Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland Review
Alice in Wonderland is one of the few movies that I’ve actually changed my mind about the next day. I started out disliking this film last night, but after giving it some serious considerations (and eight hours of sleep), decided it wasn’t a total wash and there were really some genuinely worthwhile portions of it.
This movie is a sequel to the original and a 20 year old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland after running away from a marriage proposal. Underland (Wonderland) is kookier now, she doesn’t remember being there, and no one else recognizes her either.
There are elements to like here – it’s a slightly more woman friendly film as opposed to the original Disney version, in which Alice falls into different situations without being in control of her own course. This Alice is more assertive, and clearly makes decisions about what she will do, regardless of what is written on the sacred scroll and what the different characters insist she must do. And in the end – she is able to learn from her experiences in Wonderland and become more assertive in her real life as well. It’s a positive message and a happy ending which affirms that women (and all people) can and should rule their own lives.
The visual style is amazing – it’s not nearly as dark or dreary as one might expect from a Tim Burton outing. The bright colors and cartoony visions reminded me more of Big Fish than Sweeney Todd. Which probably had a lot to do with the fact this is a Disney movie, and seems aimed towards children.
Of course both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are in fine form here – and even better when they are allowed to bounce their energies off one another (though they only appear in a few scenes together). Unfortunately – they are both such monumental actors they overpower the lead actress and at times – instead of a movie about Alice, it’s a movie about the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen. More Mad Hatter, than Red Queen, actually.
Tim Burton has a weird fascination with Johnny Depp. Unnatural, some might call it.
Anne Hathaway delivers a hilarious comedic performance as the White Queen, and is one of the few actors on screen who works collaboratively with Mia and doesn’t overpower her. Their few, brief moments together are quite memorable. I would have loved seeing more of them together and more of Hathaway in general.
The biggest issue that plagues this film is in the plot pacing and lack of true dramatic content – the intro and end caps (the only times we are not in Wonderland) are rushed and fail to achieve the depth they aim for. There are few moments of conflict, and nothing in the world poses much true danger for Alice or the characters. Perhaps because this is a children’s film. Perhaps not.
The real beauty of Wonderland is that it’s a visual feast and delivers a positive message for girls and young women. While it will probably never surpass the written content or even the original Disney animated film, it is definitely a unique and inspired world.