The World According to Renee

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Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton likes making dark movies with subplots.

His Alice isn’t as expected.  He ‘re-imagines’ the classic Alice story by taking the original characters (or, as in the case of the Red Queen, amalgamated original characters) and telling a different story. Alice, aged nineteen, has returned to Wonderland after thirteen years. She’s been having dreams of Wonderland every night since childhood and doesn’t remember it actually being a place she has visited. She’s being called back to fulfil her destiny of slaying the Jabberwocky and release Wonderland from the Red Queen’s reign.

All the classic characters are present and accounted for, mostly in very different forms from other Disney-ised versions (namely the 1950’s animated version). Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter has a large role and plays it very well. Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the big-headed Red Queen. Many reviewers have issues with Mia Wasikowska as Alice, but she played her part as the airheaded, bumbling, naive girl well. Oh wait- Alice is not supposed to be any of those.

Thus lies my problem with the film. Alice isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. You’d think that after dreaming about a place for 13 years, something would click that maybe she’s not actually dreaming this time (especially as she’s poked and prodded to the point of pain by other characters).  There are massive holes in the plot. I wanted some poetry from Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I wanted some actual advice from the caterpillar. Even some vague musical numbers would be great. But no. We have a tired rendition using the same cast of people Burton’s (over)used in his last five films.  I believe I even groaned at the Danny Elfman music over the opening credits. If you’re going to reinvent a classic story, you need to add value to it, not just recreate characters to fill spots.

Alice‘s redeeming feature is the technology. Once again, CGI tries to fill the gaps left by what passes as a plot (a la Avatar). As with James Cameron’s magnum opus, technology has caught up with Burton’s creativity and vision. Perhaps the consensus is, stun the audience with visual effects and they’ll forget about plot expectations and rehashed cast.

There were elements of other fantasy movies: The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. In truth though, Alice brings nothing new to the story, adds nothing to the canon but only shows off what directors these days are capable of. Hopefully next time, Burton brings new talent to his pool to showcase what a talent he really is.

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March 7, 2010 - Posted by | Reviews

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