Alice in Wonderland

January 28, 2011

Alice in Wonderland


Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, but I held on on seeing this film simply because I heard it wasn’t all that great and deviated from the traditional Alice in Wonderland story like you see in the Disney cartoon version.  However, I knew I would eventually see it simply because it is a Tim Burton film and because it has Johnny Depp in it, and while it is a fairly different film than I was expecting, I enjoyed it a lot, and visually Burton does a good job of making it entertaining.

The story is that of Alice, all grown up, 19.  She is a girl who is very imaginative and lives often in her own little world in her head.  This tends to get her into troubles from time to time and puts her in many an awkward situation.  Her life drastically shifts when her father passes away and she is basically being set up to marry into a nice family that would be a step above her current standing.  She, however, doesn’t like that idea all that well, and is confused what to do.  That is when she happens to see the White Rabbit.  She leaves the man who has proposed to her waiting without an answer and follows the rabbit and falls down into the rabbit hole.  Upon landing she finds herself in Wonderland where the Red Queen is oppressing the people, and the White Queen is a pacifist and doesn’t do anything about it.  Alice is told that she is the chosen one who will defeat the Jabberwocky and the Red Queen.  She meets up with the normal cast of characters who are confused why she is handling everything so oddly since she’s been there before.  The story itself is the retelling of Wonderland, it is the second time and isn’t supposed to match up with the original story but it supposed to keep the original characters in it.  I enjoy a good retelling of a fantasy story (see the SyFy channel original mini-series Alice and Tin Man), and while I would have liked to have seen the actual story of Alice in Wonderland retold, I won’t complain about this version, which is interesting in its own right.

This film has a fairly typical Burton cast.  Johnny Depp takes on the role of the Mad Hatter and is entertaining in it.  He bugs me at a few points in time but that is primarily due to the absurdity of the role as compared to Depp’s actual performance.  Helena Bonham Carter takes on the Red Queen and is primarily CGI as she has been distorted to have a disproportionate head to her body.  She fits well into the role as she generally has a creepy vibe around her, see Harry Potter.  Alan Rickman does the voice for the Blue Caterpillar and it fits really well, when he speaks slowly his voice has a nice monotone drag to it and works well for a caterpillar that is completely baked.  And Stephen Fry does the voice of the Cheshire Cat and the cat in many ways steals the show in terms of the CGI acting and Fry does a good job voicing it.  Finally I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful voice work that Matt Lucas does for Tweedledee and Tweedledum, I don’t know that there would be a better person to voice them.  He perfectly does the voice for them that feels like there is something missing.  Anne Hathaway and Crispin Glover round out the cast.  Finally, there is Alice, Tim Burton and the casting crew did a very good job finding an unknown actress, Mia Wasikowska, to play her.  Mia plays the stubborn innocent version of Alice that Burton has created extremely well and is wonderfully lost and oblivious to what is going on around her.  She does a good job with the self discovery that her character has as well in this film.

Visually this is a Burton film to a tee, but not the darker side that we’ve seen recently with Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but this film has the lighter coloring of a film like Edward Scissorhands.  It does take some darker twists and turns, but much of the film is based around the absurdity of the other characters and the visuals are often kept much lighter.  The amount of CGI and the quality of the CGI work is impressive as well.  The scoring works well with the film, but it isn’t extremely memorable.

Overall this will be a film that some like and some don’t like because it isn’t a true retelling of Alice in Wonderland.  I personally felt that it was well put together and well made, and entertaining, which is the most important thing anyways.  When you watch it, you just have to temper your expectations that it is going to be exactly like the Disney cartoon version or exactly like the book.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-


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