Movie Review: Alice In Wonderland and what Tim Burton found there

Everywhere you go, you are bound to see mixed reviews for Alice In Wonderland. Some will hate it, while others won’t mind it, let me assure you that most people don’t know the story they are talking about.

Let me preface my review by telling you that I have always been a freak about the Alice In Wonderland stories. There are two stories by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and a later sequel called Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there. Tim Burton’s version was a hodge podge grab all from both stories.

From someone who has read the books, it was easy to see when the movie transformed from book one to book two. From a child’s point of view in the audience with me, they seemed to enjoy themselves and clapped at appropriate moments, and from other adults not so fanatical about the story as me, also sharing the theatre with me, seemed to have a consensus of having fun watching it and said that the story finally made more sense to them (now that it is complete) and of course, Johnny Depp was in it.

First, the characters and who played them. Everyone knows that Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter in the film. He really creeped me out with his larger than life green eyes. I loved the makeup, wardrobe and hair, but the eyes really seemed to drain any real emotion from the character. He also had this odd accent that went between baby talk and a mean Scottish man. I played it off as an attribute to being mad, but it really never made any sense. Fun fact: hatters often went mad while making hats because of the levels of mercury they dealt with.

The Red Queen was played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter, who may have been a shoe in for the part for being married to the Director, but pulled it off like no one else could have. Her head was enlarged, like Depp’s eyes for a skewed view of this story and an added humor for the kids, insert jokes about being conceited here. From her first scene, she instilled fear into the servant’s she rules and with her love of red, added a very needed splash of color to the scenery. She was also able to show the Queen as gullible and human at times.

Alice was played by Mia Wasikowska, a relatively new face in Hollywood. Besides my first thoughts being that she looked sickly pale with dark circles under her eyes, she had an innocence about her that an experienced actor wouldn’t have been able to pull off. Although some may see her performance as flat, I think it works well with the character development that she goes through.

The Cheshire Cat was by far my favorite. Of course, he was always my favorite in the other renditions as well. He is voiced spot on by Stephen Fry and the animation kept it fun. The White Queen was played too light-footed by Anne Hathaway, I think she was going for ethereal but every time she was on screen she took me out of the moment with what looked like over acting.

This movie is showing in beautiful 3D, but with the way Burton uses color, it’s not always needed. There are a few gags thrown at us, but unless you are in the right row of the theater, it is missed. The colors are vibrant enough to hold up as 2D. Burton has a signature use of color or absence of color to invoke a feeling or emotion and having to go back through and layer this movie into the 3D takes away from that effect overall.

Burton does make me proud when it comes to the little hints from the original stories that he made sure to include this time. There is the infamous line by the Hatter to Alice of, “Why is a Raven like a writing desk?” Followed by no answer of course, because Lewis Carroll did not even answer his own riddle. He made sure to include not only the Jabberwock, but the entire poem of “The Jabberwocky” which foreshadows what Alice is to do as Hatter recites it to her. Burton even went so far as to have the Hatter refer to Alice as “he” or “boy” because not only is he “mad” and can get away with it,  the poem of “The Jabberwocky” was about a boy who slays the beast, not Alice. It is Alice who finds the poem and reads it.

Burton had Alice recite the thought of “six impossible things before breakfast” which was originally spoken by the Hatter in the book. He even brought to life the Bandersnatch. The Bandersnatch was another creature within the poem of “The Jabberwocky”; that I didn’t see coming. I do wish he had incorporated the game of chess more than just the grass looking like a chess board in the final battle. This was a main stay of the second book and was a big part of how she moved from one place to the next.

I was happy, however, he decided to leave out the story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” told by the Tweedles. It is confusing and masochistic and I have never liked it. He left out a lot of which I could go on and on, but I won’t. This is why I said at the beginning that this was a grab-all movie.

A warning to parents with little ones maybe younger than eight, there are a couple of graphic images that may haunt your children afterward, it is Burton after all. There is an eye-gauging with a needle that pulls the eye completely out of socket at the beginning. There is also a part when Alice is small that she must cross a river/creek and to get to the other side, she crawls across many floating dead, rotting bodies and faces to get there; it even creeped me out a bit.

My only complaints about the film, besides the 3D would be a “break dance” of some sort by the Hatter at the end which was completely unnecessary and ridiculous and seemed to be an afterthought thrown in for the kids watching. It was also disheartening to hear the Jabberwock speak. Yes its Wonderland, where all creatures can speak, even the flowers, but having him speak takes all the fear out of him and quickly has you teetering on the thought of wanting him dead or not.

This movie has some faults but it will succeed because it is easily marketed to kids and teenagers and young adults alike. Anyone who grew up with the story is going to be curious at how Burton would tell the story and will see it too. Even with it’s faults, it was still fun, none the less and I would recommend it for all.

I give Alice 4 “Bravos for even re-creating the illustrations” out of 5.

by Angela Davis

Incase you wanted to read the poem of “The Jabberwocky” I thought I might throw it in here:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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