Saturday, 28 September 2013

Film Review: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

One New Year’s Eve a few years ago there' wasn’t much on TV in the run up to Jules Holland’s Hootenanny so we ended up watching a couple of films instead. One of which was the original The Italian Job, the other was the most recent version of Alice in Wonderland. We enjoyed the latter of these two films so much that we rewatched it again a few days later, and when we went on our HMV shopping spree in Glasgow it was one of the films that we picked up.

I think that this version of Alice in Wonderland kind of goes hand in hand with Oz The Great And Powerful. They’ve got the same sort of fantastic visuals and quirky characters, so having watched Oz, it seemed fitting that we should watch Alice in Wonderland as well.

Whereas Oz is a prequel to the famous film, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is kind of a sequel to the existing Disney cartoon. This version sees Alice all grown-up and being proposed to in what is believed to be an ideal match (i.e. one which will give the family a bit of money). Alice isn’t at all happy with this arrangement and follows a white rabbit down a hole, winding up in ‘Underland’. It turns out that she’s been here before as a child, believing she had been visiting ‘Wonderland’.

It’s been foretold that an Alice will come to Underland to save them from the Red Queen, though when Alice shows up it’s not entirely clear whether she is the right Alice. Along the way we’re introduced to the Mad Hatter and the White Queen along with a host of other familiar characters from the book, as they prepare to do battle with the Jabberwocky and wait to see whether Alice will be the one who can defeat it as was foretold.

Being a Tim Burton film you can kind of count on a few things. Helena Bonham-Carter crops up (as the Red Queen), as does Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter), there’s also black and white stripes and curly trees. I’m a bit of a Tim Burton fan and I like knowing that I can rely on these familiar things. It also features newcomer (at the time) Mia Wasikowsi as Alice. There’s something about her that kind of reminds me of my cousin, which I find slightly distracting, but as now everyone will see a similarity between Alice and their cousin I doubt this is as distracting to anyone else.

I know that some people don’t like the meddling with the plot that Burton did. Basically he wasn’t satisfied that in all other adaptations Alice just seems to go from one bizarre event to another (despite this kind of being the point of the story), so he wanted to give it more of a backstory and a reason for the characters doing what they do. I’m all for keeping adaptations true to the source material, but I also don’t have any problem with keeping the book and the film separate from each other and appreciating them both in their own ways.

To look at the posters for the movie you’d think it was a film about the Mad Hatter (who does have an important role in the film, but it is pretty much all about Alice as should be expected). He kind of channels Captain Jack Sparrow being somewhat insane. Whereas Jack Sparrow’s behaviour is probably caused by syphilis, the Mad Hatter is probably suffering the effects of mercury poisoning as a result of the materials he would’ve worked with while making hats. They seem to have taken this to heart by giving him actual traits of people suffering from mercury poisoning, not to mention one pupil is slightly more dilated than the other which suggests that maybe he’s been bopped on the head.

Anne Hathaway plays the White Queen and apparently her performance is influenced by Nigella Lawson. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham-Carter’s Red Queen seems to be channelling Queenie from Blackadder. She has temper tantrums, wants to behead anyone who annoys her and behaves in general like a small child, then there’s the hair as well. You can’t help but see the parallels.

Quite a few of the characters are CG; the likes of the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar and the Jabberwocky are all voiced by familiar voices (Michael Sheen, Barbara Windsor, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman and Christopher Lee, respectively). It’s kind of fun picking them all out.

I really enjoyed watching this, and I’ll definitely watch it again now we have it on blu-ray. Plus it inspired me to reread Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which then got a mention in one of my course books, so I think that kind of counts towards study hours!

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