Review: Alice in Wonderland

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Tim Burton is back with his most unimaginative, and heartless movie to date!

With the current Hollywood trend for remakes and reboots, 2010`s Alice in Wonderland is surprisingly NOT a modern re-telling of the original movie/novel. It is in fact a sequel!

Set a few years after Alice’s first trip to Wonderland – a 19-year-old Alice is unhappy with the boring life she is now leading, and decides to return to the magical world of her childhood – Wonderland. She reunites with her old friends The Mad Hatter and co. But Wonderland isn’t quite the place it used to be! Alice discovers that she is the one destined to free the land from the evil Red Queen and….you know what?… who cares?

There is no point talking about the story, when there really isn’t one to talk about. It is quite simply just a load of old nonsense! Which would be fine if the film had other things going for it, but it doesn’t.  I`m going to warn you now – I did not like this movie…

First off  – The main story is incredibly basic. Alice has to get from here to there, meet this person, do this, and the day is won. In fact, it is almost like a child has plotted the movie- Alice has to get the key from the scary monster, but the monster is actually really nice so he lets her have the key and then she jumps on his back and they ride away – and so on. Combine the simple premise with confusing dialogue and you’ll find yourself lost in the film, just not in the way the studio intended. The poor script gives no sense of geography, or what day-to-day life is like for the people of this world. We therefore never really know what is at stake, or why their world even needs saving at all. For those unfamiliar with the source material, the film is suprisingly hard to follow for such a basic premise. The film doesnt setup anything up for you, and just assumes you know this world in advanced. If you don’t, you are in trouble.

Ok so the storyline isn’t to hot, but seeing as this is a  Tim Burton movie, I hoped that if nothing else, the movie would at least be visually interesting. Sadly, it really isn’t. The film looks just like any other Tim Burton movie we have seen a thousand times before. Moody, gothic looking landscapes, filled with misshapen plant life and architecture. Nothing new is brought to the table here, and at no point do you buy that this is a living breathing world. You just see it for what it is – mildly interesting CGI backdrops for its equally Burton-esqu looking characters. No thought or imagination has gone into this one. It is simply by the numbers Tim Burton.

Direction and plot aside – the real Achilles heel here is the lead actress Mia Wasikowska playing Alice. She is truly awful. Devoid of any onscreen presence, she spends the entire movie looking slightly muddled, and very bored.   There is no emotion behind any of her words, and no motivation behind any or her actions.  She is 19 years old in this film, but her whole demeanor is that of a slightly dim 6-year-old child. You could argue that this was an acting choice, but I really don’t think it was. Her portrayal is so dull and unlikable, that you really dont care one bit  about what happens to her – which is a major problem considering she is in almost every single frame of the movie. Instead of bringing the movie to life, she kills it dead!

The much touted Johnny Depp doesn’t fare much better either. It appears the trick to any Depp portrayal in a Burton movie is to put him in pale make up, give him wacky hair, and act kooky! This is exactly what you get here. Depp is surprisingly subdued in the film . Considering he is playing a character called The Mad Hatter, I expected more.  I imagined we would see something akin to a Heather Ledgers Joker character (only with better intentions) but we get nothing to chew on here. He plays him as a quietly spoken, calm and child-like guy. He isn’t particularly strange, funny, sweet, scary or, well anything! He is just another weird-looking person, in a weird-looking world. Despite this, Depp is still charismatic in the role, and will hold your interest while watching.  Although one things did strike me as odd was the way he would randomly slip into a thick Scottish accent – for no apparent reason. This was obviously intentional  – but it just comes across as weird. There is no reason why this character would do so. I know he is “mad” – but Depp doesnt play strongly enough on the schizoid aspect of the character for the accent change to work . Overall, a good, but forgettable performance.

Helen Bonham Carter is by far the best thing in the movie. She plays the evil Red Queen of Wonderland, and her naive, spoilt, super bitch character completely blows everyone else out of the water. She is both funny and creepy and the only character with a real personality.Various other characters also pop up through out – including The Cheshire cat, The White Rabbit, The Caterpillar etc. None of them have much to do in the film, and I had no idea who they were, or why they were so eager for Alice to return.  Even though their characters are under-written, there is still some good work on show here. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Matt Lucas) are fun to watch, as are Stephen Fry as the Cheshire cat and Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar. Both actors bring a real sense of cool energy to there roles that is sorely lacking else where. In contrast, Ann Hathaway is very boring playing the part of the White Queen. As is Crispin Glover as the Red Queens main henchman. Special mention must go to Barbara Windsor – voicing the mouse in the picture. Her horribly familiar voice  stood out like a sore thumb, and grated and annoyed through out.

Anyhow – the movie ends with a (anti)climatic battle scene between the Red and White armies of Wonderland. This should have been the movies big standout set piece, but it is in fact its lowest point!  Unexciting, and brief, the scene ends before you have even realised its started. On top of that, due to the poor plotting, by this stage your`ll have no idea what is at stake, or what the outcome will be if the good guys win or not – so who cares? Intertwined with the final battle is Alice’s fight with the dreaded Jabberwocky. I say dreaded because we are told its horrible – even though it plays no actual part in the film until appearing in the fight in question. Like everything else, their battle is short and predictable. Considering the Alice and Jabberwocky battle is hyped all the way through the film, it over very quickly and doesn’t pack any punch. Another disappointment, in a film that offers little else but.

The movie is in 3D, but the effect isn’t as impressive as we have seen in other movies. It should be noted that the film was not shot in 3D – it was filmed normally, and then digitally converted in post production. I am afraid to say that this method doesn’t appear to work very well. The movie looked more like a moving pop-up book, than a true three dimensional world, and you very quickly forget you are watching the film in 3D. Not because it is immersive, but because the effect just isn’t very executed.

So in summary , I would say Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a lot like The Mad Hatter himself- interesting to look at, but no substance. The film is soul-less, and shallow. There is no sub text or meaning behind anything that happens onscreen, and by the end of the movie, you just will not care about anything that is happening! To be fair –  I can see this film appealing to younger audiences, who will be more than entertained by the unusual visuals, and simple story. There is just nothing here for anyone has had already endured puberty. Skip it!

4/10

Check out the Trailer below…

How to make a Tim Burton movie…

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3 Responses to “Review: Alice in Wonderland”

  1. Captain Yesterday Says:

    If ever you choose to make a fantasy film you’ll rarely go wrong by constantly reminding the audience none of its real!

    …or so Tim Burton reckons!

    Alice in Wonderland is remarkable for the most torturous opening a film has ever mustered – Alice mum’s views on 19th century fashion, some grand garden party – the same frikkin’ country house the last 200 peroidic dramas have used! When Alice leaves this party and chases after the White Rabbit the audience cheers her on – ‘run, be free of this utter tedium, not for your sake but ours!’

    Sadly the audience’s ordeal is yet to conclude – Alice must get through a door, which is cruelly too small to pass through. Now she has a tonic that makes her small and a cake that makes her big and for goodness sake surely anyone can work out what to do here. but lamentably no – if Alice runs into John ‘Jigsaw’ Kramer, i suspect much claret will ensue!

    Thus before we even have reached ”wonderland” you are bored, listless and frankly irritable. Maybe the visuals that follow could soothe our jangled nerves – but alas, we are tormented with one made up word after another – the frapsus day, frashus day, fra…something. Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll evidently met.

    Those that enjoyed this film evidently passed through the trial by fire that was the intro to this film – I however could not, and for 2 hours no amount of gnarled bark or numbered card soldiers would tempt me back to interest. Why should we care if a Red Queen or a transexual white queen rules? How does society function – is there currency, jobs, anything? In such a morass would a ‘good’ ruler or a ‘bad’ ruler really make much difference? But of course its a dream, so the outcome is self evidently pointless anyway!

    AIW isnt the worst film I have ever seen – but I can honestly say that I did not enjoy a single moment of it. I want to award it a zero star rating, but this is tempered by the knowledge that I have seen worse and this must be recognised.

    This film gets a single star from me soley by virtue that it is not as bad as Adam Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love

    1/10 – a generous 1/10

    0/10

  2. Danjo Kazooe Says:

    Ditto on everyword you have said!… Especially the Punk Drunk Love comment! 😉

    A quick thought on AIW – How weird was the ending? After going through her incredible adventure in Wonderland, Alice uses the lessons she has learnt to become a business woman?!?! 😛 Where did that come from? What are they trying to say with this conclusion? Any thoughts? …

  3. Captain Yesterday Says:

    Don’t u get it? Capitalism is the real ‘wonderland’, that’s the point, don’t u get it?!

    Sorry, sorry – I’m very emotional right now. I missed the frapsush day – gutted.

    Oh ur thinking – ‘who cares?’ well, I care! It’s important because it’s this ‘magic day’ where I face a challenge – but the outcome is predetermined and I’m told I literally just have to hold a sword to pass. Just hold a sword.

    Wait, was this really a challenge?

    By what criteria could I have failed?

    Maybe this was worth missing…

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