Alice In Wonderland (Contains Spoilers)

When I first heard about this film being made, I was so incredibly excited about it that I sent the link to the trailer to a bunch of my friends. After that, I slowly became wary that the films like this usually have a hard time living up to expectations, so I was ready to view this film with an entirely open mind. Tim Burton’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic is interesting to say the least. But it’s also clearly Tim Burton massaging his ego with the material he’s probably been dying to do ever since he graduated Art School. I’d like to point out here that I, in no way, “hated” Alice In Wonderland. But I also didn’t think it was the jewel in Tim Burton’s crown everyone was expecting it to be either. In other words, it was good, but not as great as it was meant to be…

Alice In Wonderland is the kind of film that relies heavily on a few things. First and foremost, it relies on having the epic, drug-addled visuals that the original material built up in people’s heads. This, Tim Burton has done a fantastic job on – of course he has, it’s Tim Burton’s imagination! He probably has dreams like this every night! But regardless of that, everything that appears in this Alice In Wonderland version matched pretty closely to how things should look, with Burton adding in his own acid-trip effects in the right places. However, maybe letting Tim Burton totally re-write how things should have looked as well would have been interesting to see, but could have annoyed and confused people who know the original material well.

This leads me to my second point – the adaptation to the script. Obviously, this version is not the original story. Or at least, not for the most part. There were clearly parts from the original text that Tim Burton wanted so badly to do, but at the same time create a unique piece of work that could act as his own version, that he couldn’t choose between the two. So the fact that the now 19-year-old Alice has conveniently forgotten her original adventure into Wonderland means that for the first hour or so of the movie, she gets to re-discover everything all over again. This has obviously been done for the convenience of easing the audience gradually into this new extension of the original story without completely going off the rails. Which could be either clever or redundant depending which side of the Tim Burton fence you fall on.

But possibly the biggest thing that Alice In Wonderland’s storyline relies on isn’t Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice at all. In fact, this version revolves (for the most part) entirely around Johnny Depp’s character of The Mad Hatter. And that, unfortunately, is where I thought the film started to falter…

Whilst it’s common knowledge that Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter (who also appears in nearly every Tim Burton film, and stars in this as The Red Queen) are married, its undeniable that him and Johnny Depp do so much work together that they may as well be having an affair. However, doing so much work with Tim Burton is obviously starting to wear thin for Depp, and his Mad Hatter seemed to be lacking a few elements to be entirely complete. Which is a shame, because as I mentioned, this new story revolves almost entirely around The Mad Hatter character, and sadly, I expected a lot more from him in this. I personally was expecting an entirely outrageously eccentric character from Depp, but instead he seemed more like The Multiple Personality Disorder Hatter, or The Mild-Case-Of-Tourettes Hatter instead. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that this character fits this version, though, as Tim Burton is doing his usual thing of putting a darker twist on an otherwise light-hearted story.

This new story, as many might know by now, sees Alice returning to wonderland to take up her rightful place of overthrowing The Red Queen’s rule over Wonderland (or technically “Underland”) by slaying The Jabberwocky (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) so that The White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) can restore the land to the way it once was. This darker, almost apocalyptic version of Wonderland is fitting for what Tim Burton does, and Johnny Depp’s more serious, forlorn Mad Hatter fits into this, but it’s clearly not what people were hoping for from him. Instead of the bizarre, original, off-the-wall character we were hoping for we get a mixture of Jack Sparrow and Sweeny Todd. There were also other things about the story that started to annoy me which I’ll avoid going on a rant about, but I’ll list in case other people noticed them as well.

Firstly, the fact that Alice miraculously and conveniently tames the Bandersnatch after it already nearly killed her. It had no rhyme nor reason behind it, other than it was means for her escape from the castle. There were many other ways that this could be done, but instead they clearly wanted to have a scene with Alice taming a Bandersnatch. Secondly, the “why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?” riddle was brought up WAY too many times – it was clever in the original text to prove a point, but they are trying to use it way too much in this. The whole point of the riddle is that a raven IS NOT like a writing desk, and therefore its point for use is made redundant! Thirdly, Anne Hathaway (as great as her acting is, making her one of the best performances of the film) does this thing with her hands throughout the film to make her character seem more graceful, but it actually distracts from her performance a little too much.

As for the rest of the film, I thought it was fantastically stylised, and the voice talents of Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Matt Lucas as The Tweedles and Micheal Sheen as The White Rabbit amongst others were completely on the mark and really perfected those characters. The visuals were epic, the creatures like The Jub-Jub Bird and The Jabberwocky looked perfect, and all the set pieces from the original Wonderland story were there. I think that seeing Alice In Wonderland in 3D or IMAX would possibly be distracting people from the storyline with pretty effects and stuff, but it would also be entertaining to see how different certain scenes are between the 2D and 3D versions.

Overall, I enjoyed Alice In Wonderland to the extent that I found it interesting to watch and fun to see the characters and set pieces brought to life in a live-action film, but the storyline that doesn’t delve too deep and a few disappointing performances and parts of the script mean that it wasn’t the instantly awe-inspiring film that I was hoping to be. For that, I’m giving Alice In Wonderland a half-and-half 5 out of 10. I liked it, but I did not love it.

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6 Comments

  1. Firstly, the fact that Alice miraculously and conveniently tames the Bandersnatch after it already nearly killed her. It had no rhyme nor reason behind it, other than it was means for her escape from the castle.

    Really? I look at it as Androclus who removed a splinter out of the paw of a lion, who later is thrown into the Roman arena to be eaten … See moreby a lion, only to come up against the lion whose kind actions Androclus had rescued, at which point the lion didn’t kill but became tamed by Androclus.

    I don’t agree with your position on Anne Hathaway. I can’t see how it can be a brilliant performance if you were dissatisfied with the way she moved. I agree with you on the hand thing though. It seemed that she felt that this was the best way to advertise grace but it seemed a bit of a fail. It reminded me of Heath Ledger’s performance as the joker, in the sense that both actors have taken on specific affectations but the difference being that Heath Ledger’s choices worked exceptionally well and Anne Hathaway’s missed the mark.

    Nice article, although I don’t agree with any of it 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback, it’s always appreciated. It’s fine that you don’t agree with what I said, because I’ve only ever expressed that these are my views, and don’t have to be everyone elses as well. I appreciate that actually, LOADS of people are loving this film right now, and like I said, I didnt hate it… I just didnt love it either. I could quite happily watch it again, but I’d be more likely to go and see it in 3D to see if it makes any difference to my enjoyment of it whatsoever.

      As for your comments… Yes, I can see how that parallel can be drawn, and i know that story also. BUT, that parallel is with a completely different story in a completely different context. I’m sure whoever put pen to paper about that particular story wasn’t high on LSD at the time. What i was trying to say with that comment is that is didnt seem to gel into the rest of the story so well – it seemed too easy, too predictable, to fit the rest of the story. The Bandersnatch is meant to be a viscious wild animal, a “guard dog” as it were, used to guard the Vorpal Sword, and it didn’t do that. If that was real life, and it hadn’t broken free (another perfect coincidence – why didnt it do that before?) it probably would have been sent to a shelter for doing such a poor job!

      As for Anne Hathaway, again, all i was saying with that statement was that she played her character the best out of most of the cast (I’m not including purely voice-overs, because thats kind of different acting, really), its just a shame that the wavy-hand thing she did became distracting after a while, and it wasnt really needed to emphasise her grace as she did that enough with her general movement already.

      Anyway, hope that clarifies things.

      • i think that it’s great to have an opinion. i for you may have to disagree with some areas of this review, such as how it wasnt, (was), Tim burtons greatest work. Its a real step up from using clay models and entirely CGI’d films. He did a great job as this, using a well-known classic, and would have given it a 9/10. As usual, the 3D glasses did take away some of the colour, so that lost it some points.

      • I still maintain that everyone was expecting this film to be Tim Burton’s crowning moment in film, and it really wasn’t. The way it was built up was the same way that Planet Of The Apes got built up for him, and that turned out to be REALLY bad! Personally, I think he’ll always find it pretty hard to top Edward Scissorhands – that was about as great as it gets for him. He doesn’t help his case by getting all this hype built up around him if he can’t always deliver!

      • I wasn’t expecting it to be his magnus opus (is that the right phrase?) or anything. I just expected it to be another movie by a director I love.

        I really liked the Nightmare before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow and yeah Planet of the Apes was awful.

        I just ignore the hype these days. Most Hollywood movies tend to be overhyped for what essentially is pretty graphics and pointless explosions so I just go to watch movies I think I’ll enjoy and make up my mind once I’ve seen it.

        I think the 3D effects worked a great deal in its favour. I was truly blown away by it.

        I’m probably also biased in the sense that I have never read the book (I know!) When I read American Psycho I loved the book and when I saw the movie thought it was a travesty. I still don’t understand why anyone praises that as an excellent film as I judge it against the book and it just doesn’t compare.

      • I dont know if thats the right term, since I dont speak Latin I’m afraid. But I hope you find someone that does, then you can ask them and get a definitive answer and know for sure! Regardless of that, I also agree that Sleepy Hollow was a good film, but I’m of the opinion that Tim Burton got too much credit for Henry Selick’s work on Nightmare Before Christmas. The whole idea for it might have been spawned from Tim Burton, but it was technically Henry Selick that did most of the direction on that film. Still, like I said, the ideas behind it was Tim Burton’s work, and for that he gets the praise of having original ideas, but not so much the direction side of it.
        Hype over films is very big these days, especially in the states with huge billboards and banners/adverts that literally cover entire sides of buildings. Sometimes its worth it and sometimes it isnt. Despite my initial reservations about it, I’#m now pretty excited about Clash Of The Titans, and will make an effort to see that (possibly in 3D). But this hype only applies to films that are likely to bring in huge audiences of families, so its rare that you’ll see overhyped films with a rating higher than a 12A. Take Kick-Ass for example – one film I’m most excited about seeing this year, and it’ll likely be an 18, so the likelihood of seeing huge banners of it everywhere are slim so you’ll likely see a few posters at bus stops or something. Plus, 3D is starting to become another movie-going gimmick to impress people with new technologies, which means that it can sometimes detract from the script/story element of the film because it draws focus too much. A film can be as pretty as you like, but if the script sucks then there’s no way of really compensating for that.
        I think films taken from books can be pretty hit or miss. Most of the time, the book it always better, but then you get films like Lord Of The Rings that admittedly whilst missing big portions, do cover a lot of the original material and save you years worth of reading. Also, another film that I’ve liked that sticks pretty close to the book except for 2 major elements (being where its set and the characters name) is High Fidelity – that film really impressed me, as a lot of the dialogue was straight from the book.
        Anyway, thanks for reading and expressing your opinions!


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