I’ve been a Lewis Carroll fan ever since I first read Alice in Wonderland back in grade school, and was eagerly anticipating seeing the film since I heard of its production. I knew that this very unique, twisted tale would be in terrific hands with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp for their eccentric story-telling capabilities, and I must admit, after seeing the film, I wasn’t particularly happy and couldn’t help feel at times that Burton kept forgetting the real story in his quest to chock-full the film with larger than life special-effects, further re-emphasizes the nagging impression that the director is stuck in a creative rut, making films that are a tad too well-suited for his idiosyncratic style.
For those that may not already know, Burton’s version of “Alice in Wonderland” is not the same as the animated story Disney produced in 1951, but it does use the same characters. Here, Alice, an unpretentious and individual 19-year-old, is engaged to a dunce of an English nobleman. At her engagement party, she escapes the crowd to consider whether to go through with the marriage and falls down a hole in the garden after spotting an unusual rabbit. Arriving in a strange and surreal place called “Underland,” she finds herself in a world that resembles the nightmares she had as a child, filled with talking animals and villainous queens and knights. Alice realizes that she is there for a reason–to conquer the horrific Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne.
The film features Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter; Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen; Anne Hathaway as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska as Alice; and Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
It’s not surprising how Disney and Tim Burton have chosen to hang the film on their most valuable leading man, Johnny Depp, expanding the role of the Mad Hatter in the story in order to accommodate him. Depp and Burton have worked together so often over the years that the collaborations are all starting to blur together. Still, with all the potential for eye candy here, Burton does manage to offer some genuine moments of wonder in Wonderland, and if that’s all you’re looking for, this is one trip that you might want to take.
But make no mistake, even though Alice is a bit older in this version, this is a movie that is aimed squarely at kids, and doesn’t have the depth that some might demand from an adaptation of this classic tale. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton does not do much to elevate the material either, although there is just enough self-discovery that goes on in the film to justify Alice’s character arc.
I personally thought the pace could have been more fast and exciting. The story got confusing at times with too many mini plots and not enough things to speed it up, but still, I believe that the story of “Alice in Wonderland” was rather enjoyable despite the fact that it might be a tad too dark and Burton-esque for children under 10. Over all, I think it’s sure to impress fans of the fairytale genre because of moments of Burton’s trademark twisted brilliance.
To really enjoy this movie, you have to have the heart of a child: imaginative, innocent and uncynical, and I would recommend the movie primarily on the strength of the visuals and simply because it’s a unique adaptation of a classic tale we all practically grew up with.