Alice in Wonderland (2010)
|Genre(s): Adventure / Family / Fantasy|
|Disney || PG - 109 minutes - $29.99 || June 1, 2010|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-05-24|
Writer(s): Lewis Carroll (books); Linda Woolverton (screenplay)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska
Theatrical Release Date: March 5, 2010
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My first Tim Burton movie was back in 1989 with the mega-blockbuster, Batman. Even at the age of 8, I knew he had his own unique visual flair unmatched by anyone else and I’d say that no one else would even want to try (the only one coming close might be Guillermo del Toro). Yet, despite his talents with the weird and unique, he’s had a few bumps in the road amongst some masterpieces.
In his latest, Burton tackles a literature and animated classic with Alice in Wonderland which, from my understanding, is based mostly on the novel’s follow-up, “Through the Looking Glass”. The story opens up with a young Alice explaining her dream to her visionary and entrepreneurial father and after a brief father-daughter conversation, we leap forward 13 years with a now 20 year old Alice (MIA WASIKOWSKA) going to a party that, unbeknownst to her, is in fact an engagement party where a man of royalty, is to propose to her in front of friends and family.
Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, Alice runs off without giving an answer. She wanders off into the woods where she follows a rabbit and, well you know the story, down the rabbit hole Alice goes falling for miles until she lands inside a room with no unlocked doors. And then a key mysteriously appears, a key that only opens a tiny door in which she cannot fit through. Unsure what to do, she then discovers a vile of liquid and upon drinking shrinks her down to size and through the door she goes.
Inside Wonderland she encounters many creatures, most of whom already know her but through her journey, she only believes this is one of her dreams, an idea that only becomes stronger when she meets the Mad Hatter (JOHNNY DEPP) who explains to her the situation and the purpose of her visit: to defeat the Red Queen (HELENA BONHAM CARTER) and her vicious creature (briefly voiced by CHRISTOPHER LEE). The rest of the movie shows off more of the wonderment of this land, its creatures and the perils the Red Queen has bestowed on much of the land except for one region controlled by the White Queen (ANNE HATHAWAY).
As with most of Tim Burton’s films, he might bring a masterpiece of a picture (see: Batman or Edward Scissorhands), but he is also a little inconsistent (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes comes to mind). However, you cannot argue he is somewhat of a mad genius willing to take chances, trying different genres including his last movie before Alice, Sweeney Todd, a film I didn’t care much for but know plenty who loved it. In regards to Alice in Wonderland, it is more on par with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not because it takes on a classic book but he brings his... uniqueness to the film that may or may not reach the audience.
Another similarity between Alice and Charlie is the yet again pairing with Johnny Depp and a strange angle on the Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka characters respectively. With Alice in Wonderland, however, I had even less connection with his Mad Hatter than I did with Depp’s Michael Jackson inspired Willy Wonka character. I understand what Depp and Burton were after in this interpretation of Hatter and in a strange way, it makes sense, but I wonder if that’s only on paper and in reality, it never quite works. It’s not because the character is or isn’t strange enough since in Wonderland the Hatter should be more than a bit off but the fact is be it Depp’s or Burton’s faults, the character neither endearing or very funny, in fact I found him annoyingly unfunny than anything else.
Then you have a supporting cast that is equally bizarre, but not in a Tim Burton good kind of way either. First is Helena Bonham Carter playing the Red Queen with a one note screech that comes off as, like the Hatter, annoying than sinister or evil. Then you get the lovely Anne Hathaway playing a flakey White Queen that only makes sense AFTER you watch the featurette on her character and why she’s portrayed that way; but taken at face value, it’s a strange performance that never is very effective.
I guess if there was one shining portrayal it would be the young Mia Wasikowska who plays the part of Alice well enough despite the other obstacles from the story to the aforementioned supporting roles and performances. Wasikowska looks the part and is able to convey some emotions but at times it did feel uneven or perplexing as she doesn’t have the amazement of seeing something like, oh I don’t know, a smoking and talking caterpillar. But that’s just me. Yes, I know when she was younger she had been there before, but given she can’t remember it, one would think she’d be more astonished with the environment around her, even if she thought she was dreaming. In any case, I place the blame squarely on the director as it is up to him to determine her level of amazement.
Overall, Alice in Wonderland has all the technical achievements to be a great and memorable Tim Burton movie that we come to know and respect. The visual effects look great, the voice talent is good... unfortunately the story failed to do anything for me and the performances are all around too strange to either be funny or endearing.
Finding Alice (5:25) – Cast and Crew (including Depp, Burton and Hathaway) explore why the “Alice in Wonderland” books was a good match for Tim Burton’s vision and goes through adapting the character into his world. It also takes a look at young actress Mia Wasikowska and how she embodied the character so well; as well as the costumes for Alice.
The Mad Hatter (6:02) – This featurette takes a look at Tim Burton’s and Johnny Depp’s vision for the Mad Hatter and how they came up with this adaptation, and it was an equal vision between the two. It also goes into the make-up and costume designs for the character as well.
Effecting Wonderland (6:53) takes a look at the use of green screen, visual effects and motion capture for the movie. As strange as the movie might look, seeing it done in front of a green screen is even stranger... I will admit, the work the visual effects crew did was quite impressive.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Alice in Wonderland is presented on DVD with a 1.78 aspect ratio while theatrically it was 1.85 and for IMAX, 1.44. I must admit, this is one of the better looking DVD’s that I’ve come across in quite a while. Outside of some softness early on and within the ‘real world’, once Alice goes down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, things are fairly well detailed and colors, as muted as they are with a Tim Burton directed projected, comes across the screen nicely. Obviously I would recommend the Blu-ray as that looks amazing, but if you haven’t switched over, you can’t go wrong with the video on the DVD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t the strongest as at times it’s a little quiet (by design I think) but once Danny Elfman’s score revs up, the track goes into gear with a good dynamic range between the sound effects and dialogue levels.
Sadly, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland doesn’t deliver outside of some great looking visuals and his knack for the strange and bizarre, but like even the best of Burton’s films, the characters are rarely compelling and often one-dimensional.
However, if you did happen to like the movie, the DVD does pass in both the video and audio departments while getting a failing grade with the features.
Please note that the images came from the Blu-ray release.