STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp,
Michael Sheen, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry,
Crispin Glover, Christopher Lee, Matt Lucas, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Jemma
Powell, Tim Piggot-Smith, Lindsay Duncan, Geraldine James, Leo Bill, Paul
Whitehouse, Barbara Windsor
2010, 108 Minutes, Directed by:
in Wonderland is simply, um, wonderful . . .
It might come as a surprise,
but director Tim (Edward Scissorhands,
Beetlejuice) Burton has never been a fan of the
original 1950s Disney animated Alice in Wonderland.
In an interview he admitted
that he always felt previous film adaptations were simply a case of a girl
wandering around from one crazy character to another.
“I never felt any real
emotional involvement,” the director said. “So I wanted to really to give it
some framework and emotional grounding that I felt had never been seen in any
previous versions. I want to make a movie of Alice that’s more of a story than
just a series of weird events.”
Burton succeeds in doing this
by making his new special effects blockbuster starring A-list stars such as
Johnny Depp more of a sequel of sorts than a straightforward adaptation of the
original Alice books, or remake of the 1951 Disney movie.
Although we don’t like the
phrase, the term “re-imagining” is applicable here. This is an Alice
unlike the previous Alice in Wonderlands we have seen.
Director Burton’s version picks
up about 13 years after the events of the original movie. Alice is no longer a
little girl, but a young woman who has to cope with stifling Victorian social
attitudes and a hypochondriac suitor who wants her hand in marriage.
During a reception at which
said suitor awkwardly proposes to her Alice spots, yes, a white rabbit
and follows it down to, yes, Wonderland.
Things have however changed in
Wonderland or “Underland” as its inhabitants call it . . .
The Red Queen (Helena Bonham
Carter) has grown more despotic and cruel in the interim years and even had her
own husband beheaded. She is in open warfare with the White Queen (a ropey Anne
Hathaway) and it is only Alice, with some help from her long-forgotten friends
such as the Mad Hatter (Depp), who can break the stalemate by slaying the Red
Queen’s dreaded Jabberwocky dragon . . .
"A great return to form for director Tim Burton!"
This new Alice movie is
more action-driven than previous versions. Alice, action heroine may not be
Lewis Carroll had in mind, but it works well.
This approach might irk
literary purists, but it does give Alice in Wonderland a more filmic
approach. It also solves the problem that dogged previous adaptations, namely
that the story do come across simply as a girl walking around aimlessly. This
Alice has direction and purpose.
Also likely to irk anal purists
is the gothic veneer that Tim Burton has supplied to the movie.
Color palettes are more muted
and less vibrant than one would expect. Gnarled trees claw at cloudy skies. This
Alice in Wonderland is simply too scary for small children and it is
recommended that parents heed the applicable age restrictions. In one scene a miniature Alice
crosses a moat by jumping from one severed head floating in the water to the
next for instance! (Well, where did you think all those heads go whenever the Red Queen yells
“off with her heads”?)
But this is more likely to
displease those who know Alice in Wonderland from the cheery and
sanitized Disney version. Viewers who have read the books (first published in
1865) will know that there is something vaguely disturbing about Lewis Carroll’s
original works, which is why an author such as Grant Morrison so extensively
quoted them in his dark and brooding gothic Arkham AsylumBatman graphic novel for instance.
doesn’t mean that this “darker” Alice is gloomy however. Quite the
Tim Burton perfectly maintains
the sense of surreal whimsy and surreal wordplay that inspired anything from
Dollhouse episodes to druggy
Jefferson Airplane songs throughout the years.
Unlike the other recent
mega-budget 3-D adap of a literary classic by Disney, namely Robert Zemeckis’
A Christmas Carol, this one is actually fun, damn it!
It also lives up to the hype
and is well worth seeing. The film is a technical marvel, the special effects
brilliantly and seamlessly executed bringing Burton’s reimagining of Carroll’s
bizarre universe to wonderful life.
Part of the problem with any
Alice in Wonderland movie is also that the material is by now over-familiar
to modern audiences thanks to countless movie and cartoon adaptations. This new
version however displays some real imagination and inventiveness in bringing old
familiar figures such as the Cheshire Cat and Tweedledum and Tweedledee to
The human element however never
gets lost between all the technical marvels on display.
Newcomer Mia Wasikowska
as Alice does well, but it is the OTT performance by Helena Bonham Carter as the
Red Queen and her bulbous oversized head that so obviously steals the show. She
is clearly having fun here and so will the audience.
Alice in Wonderland is a
great return to form for director Tim Burton and is good enough to make one
forgive him for that silly Planet of the Apes
remake. Almost. Go see it.
(Incidentally the 3-D processes
employed here are more than a passing gimmick and makes for a truly immersive
experience. We hate those oversized Buddy Holly glasses as much as the next guy,
but must admit that your local 3-D theatre is the best place to see Alice in