Alice In Wonderland
Tim Burton is famous for his worlds. His ability to create magical and frightful places be they in complete fantasy or rooted somewhere more real is almost unrivalled. Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands and now Alice in Wonderland, all are full of larger than life or magical characters inhabiting worlds so uniquely their own but unmistakeably Burton-esque. He has a vision for every film he creates and with his trusted crew, including the almost ever present Johnny Depp and partner Helena Bonham Carter, he has tools he can trust to bring them to fruition. Almost.
Far from a remake, this melded sequel follows on from the traditional story we all know picking up with Alice in her late teens. Older and wiser her conscious mind has forgotten about Wonderland but she is regularly haunted by dreams of floating cats and blue caterpillars. In quintessential old England Alice is attending a party, talking to her family and friends everyone seems to think her life is set for her. She’s young and beautiful, a lord wishes to marry her and she need never work or want for anything. There are just a few problems, her beau is a ginger man with dodgy bowls and she has grander plans for her life. Being proposed to in front of the entire party pushes her over the edge and she runs away for some air following a rather energetic rabbit to a hole she promptly falls into.
From here on out we are treated to the wonderful world of Wonderland as Alice works her way through the landscape meeting familiar characters as she goes, not quite remembering them herself. Believing everything to be a dream Alice boldly forges through the land in search of answers to who everyone around her is and why they think she is their saviour. What transpires from this is a fairly standard coming of age story where Alice finds herself just in time to save the day in an epic final battle with the Christopher Lee voiced Jaberwocky. On her way she meets various fun characters voiced by a veritable banquet of stars such as Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbra Winsor and Matt Lucas.
The people we can actually see are equally delightful in their respective roles. Helena Boham Carter plays the frightfully petulant but consistently funny Red Queen who rules Wonderland with a not so steady fist, her sister, and former ruler the White Queen is played almost spookily by Anne Hathaway and of course there is Burton favourite Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. This hatter is a part Scottish schizophrenic bundle of words who’s oversized eyes glow different colours as his mood flies wildly from one spectrum to the next. Heading an array of colourful well played characters Depp is again the cherry on Burton’s bizarre cake delivering a performance that is sharp and lively throughout.
In addition to this the world they inhabit is wonderfully realised. Both dark and light it is full of little Burton touches. The very land itself seems to breath and the screen is always pack with interest. The CGI is lovingly mastered to help compliment the performers both physically and in their land of whimsical madness. I personally didn’t think the 3D aspect was the strongest point here, only really excelling during some flying teacup moments but non the less never looks out of place.
The thing that does let the film down however is the story. It’s a little bland and lacking in the imagine shown elsewhere. Tim Burton’s darkly witty aesthetic and Lewis Carrolls madcap storytelling should be an ideal combination but they are never allowed to gel here. The film, scripted by the same Disney writer who brought them the Lion King, hasn’t made as good use of her source text as she did in the latter leaving the film to sparkle in from of the eyes but not inside the ears. Gone is Carrolls literary nonsense style replaced with consistent and comfortable narrative in a very standard framework. It leaves the film a little too conventional and I felt in parts that Burton’s imagination was held back. Maybe with a narrative more true to its source Burton could have pushed a few of his idea’s a little further and delivered a truly unruly Wonderland indeed.
All this however doesn’t detract from what is ultimately an enjoyable if slightly light film. With wonderful visuals and excellent performances bringing the characters to life you can’t help but smile at most of what goes on throughout the film. Newcomer Mia Wasikowska is very strong as Alice and updates our older heroine nicely while sharing the screen with such big hitters as Depp and Carter. So whist we go down the rabbit hole for another adventure, it seems that as we grow up, things really aren’t quite as fun as they used to be.