Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Director: Tim Burton (2010)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, Some Girl. Johnny Depp
Find it online: IMDB

Tim Burton's shonkiest movie since Planet of the Apes. And I'd probably rather watch that than I would Alice in Wonderland again. Ultimately, this movie is saved only by some half-amusing visuals and good performances from talented actors.

First off, and most notably, Burton's Alice in Wonderland is not an adaptation of the book by Lewis Carroll. It's a completely independent sequel, and is a bit like Hook in this respect. It's less shmaltzy, and not quite as good - but it follows the template as set by Spielberg pretty rigidly; Alice has all growed up, and forgotten about her adventures in Wonderland. She's on the verge of marriage, at a Pride and Prejudice style social occasion, when she notices the White Rabbit, dashing about in typical hyperactive style. Alice runs off and falls down a rabbit hole; back into Wonderland. Here she is dragged into a battle between good and evil - and must face off against her old foe, the Red Queen. But first she must rediscover herself, and remember just who she is. And then, because poetry is proper boring, she has to dress up in a suit of armour and defeat the evil Jabberwocky. Just writing that shit makes my brain leak.

As an avid fan of Burton, Depp and a scholar (well, I read it) of Carroll's original novel, I really did want Alice in Wonderland to work. But alas, right from the get-go, I knew it'd probably disappoint. Early trailers suggested an overreliance on Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter - who, incidentally, does nothing for me in this movie. The makeup is atrocious, and Depp's performance is like a dodgy mix of his most popular characters to date - there's Sweeney Todd's psychopathic side, Jack Sparrow's bohemian flouncing and a dash of Willy Wonka's quiet sad craziness. Dare I say it, it's wearing a bit thin, and every moment Depp is onscreen, I found myself cringing. They should've just called it Johnny Depp in Wonderland and have done with it.

Most everyone else does fine. Exceptional, even, when you consider the poor quality of the material they've been dealt. As Alice, Mia Wasikowska is good, if underused. Matt Lucas is fantastic as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whilst Alan Rickman plays Alan Rickman (not a criticism) as only Alan Rickman can (this time disguised as a CGI caterpillar). Babs Windsor is annoying as a doormouse, whilst Stephen Fry is his usual engaging self as the Cheshire Cat. More of that and less of Depp would've been nice. Anne Hathaway somehow manages to out-Depp Johnny Depp with a peculiar, flouncy little role as the White Queen. It's odd, but it works. And she's got a cute little Lady Gaga vibe going on, which I dig. Top marks, however, must go to Helena Bonham Carter, who puts in a right nutty show as the Red Queen. She's the movie's trump card, and every moment she's onscreen is a more bearable one.

Everything else, though, is utterly shoddy. The CGI veers between horrible (the scene in which Alice falls down the rabbit hole stinks), bearable (the Jabberwocky fight) to really good (Tweedledum and 'Dee/The Queen of Hearts look excellent) although it never really gels. Alice in Wonderland rarely feels like a Tim Burton movie - but always feels like a substandard mess.

Worst thing about the movie, hands down, is the atrocious plot. The joy of Carroll's original work is in its relative formlessness. All this has been replaced here, with a shockingly bad Narnia-esque fight between Good and Evil, complete with dragons, suits of armour and um, fight scenes with the Mad Hatter. The finale is amongst the worst I've seen in recent years. It speaks volumes that one character says "enough talking" during the ultimate showdown. Anyone who's even remotely aware of Carroll's original work will know that there's no such thing as too much bloody talking. The original Alice books, whilst relatively formless, revelled in their use of language, poetry, nonsense and rhythm. Here, the script's only flashes of competence arise only occasionally from a titbit of Carroll's original prose.

Alice in Wonderland is an unforgiveable mess made by people who should've known better. It's probably not as bad as I've made it sound, but it really is an exercise in missing the point. It's a pointless, lazy, even boring movie that no-one involved seemed to really give a shit about.

1 comment:

  1. Actually loved it, but found you skillfully explained your problems with it.
    Great post.