Movie: "Alice In Wonderland"
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Directed by: Tim Burton
Writing credits: Lewis Carol, Linda Woolverton
Plot: Nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsley is arranged to marry well-to-do Hamish Ascot, a tremendously boring fellow. After running away from her surprise engagement party, she soon finds herself back in Wonderland where the Red Queen has turned the entire place into a lifeless, oppressed wasteland. She must soon make a choice whether to compromise her pacifistic principals and fulfill her destiny to save Wonderland, or whether she will stand by and allow the Red Queen to destroy what little life is left in Wonderland.
Review: When I first saw the Mad Hatter teaser poster for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I was appalled at what has to be one of the worst character designs I have ever witnessed in my life. It's beyond ugly and hurtling well past absurd at breakneck speeds. But I had to remind myself that though the trailers for his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation looked pretty bad, I actually enjoyed the film. And Tim Burton's only truly done me wrong once (Planet of the Apes), though he did bore me with a somewhat lackluster effort on The Corpse Bride.
Still, I decided I would give Burton the benefit of the doubt and reserve judgment until I had seen the film, despite the fact that the vast majority of my friends had absolutely no interest in going along to the theater to see this movie with me. And I'm glad I gave it a chance, because it was an enjoyable, visually stunning movie, delivered with the kind of bizarrely unique flair that only Tim Burton can give.
I've seen some reviews complaining how the movie "deviates from the book", but those people are clearly missing out on the rather obvious fact that it's not based on the books, but rather based on the characters and setting (from two different books anyway). Much like the fantastic computer game American McGee's Alice, this movie takes place after the books, featuring a much older Alice making a return to Underland (as it is called in Tim Burton's version--the child Alice had simply misunderstood the name). This completely frees up Burton to tell his own story however he likes, using only the characters and setting but not being shackled to the book's plot. Enjoyable as the story was, it does seem as if screenwriter Linda Woolverton and Burton squandered some of the creative potential suggested by the setting, particularly in the rather standard fashion in which the final battle is resolved. The set pieces in the computer game were far more imaginative.
With the exception of the way-too-overdone Mad Hatter, the character design is very imaginative and lively, and everyone and everything looks pretty much exactly how you'd expect it to. The casting was brilliantly chosen, particularly for Alice herself. Young Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, aside from having a tremendously fun name to say, put forth a very impressive performance, and I suspect we'll be seeing her in many more prominent roles in the near future. Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway flawlessly inhabit the roles of the Red and White Queens (the Red Queen being an amalgam of that character and the Queen of Hearts), though I was a little disappointed about how I felt they under-utilized the freakishly brilliant Crispin Glover. He's good when he's on screen, but I wish his role had been bigger. Despite Depp looking like a retarded doe-eyed clown, he's decent enough as the Hatter, though the bits where he suddenly spoke with a slight Scottish accent kind of threw me off a bit. Matt Lucas was perfect for Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the voice acting by Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, and Alan Rickman was extremely well suited to their characters.
It's by no means among Burton's best films, but it's visually interesting enough that it's definitely worth checking out for the eye candy alone. Danny Elfman's score is just icing on the cake, but a movie with popping visuals like this one definitely needs to be seen on the big screen.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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