authored by Madeleine L’Engle. It follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as she attempts to save her kidnapped father Alex Murry (Chris Pine) from an evil entity, assisted by three astral travelers (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling). The original score is written by Iranian-German composer Ramin Djawadi, best known for his work on the television series Game of Thrones and for the assortment of action blockbusters he has scored, including Iron Man, Clash of the Titans, and Pacific Rim. Jonny Greenwood was initially set to score the production before being replaced by Djawadi in September, marking the latter’s first collaboration with DuVernay, who had long been a fan of his work. The score was recorded in L.A. with a 71-piece orchestra, adult choir, and children’s choir, and has been released by Walt Disney Records on an album along with several original songs by artists Sade, DJ Khaled (feat. Demi Lovato), Sia, Kehlani, Chloe x Halle and Freestyle Fellowship (which take up approximately 27 minutes of the playlist). Djawadi’s main theme sets the tone of the score in “A Wrinkle in Time,” using light textures, upbeat rhythms, swirling, playful strings, and a melody set in A-flat major for children’s chorus to create a palpable force of inspiration. The percussion adopts staccato electronic vocals performed on a vocoder, adding to the idea that this universe is anything but ordinary. These are joined by a broader arrangement of percussion instruments when the melody enters, including the tabla and the hammered dulcimer, a favorite of the composer. The theme is adventurous, and embodies the journey of self-discovery undergone by Meg as the emotional through line of the story. This melody appears invariably throughout the score, set in different rhythms or hidden amidst thick textures, and entering into canonic imitation in the cue “The Universe Is Within All of Us,” which is not heard in the film.

The score features several other elated melodies, including a theme for the three travelers (“Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which”), and a familial love theme (“Home”) that uses layered palettes of instrumentation. Djawadi’s music here personifies an ethereal warmth, and has a tendency to rise and retreat, regularly utilizing a 'bending' vocal quality as the aural representation of the tessering phenomena experienced in the film, as in “Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.” Other noteworthy elements include a heavy, three-note, descending motif used for the evil being (“Darkness Across the Universe” and “Be a Warrior”); the use of taiko drums along with an Indian flute as we meet the eccentric “Happy Medium”; ghoulish dissonance followed by a devastatingly gorgeous choir (“Camazotz”); and a powerful variation on the main theme (“Be a Warrior”). The score becomes gradually more desperate and earnest the deeper one travels into the film, arriving at a sublime violin solo as Meg experiences a moment of liberation, and ending on a rather sentimental note with a unison melody between voice and strings before reprising the theme. As a film, A Wrinkle in Time has been praised for its ambition, but little else. Mainstream critics have ridiculed the score for being too overtly emotional, but as film music fans are well aware, that criticism is par for the course, and often completely off base—especially when it comes to films aimed toward younger audiences, where the filmmakers’ primary objective is to suspend disbelief as the kids are immersed in a strange new universe. Music can be a layer of pure emotion that serves to challenge us, and Djawadi’s score for A Wrinkle in Time fulfills this function at every turn. Never at any point in the film is the music too excessive or forcibly passionate. Rather, it reacts superbly to the story and reaffirms Djawadi’s prowess for scoring fantasy. Barring its achievement as a bright, fun, and rousing element in the film, the music stands well on its own as recreational listening, and I for one cannot get enough of the main theme. In a word: wonder.