Thursday, 4 March 2010
FILM REVIEW: ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
On paper it must have seemed like the perfect union: the writings of Lewis Carroll and the particular filmmaking style of Tim Burton. And certainly from a visual perspective, Burton brings Carroll's classic tales of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass to 3D life.
With the trailer and film stills over the past few months, not to mention Burton's proven ability to create parallel worlds of gothic beauty and menace, that the film would look great was a given. What is surprising, and disappointing, is that dramatically, the story of Alice and her return to Underland (to give it its real name) is less successful, certainly not as engaging as one would have hoped for. And, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, that is partly due to Alice herself.
I found Alice, as portrayed by Australian actress, Mia Wasikowska, to be rather bland. That's not surprising given the eccentric and eclectic characters with whom she has to share the screen, but given that Alice has been cast here as some sort of pre-feminist saviour of Underland, she's rather anemic, although not the heroin addict that one British witic dubbed her.
Now 19 and seemingly headed for an arranged marriage, Alice seems resigned to her fate, one expected of the women of her class in late 1800s England. But she is easily distracted by thoughts of the impossible, a trait encouraged by her deceased father, so it is of little surprise that she abandons her garden engagement party in pursuit of a rabbit in a waistcoat. When she tumbles down a rabbit hole and finds herself in 'Wonderland', she believes herself to be experiencing another dream similar to the ones she's had most every night since childhood.
Alice believes her first visit to this strange land was indeed a dream. But everyone else – the white rabbit, the Cheshire cat, and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, predictably kooky) – have been awaiting her return as foretold; she is to be the champion who will slay the Jabberwocky and end the reign of the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter).
That inevitable battle is the climax to the film and seems more of a concession to the (teenage) male demographic rather than in the spirit of Lewis Carroll, or even Tim Burton. I suppose you have to give the boys a reason to follow a girl who isn't Megan Fox for 105 minutes? The 3D helps, too, but I'm finding I'm less and less of a fan of this “new” technology the more I witness it – and it's not just the imposition of the glasses.
Granted the use of 3D gives a whole new dimension to Burton's vision but it doesn't do much for the story, or poor old Alice, and that's really the point of the film in the first place, isn't it? Burton has always been about expressing his particular style, and amen to that, but never at the expense of substance.
Alice In Wonderland is not soulless filmmaking by any means, and I'd recommend you see it on the big screen. Don't go in expecting a masterpiece and your journey down the rabbit hole should prove adventurous enough.