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Alice in Wonderland

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    Posted: Mar-02-2015 at 7:14am
Alice in Wonderland (2010), Rated "PG"
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry
Directed by Tim Burton
Review by S. J. Higbee
Rating (2.5/5): 

Hard on the heels of Avatar, I decided to watch this 3D film on the big screen, rather than at home. Directed by Tim Burton, it is a visually luscious affair with a stellar cast. The great and the good of Britain?s acting profession are there; in addition to the stars, there is also the likes of Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Christopher Fry and Paul Whitehouse ? all of whom are highly accomplished actors, in addition to being household names.

The premise is interesting--Alice is now nineteen years old and accidentally returns to Underland (misheard by Alice and believed to be called Wonderland), a place she visited thirteen years previously. She is told that she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen who terrorizes Underland's inhabitants. The film uses characters introduced in Carroll?s books, "Alice?s Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass". 

First, the good news. If you watch this film, you are in for a visual treat. It cannot be faulted for the richness and attention to detail that has been lavished on the sets and Lewis Carroll?s peculiar characters. As with Avatar, the 3D effect has been used with restraint and intelligence to give extra depth, rather than going for 'poke in the eye' tricks. As you might expect with Burton at the helm, the cinematography is superb and for Lewis Carroll fans, I think that he has captured the essence of many of the characters. I particularly liked the wonderful Cheshire Cat. 

The acting is also first-class. Wasikowska makes a beguiling Alice, and Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter is a wonderfully nuanced character, as you'd expect. However, Helena Bonham Carter's performance as Red Queen steals the film for me. Bonham Carter is superb at depicting dark madness--think of her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series. Apparently, she based her Red Queen character on her toddler-aged daughter. The rages and complete focus on getting her own way are amusing and scary by turns and making her head three times its normal size was a stroke of genius.

So far so good. However, there is a But. Several, actually? The film starts off in 'real life'. Alice is getting engaged. This was a wonderful opportunity to depict her prospective life as a strait-laced Victorian wife in sepia drabness, highlighting the wonderful special effects and vividness of Wonderland. An opportunity completely missed. The 'real life' settings are far too whimsical, appearing to be little different in tone and feel to Wonderland, while the ending is plain silly--which after all the attention and expense lavished on this film, was annoyingly disappointing.

There were instances where the film pulled me in--the sequences when Alice grew and shrank, the Red Queen's court and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party for instance. Overall, though, I found the script disappointingly thin and the story line was drearily predictable from about a third of the way into the film. 

There are many films where I would have settled for a visual feast, knowing in advance that sharp dialogue and a genuinely exciting story line weren't on offer. However, I'd walked into the cinema hoping and expecting to see a great version of Carroll's classic books, and ended up watching an averagely good film.

Edited by SFReader - Jul-08-2016 at 8:16am
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