12 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Disney's latest version of Alice in Wonderland, helmed by Tim Burton is every bit as weird and whimsical as you might expect. The first thing you need to know is that it is not a remake of the childhood classic. Instead, it picks up the characters thirteen years later, when Alice is all but grown up and facing an arranged marriage. It's an interesting way to approach the material and the characters without destroying something so dear to many people.

Without giving too much away, this movie owes as much to The Matrix as it does to the Lewis Carroll's original works. Alice is convinced she is in a dream for most of the adventure and spends most of her time trying to wake up. However, as in the Matrix, the characters are split as to whether she is the right Alice (i.e. The One) or whether the White Rabbit (like Morpheus) has fetched the wrong one; only The Alice will be able to help them defeat their foe. The caterpillar here plays the role of the Oracle and the Mad Hatter and other tea party guests are much like the group of rebels on board the Nebuchadnezzar. Like the Matrix there is also a climatic battle scene that uses the lion's share of the special effects budget.

The look of the film is typical of Tim Burton, full of twisted trees, characters with exaggerated features, and the feeling of a world that extends well beyond the edges of the screen (even without 3D technology -- we did not see the 3D print so I can't comment on how well the technology was applied. ). Burton also used colour very deliberately, with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) as twin centres of attention and Alice (Mia Wasikowska) in her trademark blue standing out against the rest of Wonderland's muted hues. As an example, here is a comparison of Tweedledum and Tweedledee from the famous John Tenniel drawings, the 1951 Disney Animated version and the Tim Burton version, played by Matt Lucas (which I think was brilliant casting):

The film does take some odd turns -- most peculiar is the funderwhacking that is mentioned so many times that the viewer knows it will play out before the credits roll. Unfortunately when it appears, it's like a rancid walnut in a mouthful of mixed nuts and it really should have been left on the cutting room floor (it's as out of place as the jitterbug sequence that was wisely cut from The Wizard of Oz).

In the end, this version of Alice in Wonderland is principally 100 minutes of eye candy; my 9 year old said it best, "You know how there are some movies where, once they start, you can't take your eyes off the screen? This one was like that." It's not going to pay off big with a great plot or even memorable performances (though some are at least interesting, many of the cast were given little with which they could work) but if you see it on the big screen, you're likely to feel like you got your money's worth.

*** 1/2

Related media:

. .

. .