Friday, March 12, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: It Ain't Yer Mama's Disney

alice in wonderland,tim burton,movie poster,johnny depp

I grew up with the Disney version of Lewis Carrol's "Alice in Wonderland," like many people of the last fifty years. I've tried reading it, and the guy was so fueled by drugs (evidently) that it's difficult to get through. I'll have to make another stab at it, after watching Tim Burton's interpretation. Not to say that Burton's interpretation is extremely accurate; in fact, I'm quite sure there are many departures from the original material. Tim Burton has put forth a lot of interesting adaptations in the last few years, though this is somehow even more light-hearted than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Tim Burton's interpretation stars Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (the Queen of Hearts), of course, as well as Anne Hathaway (the White Queen) and relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Alan Rickman has a brief cameo as the Caterpillar, and Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts. One of the best characters has always been the Cheshire Cat, which is marvelously CG'd, and voiced perfectly by Stephen Fry. It really is great casting, and if anyone was to play the Mad Hatter as a primary character in a Tim Burton Movie, it had to be Johnny Depp. Mia Wasikowska pulls her own weight throughout the film, which is interesting considering she's presented at varying heights and sizes thanks to potions and cakes.

Now, I really enjoy Tim Burton's films. It is kind of strange that he's only directed adaptations in the last few years, and nothing original. It's not terrible, per se, but I kind of wish he'd come up with something new. Of course, I like new versions of classics or well-established film institutions. But I kind of miss new things like Edward Scissorhands. Oh well. It remains a visually intriguing, sweeping film with subtle and cinematically relevant 3D effects, with a whimsical touch to the original story and a strong attention to character and emotion.

There have been a lot of complaints and criticisms out there about the lack of plot in this film, and I'm not entirely convinced that these detractors actually recognize what that word means. This film clearly has a plot, and is much more attentive to character and overall story than previous versions. Generally, Alice in Wonderland is little more than a random series of bizarre interactions that eventually stop. However, I feel that Tim Burton was able to turn this into something compelling and filled with action, as well as humour and good character. This is partly due to the writing (not by Burton, but Linda Woolverton), and partly the depth of performance.

I may be gushing a bit too much, since I have a near-perpetual soft-spot for Tim Burton movies and the absolute insanity of Lewis Carrol. It's still a good film, worth watching, entertaining, and engaging. Plus, it's almost always worth seeing a film in 3D if you can help it. Johnny Depp is an interesting Mad Hatter, truly crazy, with big crazy eyes, and the occasional Scottish Braveheart-esque accent when he's feeling particularly determined. The Queen of Hearts is comically evil, with her giant bobble-head. The final chess-board showdown is pretty intense as well, where Alice must face down a dreaded monster to win a war she's barely even aware of.

Go see it in the theater in 3D if you can, it's a great experience. Otherwise, I guess you can wait to rent it, but I don't see much point in it. Of course, I'll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD, and I'll hope it's released in 3D there, too, like Coraline. Plus, I just like seeing the Lady wearing those big ol' Buddy Holly glasses. I just wish they'd release it in the same formatting as the theatrical release, that way I can use these dumb glasses again.

I give Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland three and a half rampaging bandersnaches out of five, or three and a half delirious, Scottish, mangy, twitchy, manic and tea-loving March Hares out of five. EAVB_BAEKJGFYIL

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