“Alice in Wonderland”
a review by Darby O’Gill
It’s time to go back to Wonderland, and to do so you’ll need your Tim Burton 3-D glasses. This version of Alice in Wonderland is not so much a remake, as it is a continuation of the original classic tale. Of course, it’s also told through the eyes of visionary director Tim Burton, and marks his third remake or retelling if you will, of an already existing movie classic. I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, but I’m truly starting to miss the originality of his former moviemaking. It’s true that these remakes embody the essences of an original Burton film, but there is still this underlying familiarity of the original movies or stories on which the work is based. Which is a good thing for a remake to embody, but at this point I would really like to see Burton take me to a place I have never seen before. We don’t have many visionary directors that can do what he is capable of, and it seems like for the last few years we have been getting the “What if…” versions of Tim Burton films. For those of you that are not huge comic book nerds, “What if…” comics, are a Marvel Comics series that takes a classic storyline, like say… Spider-Man. The comics would raise the question, what if Peter Parker’s Uncle hadn’t died? Would he have learned that with great power, comes great responsibility? And that is exactly what we have here, “What if… Tim Burton directed Planet of the Apes?” Sadly, we all now know the answer to that question.
In this version of Alice in Wonderland, we follow a now nineteen year old Alice, who has forgotten all about her original adventures in Wonderland, and finds herself now facing even more grownup decisions than ever before, which could not be better timing, because the creatures of Wonderland (or Underland as they call it) are facing troubles of their own; and only Alice can save them. I think they did a really good job of putting a new spin on a classic tale, while still retaining some moments from the original story. The movie moves at a nice pace, and Tim Burton’s visuals are anything but boring. The special effects are quite amazing, and it managed to do for me what Avatar couldn’t, which was being able sell me on the movie’s world and characters. I was totally submerged in the world of Wonderland. I cared about the characters. I was interested in the story they were telling. And even though I was familiar with the story they were telling, they still managed to take me somewhere new, and give me an environment that was worth caring about. Okay, maybe I’m laying it on a little thick. The story wasn’t that amazing; but if anything, it just proves that James Cameron did not try hard enough to change his Dances with Wolves storyline in Avatar.
Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter is well… Okay. Look, Johnny Depp is an amazing actor. I think we can all agree on that. But, it seems like when he plays these remake roles for Tim Burton, he tends to go too far. He almost over plays the role. I’m not saying it’s a bad performance by any means, but much like his portrayal of Willy Wonka being almost Michael Jackson-ish, it feels like sometimes less could be more. I feel that these characters already have such a larger than life persona attached to them that Depp is almost trying to harness that imagery by playing them as big as he possibly can, when the truth is playing them slightly smaller, might actually give you the same effect in the end. Anne Hathaway, surprisingly, gives a horrible performance as the White Queen. I’m not quite sure what happened there. I would have to imagine that it was the way Burton wanted the role to be portrayed, but I’m afraid it really didn’t work for me. I found it to be very distracting. I couldn’t keep myself from trying to figure out why she was acting that way. The best I could come up with is that the role of the White Queen most likely would have been the role that Burton’s former fiancé, Lisa Marie, would have played if they were still together. He was most likely directing Hathaway as such, which would possibly explain the uncomfortable nature of her performance in the film. Just a theory. On the better side of the coin, Little Britain’s Matt Lucas gives an amazing performance as both Tweetledee and Tweetledum. And what Tim Burton film would be complete without current fiancé, Helena Bonham Carter? Donning an abnormally large head, inspired by the books original illustrations, Carter plays the hot-tempered Red Queen.
Like I mention at the beginning of this review, Alice in Wonderland is a part of the new and ever growing trend that is 3-D movies. Now, I will admit that this new RealD 3-D system works so much better then those old red and blue glasses ever did. But, it’s still getting a little out of control, if you ask me. I enjoy watching these new 3-D films in the theatre, but once you watch the movie at home, I’m afraid it’s just not quite the same experience. The scenes in which the glasses just add depth are fine, but when things are constantly being pointed at you and there is sadly no 3-D there to enhance it, you truly notice just how lame those stunts make the movie look in the end. Also, the 3-D seems to have a hard time handling fast paced close-up action. Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole was very blurry; and because of the glasses, I felt like I might have missed some really nice moments on the way down. Over all, the movie does a great job of delivering a fun, entertaining, and somewhat curiouser and curiouser night at the movies.