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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