Alice in Wonderland – a Tim Burton Take

Someone (who wasn’t PT Barnum) once said: there’s a sucker born every minute. And I’m one of those suckers, oh yes I am. I headed over to the cinemas yesterday, and decided to see the new version of Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton. Near the register that I happened to be served at, I noticed that Real 3D have started selling “designer” versions of the 3D glasses needed to view the film. So I bought a pair. To be fair, they are more comfortable than the disposable ones.

Warning! This review contains minor spoilers. Really, if you’ve read the book, I’m not spoiling anything for you. If you haven’t read the book, maybe you should.

Visually (my pet word for the month) Alice in Wonderland is amazing. Stunning. Wonderous! This is 3D they way it is supposed to be. There are no “gratuitous 3D moments”. Nothing comes out of the screen at you.

The screen becomes the looking glass. Like a window, you look not at the screen, but through it. The 3D is perfect. The landscapes have a true depth that can only be found in 3D cinematography. Like Alice, as the looking glass melted before her, you can almost imagine reaching through the screen and finding what lies behind it to be real.

Unlike Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – which was a very dark take on the story, which I enjoyed because I always recalled Roald Dahl as being a rather dark author considering that he wrote for children. One of my favourite stories when I was young was The Twits, a story of a married couple doing positively awful things to each other! Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland doesn’t go to the same “dark and twisted” places one might expect. I was expecting to see something like “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland meets A Nightmare Before Christmas”. This isn’t the case, not to say that the movie avoids things like an executioner lopping off heads, just that it seems pretty “bright” compared to his other, darker, movies.

Mia Wasikowska (Alice) is simply beautiful. She is delicate and perfect, and so… I could get my thesaurus out and give you any number of synonyms, but she is perfect. Faced with even the most impossibly wonderous events and sights, she never takes on that wide-eyed blank look Jennifer Connelly is so famous for (forgive me, I’m a big fan of Jennifer Connolley, but her open-mouth stare bugs me). For all her appearance of fragility, she is bold and brave. She does not look like she is prone to break.

Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman provide excellent performances as the voices of The Cheshire Cat and the Blue Caterpillar.

Anne Hathaway as the White Queen is disappointing (and extremelly unattractive, what in heaven’s name were they thinking with that black lipstick on those plump lips of hers? really?), who fails to hit the mark as the airy and fragile thing she is trying to be. Although she effects the motions one might associate with someone not quite connected to reality, it seems all too awkward to be convincing. She appears to be someone pretending to be a weakling, and not succeeding.

Johnny Depp’s Hatter is less than spectacular as well. As the frankly mad Capt Jack Sparrow, and the darkly insane Willy Wonka, it seemed that he had good credentials for someone who is mad as a hatter, and while his performance is enjoyable, it seems… lacking? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m being overly harsh judge, but as he is the only actor given name-over-title credits, maybe I expected that he not be outshone by just about every other character in the movie.

As far as adaptations go, you might be better served if you, like I, have not read the book in so long that you can’t remember how it went. For this version, they have decided to take parts from both books, but keep the movie under 2 hours. Entire sections have been cut (understandable), things have been moved (forvigable), and entire ideas have been re-purposed (inappropriate).

For example, in the book, it is said that:

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!

Part of the book is based on the Knave being brought to trial for his crimes. In the movie version, while the Queen’s tarts were indeed stolen, it is not the Knave who is the culprit, and his character has been given a wholly new personality and an expanded role.

Overall, my advice for this movie is mostly the same as I feel about I am Legend and I, Robot. Go and see it, but try to pretend that it’s not the same story that you read. If nothing else, go see it in the cinema to see the amazing 3D.

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~ by ghostwolfe on March 5, 2010.

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