Alice in Wonderland (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2010)

Director: Tim Burton
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: French, Spanish
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
Run Time: 108 minutes

Special Features:

  • Finding Alice The Mad Hatter
  • The Futterwacken Dance
  • The Red Queen
  • Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen
  • The White Queen
  • Scoring Wonderland
  • Effecting Wonderland
  • Stunts Of Wonderland
  • Making the Proper Size
  • Cakes of Wonderland
  • Tea Party Props



Do two-edged swords come any sharper than the movies of Tim Burton? Do the truly wondrous and the utterly banal march side-by-side in such perfect lock step?

No one creates more compelling onscreen imagery, and only a tiny handful of filmmakers are as adept at conjuring entire fantasy worlds out of whole cloth. But once he achieves those vistas, he hasn’t the slightest idea what to do with them, content instead to wander through the landscape with one of his patented quirky outsiders as a guide. Those are the rules of the game, unfortunately: pretty pictures from a singular visionary who can’t tell a proper story to save his life.

Theoretically, that makes Alice in Wonderland an ideal fit for him, since Lewis Carroll eschewed the whole “plot” thing himself. The original books consisted solely of tangentially connected scenes, wrapped in a dream-like absurdity and dedicated primarily to skewering every rule they could get their dainty Victorian hands on. Ironically, Burton eschews that model, despite the fact that he really doesn’t have to. The resulting tale constitutes something of a sequel, as a grown-up Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland to overthrow the rule of the despotic Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). She’s as confused as she was the first time around, and the strange creatures she meets remain as baffling as ever, but with the Hero’s Journey placed firmly before her, she at least moves with reasonable purpose towards a clearly identifiable climax.

That proves beneficial in granting Alice some coherence, though it mars many of the things which made the Carroll stories so great. It constitutes big-budget Hollywood product, and as such its rebellious streak needs to stay closely in check. The rambling new structure, ultimately pitting Alice against the Jabberwocky in a fight to the finish, constrains the original even as it provides a better sense of form. That ends up muting the books’ unique iconoclasm, limited here to obvious targets and devoid of the anarchist’s glee which Carroll took in upending all conceivable forms of convention.

The characters occupy a similarly compromised position: most of them forced to make the most of limited screen time. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter - the apple of Burton’s eye and a figure who eclipses even Alice in importance here - actually represents the film’s weakest element. In an effort to convey his unpredictability, actor and director succeed only in muddling his personality, compounded by a bizarre delivery which often makes it difficult to understand what he’s saying. Wasikowska does better as Alice, though the script requires only that she look pale and perplexed. The best performances do far much with much less: Carter’s petulant Red Queen, Anne Hathaway’s strangely disturbed White Queen and Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat (who knocks the ball clear out of the park).

Burton supports them with his usual astonishing visual canvas, creating a Wonderland at once unquestionably Carroll’s and uniquely his own. Devoid of the 3-D gimmickry which sullied its theatrical release, Alice in Wonderland’s canvas flourishes on home video, and Burton’s boundless imagination ensures that it all looks gorgeous. Combined with his basic affinity for the material, it renders Alice a thoroughly worthwhile experience. The cost, however, remains unchanged: don’t expect to be challenged the way Carroll challenged us, or give the wafer-thin storyline any but the most perfunctory thought. What’s good is very good; what’s bad… well, the less you dwell on that, the better off you’ll be.

THE DISC: Few films look better on Blu-Ray than this one, and the beautiful transfer ensures the film’s strongest elements (the CGI and costumes) are on full display. It also reinforces 3-D’s status as a cinematic appendage: the film looks better on the 2-D television than it ever did through those fancy glasses, and they don’t overcharge you for the privilege to boot.

The Blu-Ray also contains the expected array of extras: an hour of supplemental material, covering everything from Carter’s make-up to Depp’s Fudderwacken dance, a DVD copy and a digital copy for transfer to the computer. The Blu-Ray’s interactive menu is pretty keen too.

WORTH IT? Definitely worth it. Blu-Ray may actually be the ideal way to experience the film, and the folks at Disney have outfitted it with a number of sexy bells and whistles. Now, if only they’d do that for their animated version of Alice . . .

RECOMMENDATION: The Blu-Ray allows the best parts of the film to flourish, though it can’t erase its undeniable flaws. Even so, it makes an honored addition to any film fan’s library.



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