The latest big budget movie to hop onto the current 3D craze (which i’m starting to think is here to stay), Alice In Wonderland also sees the holy trio of modern fairy tales reunite; Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman. For those who are only aware of the first two names, Elfman is the genius who adds his musical talent to Burtons movies and, on some occasions, injects more life into them. Sadly, AIW is one picture that even Elfman cannot resuscitate.
Based on the Lewis Carroll’s classic of the same name, Alice In Wonderland sees the title character (played atrociously by Mia Wasikowska) about to marry Hamish, a stereotypical English lord. But she sees a rabbit and leaves Hamish at the altar/gazebo to follow it. She is led to a huge hole by a tree; the entrance to Underland. And here’s Alice thinking it was Wonderland for all this time.. Obviously Burton knows more of the story than Carroll. Anyway, once in Wonde… Underland, Alice discovers a world she thought was a dream, when in reality it is a distant memory. Ruled by the Red Queen (Helena Bighead Carter), Underland is slowly being destroyed much to the dismay of everyone that inhabits the land, especially the Red Queens sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). To determine who should rule, there is a battle between each Queens champion: which turns out to be Alice for the White Queen and Christopher Lee (as The Jabberwocky, unfortunately).
But where does The Hatter fall into this? Well, just like in the book, he isn’t really necessary at all. Especially not for the amount of time he featured in this, which was surprisingly longer than I’d heard about. Yes, he features on the poster but so did Angelina Jolie on the Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow poster, and she was in that for less than five minutes. But more to the point, he isn’t even that mad. I don’t mean mad like “I LEFT SOME COOKIES HERE AND SOMEONE ATE THEM!!’ But more a zany, wacky craazzyy character is what I was expecting. What we got was Jack Sparrow in drag who was also confused about his nationality.
The explanation why Hatter quickly falls in and out of a Scottish accent is beyond me. The only plausible reason I can think of is that he only does it when talking about the Jabberwocky. Is Jabberwocky a scottish word? It sounds more Geordie to me. Regardless, the accent change did not make him seem mad. In fact, we also get a slight explanation as to WHY he is that way; through a flashback. In my opinion, this is not a good thing, as we see a method to his madness, per say. It takes away some of the mystique from his character, as there is reasoning behind his actions.
It’s not just The Hatter who disappoints. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice with less enthusiasm than a student at a 9am lecture. And I just couldn’t shake the thought that it’s Michael Cera in a wig. Seriously! From the posters, it looked bad. I just put that down to chance photography. But no! In real life, she actually looks like Cera (for those that don’t know who it is, click here)
Moving on, the visuals are actually good. And bad. This is the problem I had with this movie; it succeeds and fails at the same time. The art direction and production design: Good. The fact that it’s so darn gloomy and depressing and colourless that you cant really appreciate any of it: Bad. The things I listed are attributed to “Tim Burtons Style”. Here’s a suggestion: maybe Wonderland didnt need his style. Or at least come up with something a liittlee different from the atmosphere of A Nightmare Before Christmas. Like I said though, the actual design of Underland is, at times, great. The Red Queens castle is excellently realised, whereas the White Queens castle looks like a cross between Disneyland and Minis Tirith. (Not aware of what Minis Tirith looks like? Here’s a pretty good pic of it)
As for the 3D, I recently discovered that it was not filmed in this format, it was merely added later. And it shows, because there is literally no 3 dimensional aspect. I watched it for 10 minutes without the glasses, and apart from the rare slight blur that could be seen behind the character on screen at the time, I could not tell the difference as to what dimension I was watching it in. And the trailer promised so many 3D shenanigans.. a carpet being rolls out RIGHT INTO OUR EYES(!!) and a rich environment teeming with life. Sadly this is not the case, and it just saddens me at the missed opportunity that Burton and Co. had here.
Not that it will phase them; the opening weekend of Alice made an incredible $210million, becoming the biggest opening for a non sequel/prequel/spin off, and also the biggest opening for a 3D movie EVER, surpassing even the movie that spent 10 years developing the technology to perfection. Ahh the irony.
In a strange way, Alice In Wonderland is not a let down. To me, anyway. Simply because I did not expect it to be good (I have learned my lesson by anticipating movies only to be let down time after time -Cough- Wolfman and The Crazies) I still think that a certain demographic will love it for its “quirkiness”, and Burton fans will see it though rose tinted spectacles (as well as 3D ones). But underneath all the visuals, this is a mildly entertaining affair that has definitely generated more hype than it actually deserves.