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Movie Review: Alice In Wonderland

Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 6 years and 3 months ago

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Written 3/6/10

It’s without question Tim Burton’s one of our time’s unique and greatest. A film director, screenwriter and set designer, notable for the quirky and often dark, gothic atmosphere pervading his high-profile films. The protagonists are usually misfits or outsiders, physically or emotionally different or scarred. When presenting his work, it is without doubt one’s sense of reality is definilty toyed with. Most of the time when viewing his films, I personally feel it’s a drugless high with all of its utopian-like traits. But something about Alice in Wonderland feels a bit different, or off to an extent. With that said, what the hell happened to Burton? It's a strange question because it's not like the man lost any of his ability to direct strange and dark tales, it's just that he became so comfortable in his “thing” that he seems to be confined to the style he created. With Alice…, it comes across as simply another Burton flick than it did anything that could be considered "amazing" or "unique.”

A.I.W is not a remake or rehash; it’s a sequel to the actions that take place in both Alice books by Mr. Lewis Carroll all those years ago. Most, if not all, kids are familiar with Disney’s toon version instead of the books, which happen to be irrelevant since Disney toons also borrowed substance from both books. Burton’s choice to avoid remaking Alice from the first books or from Disney’s novel adaptations serves as both a positive and negative regarding the story.

(Mia Wasikowska who plays “Alice”) is currently 19 years old. A pretty impatient person who suffers from nightmares and gets easily distracted. During a garden party, she decides to follow a white rabbit down a hole and begins her journey into “Wonderland.” Has a familiar sound to it, ey? It should on behalf of Alice’s point-of-view. Her night terrors are consequences of adventures she had in Wonderland as a kid. The issue here is that she cannot remember a strip of it. Having reached the bottom of the rabbit hole, curious spectators wonder if they obtained the accurate Alice. Perhaps the astute turn to the story? The characters of Wonderland bringing in the wrong person? But, that isn’t the case here. She can’t recall what happened to her as a happy skipping little kid. It kind of sucks because Alice is once again meeting up with these cats for the first time, however; this time around as a grown-up. Why not just do an adaptation of the first book then if nothing is going to be risky? She doesn’t explore a think on her own due to having guidance throughout the film. This in turn makes her a simple foreigner/tourist who winds up at any NYC subway station. Taking the tour instead of exploring on their own…

Alice meets the usual Wonderland creatures, only they’re now inhabitants of a place that resembles Dorothy’s over-the-rainbow location rather than Wonderland. “The Red Queen” (Helena Bonham Carter who at least seems to be enjoying her role and is the highlight of the picture.) has taken over and yells "Off with their head!" at practically everyone. It’s apparent her ruling reaches out into all of Wonderland because everyone is afraid of even existing. They need Alice to defeat Jabberwocky and Red Queen and restore some order. We already know she'll turn out victorious because history has already been written on a scroll showing Alice fighting the Jabberwocky. Wait, Underland? Here is where screenwriter Linda Woolverton really screws up. Alice, and the audience, learns that the place was never called Wonderland. It's actually called Underland and Alice misunderstood what the people were saying when she was a child. What? That's total cow shit. Why would you even bother messing with the name of Wonderland? It angers me but it actually fits the story because this film doesn't come across as wondrous as it should anyway.

What Woolverton and Burton did was take all of the madness and craziness out of Wonderland. It now follows a simple story layer where the hero has to find themselves and realize they have the potential to be more than they actually are and discover their destiny and all that other blah stuff. Talk about cookie cutter tripe. She can't even discover this stuff on her own. Most of her assistance comes from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, two twins who look more like Down-syndrome children than they do resembling anything crazy or mad in the world of Wonderland. Sorry...Underland.

Even worse is “The Mad Hatter” (Johnny Depp). I never thought I'd say this about Depp, but he was mediocre in this role and I think not the right person to play it. He's about as mad as that uncle or aunt the family doesn't like to invite over to holiday gatherings because (s)he gets drunk and says stupid stuff. Depp's Mad Hatter seems to be more of a depressed individual than he is anything mad. And he's in too many scenes. After a while, it’s overkill and I was starting to think the story was more about The Mad Hatter instead of Alice. Where are all the fun characters? Why is this version of Alice such a depressing one? Do the goth kids need more things to try and connect with besides Marilyn Manson? (Love “This is Halloween” by the way.) … Anyway, I guess that's what annoyed me the most. None of the characters in Underland are as odd as they could be except for “The Cheshire Cat” (voiced by Stephen Fry), who is a lot of fun in the movie but isn't in it enough. It's sad when a Disney cartoon's version of a character is weirder than Burton's version. “The March Hare” is a bit off, throwing tea cups at everyone, but that’s about it. In reality everyone just looks strange. They don't actually act strange. At least not strange enough…

Visually the film looks ok. There are some scenes that are fantastic to look at such as the Red Queen's gardens but most of Underland has a brownish tint that really makes the place look like a dirt field more than a land of amazement and wonder. I didn’t see it in 3D and perhaps the effect of it might have been different and a bit more appealing. But, who knows as I’ve heard stories of how at times 3D doesn’t enhance shit! Overall, when it was all done I wasn't impressed at all. It’s not Burton’s job to “impress me,” but truth is as a movie viewer, every film I watch has to be felt in some way… whether emotionally or mentally… I enjoy leaving a theater and having a film resonating within. This is a film made for pre-teens. I also feel despite what we’ve known about him and his awesome exhibit at the MoMA in NYC (Which was amazing, educational and quite intriguing), Wonderland looked like another Burton film. How many times do I need to see curled up tree branches in his movies? Can he not give us something new to look at? Is his interpretation of Sleeping Beauty just going to be more of the same?



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