7 March 2010

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland


Alice in Wonderland
2010, 108mins, PG
Director: Tim Burton
Writer (s): Linda Woolverton, Lewis Carroll (novel)
Cast includes: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen
UK Release Date: 5th March 2010

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” seems like an ideal source for director Tim Burton; a visionary who has etched out a career on a diet of gothic imagery and bizarre fantasy. Burton is one of Hollywood’s most erratic filmmakers, for every “Batman” we get a “Mars Attacks!” and every “Edward Scissorhands” seems to lead to a “Planet of the Apes”. Sadly “Alice in Wonderland” is one of the director’s less illustrious outings and ultimately descends into a mush of unhinged lunacy and excessive CGI. There is imagination backing the product but the film has absolutely no structure and it’s “sort of sequel” storyline feels weak and uninspired. Fans of both the director and Carroll’s famed fairytale are likely to be disappointed by this 2010 update.

“Alice in Wonderland” acts as a sequel of sorts to Carroll’s original tale. It picks up with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as a 19 year old on the brink of being pushed into a socially acceptable but loveless marriage and having forgone her previous escapades into Wonderland as mere dreams. After following the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) down the rabbit hole, Alice once again finds herself in the magical land and is reacquainted with The Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) and the tyrannical rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). All of Wonderland’s inhabitants see Alice as a champion for good and the figure that will usurp the current nefarious ruler and restore back the virtuous White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to the throne. However Alice herself feels incapable of living up to expectations and beating the Red Queen’s monstrous Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee) as legend predicts.

The 3-D in “Alice in Wonderland” is fairly mediocre and feels miles away from the lush settings of James Cameron’s “Avatar”. The Wonderland created by Burton is bright and filled with wacky shots but has no real atmosphere or personality. The one aspect I was confident the filmmaker would nail is the setting but sadly even that gets lost in a blustery wind of excessive digitals and lack of focus. The world presented here is completely forgettable and leaves no lasting impression on the audience. The same goes for many of the supporting figures; Blue Caterpillar, White Rabbit Tweedledee and Tweedledum are completely mishandled by Burton despite the valiant efforts of the actors portraying them.

Mia Wasikowska is a bland Alice and fails to really engage the audience on an emotional or personable level. This is maybe the film’s most unfortunate flaw. The character of Alice is essential to the heart and soul of the story but with Wasikowska’s monotonous performance it becomes practically impossible to care for the heroine or embrace her supposed sense of wonderment. Johnny Depp is well cast as the Mad Hatter and works relentlessly to keep the film’s tempo cranked up and I was surprised by how effective Anne Hathaway’s reserved turn as the White Queen works out to be. However neither performer gets close to the level of barmy perfection offered by Bonham Carter’s villainous Red Queen, the movie’s highlight without a doubt.

The screenplay is just as loose and undisciplined as Burton’s direction and goes through multiple pronounced periods of nothingness. Several scenes in the film have shockingly little relevance or importance within the bigger picture and the characters move in and out at a languid and lazy pace. Ultimately things reach an impressive battleground climax but the journey to that point is strikingly uneven and patchy. There are certainly moments to enjoy but the tone is confused and the plotline unmemorable. The third act is the most palatable and visually delightful segment of the movie; but it can’t repair the drab and underwhelming 80 minutes which precede it.

“Alice in Wonderland” is an obvious case of style over substance (not the first time such a criticism could be aimed at Burton), as it seeks to provide computer generated shenanigans and 3-D wizardry over competent storytelling or entertaining fantasy. Ironically the visual presentation itself is overly cluttered, leaving only a well staged finale and some good performances to bulk up the film’s credibility. It’ll be hard to keep the masses away from such a heavily marketed event picture but sadly “Alice in Wonderland” isn’t worth your time.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


pnr-status said...

nice review neat and clean one one more happy producer of alice in wonderland has announced the DVD release after 12 weeks from theatrical debut so its been a happy news for watch movies online website.

Licentia ut docui said...

I agree with everything you said accept the white queen comment....I thought she was so badly acted...I felt like I was back in The Devil Wears Prada and Anne was in the middle of a busy street not knowing what was going on.

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