Archive for March 16th, 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland

I have heard some really bad things about Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland but have to say I actually quite enjoyed it.  Alice, now19 years old has been plagued by dreams of Wonderland ever since her previous visit as a child.  These dreams that she thinks are the product of her imagination are her only memory of the place and the people who inhabit it.  Wonderland looks like it has come from a nightmare, in places it is Technicolor brilliance, at others it is dying and fading.  The characters and their costumes have a similar look and attention to detail.  The story is original acting as a combination of a sequel and a reboot/reimaging combining both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  The Jabberwocky from Through the Looking-Glass stories is central to the plot and the movie even features an image on a scroll that looks like it is based on Sir John Tenniel’s illustration from Through the Looking-Glass.  The Red Queen also appears to be an amalgam of the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen from the two books.

The main cast is all good: Mia Wasikowska is an engaging Alice; Helena Bonham Carter does a great job as Red Queen but I couldn’t help thinking I was watching Miranda Richardson as Elizabeth I in Blackadder; Johnny Depp is suitably over the top as The Mad Hatter although his (bad) Scottish accent did get a bit jarring; Anne Hathaway does nothing wrong as the White Queen but the character is so dull she doesn’t get a chance to do much with it.  The mostly British voice cast is excellent: Alan Rickman as the smoking caterpillar; Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit; Matt Lucas as Tweedledee & Tweedledum; Sir Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky; Timothy Spall as Bayard the bloodhound, Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare and Stephen Fry as Cheshire Cat. Long time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman provides a suitable musical score.  It is unmistakably Elfman and more to the point Elfman in a Burton film but that is no bad thing.

I have been pretty positive so far, so here comes the negative.  The writing is really lazy, the plot is simple: defeat the Red Queen’s champion, the Jabberwocky and restore The White Queen to the throne. The simplicity of the plot isn’t the problem, it is the simplicity of the characters that is the problem.  As the film is full of well known characters who have appeared in countless other adaptations the writers have not bothered to give them and depth or dimension. The characters are in no way engaging beyond what life the actors dive them.  The Mad Hatter also seemed to have a kind of creepy sexual attraction to Alice that just doesn’t work.  My final and biggest complaint, I am still not convinced by 3D and have to say this film did noting to change my mind. The best thing I can say about it is that it was it wasn’t that noticeable and at times I completely forgot I was watching a 3D movie. But then this is essentially a 2D move that has been retrofitted with 3D, it doesn’t bode well for all the older movies that are going through the process at the moment.  3D is a gimmick that I really hope will die off soon.

In conclusion it is a deeply flawed movie that is a million miles short of Burton and Depp’s best collaborations but it still has a lot in it to enjoy. Don’t make the mistake I did by paying extra o see it in 3D.

Three Stars out of Five

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