‘Alice in Wonderland’ | My review

Down with the bloody Red Queen! Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland (opening in theatres today) is one of the best live-action releases from Walt Disney Pictures in years. This dark, grown-up ‘Alice’, a hybrid sequel/retelling of the stories by Lewis Carroll, is a natural blockbuster with possible franchise potential for Disney. And this comes from someone who is decidedly not a fan of Burton’s previous works.

Cast members Mia Wasikowska (Alice), Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter), and Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen) do well in particular, adding depth to each of their characters. Anne Hathaway gets surprisingly little screen time as the kooky White Queen, probably a good thing story-wise.

Take Depp. His Mad Hatter is not the silly, goofy hatter from Walt Disney’s 1951 animated Alice in Wonderland or from the illustrations accompanying the original books. This Mad Hatter is insane, presumably from inhaling all those mercury vapors, coupled with losing his ability to ply his trade for his favorite patron, the White Queen. He exhibits a combination of bi-polar, schizophrenic, and post-traumatic stress disorder characteristics. This makes the him realistic, multifaceted, and really sympathetic, all without losing the humor, somehow.

Wasikowska, definitely one of the new people to watch in Hollywood, eschews made-up fakery, bringing a real 20-year-old woman to the role instead. An excellent casting choice all around, with appeal to the young female audience in particular. Also, I can’t be the only male nerd to find the Australian-born actress subtly sexy.

While I’m thinking aloud, I do have some serious criticisms of some of the aspects of the film. Among these, the White Rabbit and Dormouse are a diversion from the realism of the rest of the characters, even the other computer-generated ones like Absolem the smoking caterpillar. They appear very CG —very “animated”— and the Dormouse’s voice is classic cartoon and just a bit annoying. “It’s the WRONG ALICE!” “It’s the WRONG ALICE!”

The film could also have been made less dark, both figuratively and literally: Figuratively, the heads-in-the-moat scenes were rather excessive and appear to have been thrown in there to ensure that ‘Alice’ wouldn’t get a G rating. It would have been smarter to trade that for more intense action. Literally, a brighter color palette could have been used from time to time in the film. Oh, and the shortened Walt Disney Pictures intro sans the “When You Wish Upon A Star” intro was an unfortunate choice. Still, none of these things came close to ruining the movie for me.

My friend and movie-reviewing “assistant-for-the-day” Jarreth, who watches way more movies than I do, came away from the film muttering “spectacular” and “excellent”. ‘Alice’ “surpassed his expectations”, although we disagree on whether or not it was it was better than Avatar, the last 3-D epic we saw together. He enjoyed Avatar more, while the more I think about it, the better ‘Alice’ was in comparison to Avatar.

We both agree that the digital 3-D was excellent, particularly since we were forced to sit very close to the screen, something I’ll be doing again at 3-D movies. Unlike Avatar, ‘Alice’ could stand well on it’s own without the 3-D, but it does benefit from the added dimension.

It’s interesting to note that the 3-D in ‘Alice’ was achieved in post-production, unlike Avatar which was filmed natively in 3-D. James Cameron appears to have wasted his resources filming in 3-D. Director Burton was right when he recently told the New York Times: “When I saw the difference and looked at the time frame we had to do this movie, it didn’t make sense to do it [with 3-D cameras]”.

3-D or not, Alice in Wonderland is a very weird, fun movie, as visually impressive as you’d expect it to be. It sure has its faults, but why focus on that? Don’t be late!

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About Mike Bastoli

Mike Bastoli has been blogging at The Disney Blog since 2009. Until 2011, he covered Pixar Animation Studios on his own website, The Pixar Blog, which became one of the most popular on the Web dedicated to Pixar news, the New York Times calling it the “definitive unofficial chronicler of the animation powerhouse". In 2011, Mike expanded his coverage to the entire world of feature animation, renaming his site Big Screen Animation. He retired Big Screen Animation in 2014 and is considering future writing opportunities. Besides Disney, Mike is an avid fan of Apple and The Beatles. He resides near Toronto.
This entry was posted in Film, Movies, Tim Burton, Walt Disney Pictures and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ | My review

  1. Themeperks says:

    Actually, I enjoyed Avatar much more in 2D than 3D. I don’t think any good story needs a gimmick, and that’s what 3D is.

  2. Guest author @the_pixar_blog has posted his Alice and Wonderland Review http://ow.ly/1eCsi – Also new Alice merch – http://ow.ly/1eCta

  3. J says:

    53% on RottenTomatoes. =(

    I’m still looking forward to it. But it seems if it isn’t Animated, Disney seems to be on a long stretch of poorly reviewed movies.

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  6. Lori says:

    The movie was AWESOME!!! That’s all….

  7. james says:

    I am a 37 year old man who went and saw Alice with my wife because she wanted to see it. I am no big fan of Burton, but I liked the move. Alice and Red Queen were great. White Queen and a lot of the landscape looked like The Lord of the Rings. Other parts looked like Harry Potter. I also did not understand the faces in the moat. The movie was better than expected, not as strange as expected.

    • j bihary says:

      My husband and I saw this movie yesterday and liked it.Most of Tim Burton’s we do not care for.But this one was pretty good,especially in 3D.It had meaning to it too.I recommend to see it.

  8. JayMonster says:

    I am NOT an Alice In Wonderland fan, both my wife and daughter are. I AM a Burton fan, my wife is not, my daughter’s only experience is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and she LOVED that.

    We thought perhaps we could find some middle ground in this movie, and actually… we did. We all HATED it.

    Over Dark, Over produced, over acted (in many cases)… I expect this to have a quick and severe drop off after the initial week as word gets out, and to die a painful death from there.

    I won’t be critical of the actors/actresses in the film, as they are all good, and I presume fit the “vision” that Burton gave them… I just plain didn’t like it. My daughter (remember a HUGE fan of Alice) called it “Nauseating” and “Disturbing.”

  9. assa says:

    I liked it But its a inaccurate. The Red Queen is NOT the Queen of Hearts and in the books Queen of Hearts is Alice In Wonderland and Red Queen is Through The Looking Glass. And the Gryphon reveals to Alice that nobody is ever actually beheaded.

  10. assa says:

    I guess in that time that could’ve changed and the Queen actually started beheading people especially if she beheaded the King (since the book says he pardoned most people sentenced to be beheaded). That makes the heads in the moat important. To anyone whose read the books this shows that heads are now rolling even if they weren’t before.

  11. Tim Lenz says:

    i really enjoyed it, and had very few qualms with it. i’d definitely go back to see it again, but on a different screen.

    as far as it being too dark (light-wise, not tone-wise), the 3-D glasses necessarily dim the image somewhat, so maybe they just didn’t compensate for that enough in post-production. my guess is that when it’s released on home video, you’ll see that it’s actually brighter than you remember it.

    as a side note, would it be possibly to include the “posted by” information on the disney blog rss feed? there seems to be a few different major authors around here, and it’d be nice to be able to keep track of who’s posting what without having to always visit the actual page.

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