This for sure isn’t Alice in Wonderland.
I always thought that Tim Burton was born to take a trip down the rabbit-hole with Alice as she thwarts the Red Queen and brings new hope to an oppressed world. The classic Victorian story is all about this and well that mixed with some sort of LSD trip. How Victorian Lewis Carroll had any idea what a 60s LSD trip looks like is beyond me?
The new version designed by Tim Burton takes place thirteen years after Alice returned from Wonderland. She is now grown up and betrothed to a boorish English Lord. Their scenes together brought to mind Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Do you remember Diana’s classic bored sick look? Well newcomer Mia Wasikowska does it perfectly and nearly gets engaged to the doofus. She runs off and falls down the rabbit hole once more. Would somebody please keep this girl away from exposed holes? My god, manholes must be deadly for her.
Anywho, she falls back into Wonderland not remembering that she had been there before. All the classic characters we all fondly remember from the Disney animated version are here.
Each is reintroduced with a slight Burton flair. My favourites are the Red Queen, played by Mrs Burton herself, Helena Bonham Carter and well of course Johnny Depp’s delightfully disturbed Mad Hatter. There is also a lot of fun from the Chesire Cat and Alan Rickman’s smoking caterpillar..
Just like Burton’s version of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory wasn’t about Charlie or Willy Wonka but about the world of Chocolate Factory, Alice isn’t about Alice or her host the Mad Hatter but about the world of Wonderland. Burton seems allergic to not allow one of his films to be enhanced by a central character. Sweeney Todd had that problem too. Has one of films post-Sleepy Hollow emerged past that stigmatism.
I do have to say one thing about the movie. It reminded me so much Steven Spielberg’s Hook. There are comparisons to Wizard of Oz, Narnia, etc but I am standing by Hook. In Hook, Peter Pan returns to Neverland after 20 years forgetting who he was and how he was sort of a prophet to that long forgotten land. We are reintroduced to all the classic characters as Pan has to relearn what he has forgotten. His mentor Tinkerbell helps him. The new movie ups the antee, brings back a classic villain and showdown, etc, etc. That is all what Alice in Wonderland is except inspired by a different literary source.
The different perspectives, morphing of Carter’s head and Depp’s eyes, the film color palette and those really cool looking Red Queen Card Men leave you scratching your head as to how did they do that. It is astonishing that films can still wow us in that way. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is beautiful to look at and will entrance Burton fans but beneath the slick, “how-did-they-do-that” facade the story is kind of lame and well uninspired. I have however liked it more than Burton’s last three flicks.
(3.5 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer