Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland Review
The year was 1951 when Walt Disney Pictures released one of their most fanciful, color-drenched animated features of all time featuring characters from the (allegedly) drug-addled writings of Lewis Carroll. Not that I’m knocking Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through The Looking Glass in any way. The animated film grabbed bits and pieces from both books to create an amalgamation of nonsense that many (incorrectly) consider to be THE story. So I suppose that 60 years later I shouldn’t be surprised when Tim Burton’s “sequel” doesn’t exactly follow canon. What I didn’t expect was Alice in Oz… or is it the Wizard of Wonderland?
What we end up with is another case of style over substance. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland re-introduces us to the title character as a teenager, still caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood, suddenly finding out she’s been betrothed to a young, british stuffed-shirt lord. That’s when she spots a little white rabbit blazing through the brushes and, once again, follows it down it’s hole to Wonderland. She immediately passes it off as a dream but is shoved into this grand journey to defeat the tyranny of the Red Queen (incorrectly portrayed as the Queen of Hearts, two different characters in the books) and her champion, the Jabberwock dragon.
Without a doubt, the visual appeal of the characters and the world in which they exist stands easily out as the main attraction for this film. Most of the characters were interesting to look at and fun to watch, in partiuclar the short scenes with The March Hare. Moreso though, I was impressed by the look of the backdrops: castles, gardens and vistas that I wished I could have as desktop wallpaper.
The performers were pretty spot on. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is as twisted and convincingly out of his mind as you would hope, and let’s face, that’s why most people are flocking to the film. Even Helena Bonham Carter’s Queen of Hearths is entertaining to watch. It might help that she has a head the size of her husband’s ego.
I had two problems with the movie though, one minor and one major.
The new trend in Hollywood is 3D. The theaters are all being converted and movie-goers are seemingly willing to pay 80% more for their tickets and a pair of cheap glasses to use for 2 hours. I’m not opposed to the new technology so much as the misuse of it. Back in the 80’s 3D was used as a gimmick by making things jump out at the audience for a cheap scare. Many of the 3D movies today take a more subtle approach and create what I like to call a “deep” experience as if you were watching the action through a window. Apparently, Mr. Burton didn’t get that memo. Even though I didn’t see the film in 3D, it became annoyingly apparent they were trying for those cheap scares because items were constantly being thrown at the camera, pointed at the camera or shot towards the camera. It really cheapens the film and removes you from the experience of it all, particularly in the 2D format.
Worse than that however was the story treatment. Lewis Carroll wrote two books on Wonderland about Alice and her adventures there, so it seems to me that there could be literally thousand of possible stories to be told in his universe should a director not want to simply recreate the book. Burton takes neither road and effectively remakes The Wizard of Oz with Alice in the role Dorothy and Wonderland replacing Oz. Alice, generally unhappy with her current life, suddenly finds herself in this strange and over-saturated world where she meets a motley crew of allies who must journey to the evil witch’s (queen’s) castle and defeat her, bringing peace back to the land. A final wish sends her back home where she realizes her life is what she makes of it.
I didn’t exactly dislike the film, I’m just disappointed in how the source material was treated, especially with such grandiose possibilities available to the film-makers