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Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is considered one of the finest examples of children’s literature to come out of the Victorian period. It has been a staple of popular culture and been adapted many times, including the popular Disney animated version from 1951. Because of the novel’s enduring popularity, Disney saw fit to commission a remake with the great Tim Burton directing.
Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is a 19-year-old woman from the upper-middle-classes of Victorian English society. Alice is an intelligent young women, with a quick wit but unconformable with her surroundings and suffers from a recurring dream. When she runs away from a marriage proposal, Alice falls into the Wonderland, or now known as Underland, meeting strange characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), The Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), The Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Absolem (Alan Rickman), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both, not surprisingly, Matt Lucas).
Alice discovers that Underland has been taken over by the tyrannical Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) who uses the Jabberwocky dragon to enforce her rule. Alice is the only person with the ability to overthrow her and bring back peace to Underland.
The best thing about Alice in Wonderland is the discovery of a new star in Mia Wasikowska. She is a talented actress, bringing this older, tougher Alice to life. Wasikowska shows she has fine comic timing and a great range that will allow the young Australian to go far in Hollywood.
She also got to work with two of the greatest actors in the business, Depp and Bonham Carter. Both have been recent fixtures in Burton’s films and let’s face it, it’s only because Depp‘s a man that prevented him from being casted as Alice. Depp was perfectly able to bring out the schizophrenic quality in the Mad Hatter, giving the character a lisping English accent when just crazy to a pretty good Scottish accent when releasing his political anger. But despite turning the Mad Hatter into a man of action, there was no depth for Depp to work with.
Bonham Carter is the master of playing crazy characters such as Mrs. Lovett and Bellatrix Lestrange. With The Red Queen, Bonham Carter has a blast and shows why she is such a great actress, working with a character who’s an egomaniac with massive anger issues.
But other actors characters were so underwritten and had such little screentime that it was pointless casting big name actors. The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) were nothing but stock characters. While Glover does give the Knave of Hearts a sinister edge, there was not a lot to work with and The White Queen may as well have been an up-and-coming actress, not a Hollywood A-Lister, because there was so little of her.
There is no denying that Burton is a great director and with Alice in Wonderland he had a chance to create a massive fantasy world. With the aid of CGI, he was able to create some interesting creature designs and there are some fine action sequences and humor that will please younger audiences. But Burton’s gothic style is often more suited to adult material such as Sweeney Todd, which was an ultra-violent Dickensian-style film. Burton is better at looking at the darker side of Victorian England then a lighter side.
Burton was working with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King) who tells a simple story that families can follow, but lacks characterization, making the film only average.
Alice in Wonderland
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Linda Woolverton, Lewis Carroll (novel)
Staring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Other Player Affinity Ratings
Simon thought: “A sense of wonder is something that director Tim Burton is no stranger to, in fact few creative minds in movies today have had such an impressive run the with the bizarre and darkly whimsical. Perhaps, then, it is irony at play, as Burton’s rendition of this classic novel is one his blandest efforts yet. Alice is played by young Australian actress Mia Wasikowska and she is by all standards, good. But left and right she is upstaged both by larger-than-life characters and the visually dazzling sets. She plays Alice with the proper spirit to be certain but she becomes utterly forgettable amongst the clutter. I do admire what was attempted here, but vision does not always equate to quality and when all is thrown down the rabbit hole, Alice in Wonderland is simply wonder-less.” Rating: 5/10
Steven thought: “Linda Woolverton’s take on Alice in Wonderland preaches classic “dream the impossible” and “carve your own destiny” themes, but they’re not organic in this plot. To fit in all the classic characters from both of Carroll’s books, Woolverton throws them in like set decorations. Perhaps Burton too is a bit ignorant and doesn’t let us discover these characters so much as smack us over the head with them like with a flamingo croquet mallet. The environment of Wonderland was hardly a “character” either, which all the best settings are — they play integral roles in the film. The production team put together these vast CGI landscapes, but they go unexplored. Alice in Wonderland is simply childish. It would appeal most to children and the story and character integration are best described as amateur. For a story that is about championing imagination and the impossible, there was nothing inspiring and magical about it other than a few key performances from Depp and Bonham-Carter. It’s no surprise that these Tim Burton regulars are both the funniest and most interesting because they’re full of surprises. No two line deliveries are exactly the same — that’s the quirkiness of a Tim Burton film and there wasn’t enough of it in this film.” Rating: 5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 5.3/10