A doorknob once said, “Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.” I guess Tim Burton skipped this part of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as he decided not to read the directions of the children’s favourite when making his own film adaptation of it. Alas, it was not directed in the right direction, and turned into a style-over-substance pile of crap. Dumbass.
Burton’s Alice in Wonderland does not follow the original narrative of Carroll’s beloved classic, and in a way serves as a sequel….to the book. Uh, yeah Tim, that’ll work, won’t it? A movie sequel to a novel. It’s like making Moby Dick 2, without basing it on any of the Moby Dick movie adaptations. Why didn’t you simply recreate the happenstances of the original book instead of just making a sequel? Or at least make a movie for this to be a sequel to. Jesus, man.
Anyway, the movie starts off with a 6 year old Alice (Mairi Ella Challen) describing her adventures in the magial world of Wonderland to her father. Cut to 13 years later, and Alice (Mia Wasikowska), who appears to be a 19th century emo, has forgotten her wondrous adventures, assuming they were a simple childhood dream. We watch Alice as she attends a party at an estate, which is revealed to be an engagement party, and she is to be asked for her hand in marriage by some snotty upper-class bastard (Leo Bill). However, his proposal goes unanswered and Alice runs off and chases a rabbit down a rabbit hole. As you do. Time for some big motherfucking special effects and things placed simply to poke you in the eye once you put your 3D glasses on.
Turns out the inhabitants of Wonderland remember Alice from her first visit, yet proclaim that she is the “wrong Alice.” Our rather bewildered hero then discovers she is prophesied to slay the monster Jabberwocky, which belongs to the wicked Red Queen (a marvellous Helena Bonham Carter, who is one of the few highlights of the movie).
And so, Alice is off on another adventure (where the fuck was the first one?), coming across familiar characters such as The Mad Hatter (rather oddly played by Burton regular Johnny Depp) and The Cheshire Cat (voiced by the always brilliant Stephen Fry).
Over recent years, Burton has been adapting or re-imagining books and movies which are all well-known to the general public, applying his own unique and quirky style to them. Sometimes it works (Sweeney Todd, Batman) and sometimes it doesn’t (Planet of the Apes, this). Alice in Wonderland just doesn’t seem to fit right, as it is not remembered as a creepy or gothic novel, which are typical of Burton’s work, although it’s quirky as hell. Burton’s style just comes across as odd in this, which is especially true for Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas), who are so weird-looking I was actually completely freaked out by them as I watched them on-screen. His performance is decent, but one cannot ignore how freakish the two twins look. No offence to him.
Similarly, Depp’s portrayal of The Mad Hatter is, umm, interesting, but again it’s just weird for the sake of it. His manic ginger hair and overall bizarre appearance is also a bit off-putting. However, Helena Bonham Carter shines as the Red Queen, giving a memorable performance as an attention seeking, big-headed (literally), adult toddler. She glides on-screen, giving a cold stare to a bunch of shit-scared frogs, easily winning the best performance in the film. In contrast, Mia Wasikowska gives a rather dim and unmemorable performance as Alice. Her portrayal of a girl thrown into a familiar, yet unfamiliar world isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t really have much of an impact, which sucks as she’s the goddamn main character.
However, the cast is massively overshadowed by the spectacular special effects. The movie has a fantastic visual style, as would be necessary for an Alice in Wonderland adaptation, and I have to admit, the special effects did impress me. This is especially true for the little toad creatures who work for the Red Queen, which I raised both my eyebrows in awe of. In fact, pretty much every creature is brilliantly animated and comes to life in magnificent fashion. Also, the 3D is put to good use, enhancing the magnificent feel of Wonderland (or Underland, as it’s pointlessly renamed, kinda pissing on Lewis Carroll’s gravestone).
But good special effects do not a good movie make, and although Burton’s Alice in Wonderland boasts a big budget, it is lacking in the writing department. Linda Woolverton’s script may contain many elements from Carroll’s book, but other than that, the movie’s writing is forgettable, not having any real spark to it.
Is this a terrible movie? No. Is this a good movie? Not quite. It just doesn’t work as well as it should have, and as a fan of Burton, I was disappointed. It’s a visually stunning mess, with forgettable writing and an overall feeling of “meh.” Kids will love it though. But kids are retarded.
Five Outta Ten.