I’ve been anticipating Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland adaptation since I learned about it about two years ago. When the first images of it were released I got giddy. And the trailer made my jaw drop. Maybe I hyped it up too much and had unrealistic expectations because the final product isn’t as mind-blowing as it should be. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely an ingredient or two away from being amazing.
The story follows Alice (Mia Wasikowska) nine years after she first went to Underland (or Wonderland as she mistook the name to be). She’s in her late teens now and is being pushed into marrying a young man she can barely stand. During her unexpected engagement party she spots a white bunny in a waist-coat holding a pocket watch. Thinking it to be a strange sight, she follows it into the woods and ends up falling down a rabbit hole and back into Underland. Believing since her first visit that Underland was only a dream she’s shocked and confused to be there and thinks she must be dreaming again.
As she gets deeper into this dark and bizarre world she meets a strange array of characters, including the aforementioned White Rabbit (voice of Michael Sheen), Cheshire Cat (voice of Stephen Fry), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas), Caterpillar (voice of Alan Rickman), the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her right-hand man Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), and the goofy Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). She’s informed that the reason she’s been brought back to Underland is to slay the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky (a dragon-like creature voiced by Christopher Lee) so that the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) can regain her power and get Underland back to the joyful place it once was.
Burton has created a visually stunning film without much of anything else. There’s no excitement to the characters or scenes of amazement. It’s actually all fairly dull for a film that looks like it should knock your socks off. Most disappointing is the studio’s decision to release this in 3-D. Unlike Avatar, which was created with the gimmick in mind from Day One, the 3-D on Alice in Wonderland was an afterthought and it completely washes out the vibrant colours the film has underneath. It’s also very blurry at times and I caught myself rubbing my eyes often.
Newcomer Wasikowska is a very talented actress who has proven her capabilities on the HBO show In Treatment. Sadly, she is not given much to work with here and comes across onscreen as very boring to watch. On the flipside is Depp, who I could barely keep up with he’s so over-the-top. Take his portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and mix it with his Pirates of the Caribbean character Jack Sparrow and his character Edward Scissorhands and then throw in a bit of his version of Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow and you’ve got the Mad Hatter. The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable with one exception — Bonham Carter. Her outrageous portrayal of the big-headed Red Queen is beautiful and she projects her malevolence in such a way that I could have watched an entire movie on her.
Alice in Wonderland is not a bad film, and if my review sounds harsh it’s only because I wanted this movie to put me in a childhood-like state and be an amazing experience the way other Burton films such as Sleepy Hollow or Mars Attacks! did. And I do recommend seeing it, just not in 3-D.
*** out of 5 stars