Photo: Atsushi Nishijima © 2017 Disney Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.

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Brave New Worlds
Imagine the most iconic science fiction film directors, and names like Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas probably spring to mind. Now there's an exciting new member of the fantasy faction: Ava DuVernay, the visionary force behind March's big-screen saga A Wrinkle in Time. Adapted from Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 book of the same name, the movie is about a girl, Meg Murry, who hops through time to rescue her dad from an evil, universe-threatening force. "The book is a tapestry of spirituality and self-empowerment," says DuVernay. "But to then take those elements into the realm of fantasy? I couldn't believe such an opportunity was mine."

That disbelief was justified. The stubborn and shrewd Meg, played by newcomer Storm Reid, might belong in the company of other female dystopian legends like Ellen Ripley and Katniss Everdeen, but the film worlds those women inhabit are almost always crafted by men—and white men, at that. "I knew that as a black female director, my rendering of fantasy would be different," DuVernay says. "I look at Ridley Scott's The Martian and think, Okay, that's one way to portray a planet. But I had to push beyond what other films had done."

For DuVernay, part of the push meant shattering perceptions of what superheroes look like. Enter Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon, who play a squad—Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit—of sage cosmic custodians who protect Meg during her journey. "In the book, the Mrs. are described as three little old ladies," says DuVernay. In the movie, they embody different races, sizes, and cultures (all while decked out in extravagant ensembles). And while L'Engle's decision to make her protagonist a bespectacled tween girl was bold, DuVernay took things a step further. "The first order of business was making Meg biracial," she says. "Viewers who live in households with folks of different hues should be able to enter the film, too. When you're dealing with fantasy, storytellers have no excuse not to embrace new visions." Quantum, meet leap.