While I’ve never been a real fan of the original Alice in Wonderland film (having never seen it), I’m pretty familiar with the story of Alice, a young girl who drops down a rabbit hole into another world. In Wonderland, Alice discovers various creatures, befriends a few, and goes to trail with the Queen of Hearts.
In Tim Burton’s Alice, the childish joy and fantasy is completely thrown out the window and in enters something dark, at times scary, and life-threatening – the world of Underland, which sounds much less happy than “Wonderland.” But despite the innocence of the childhood fairytale disappearing, Burton’s Alice is nothing short of a visual masterpiece.
Alice in Wonderland tells the story of Alice Kingsley, a 19 year old who attends a party only to find out that it is actually her engagement party for her arranged marriage. Confused, Alice runs away and follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole into “Underland,” a world that she remembers having a nightmare about as a child. In Underland, Alice is told that she is the only one that can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon that belongs to the Red Queen.
I thoroughly commend Tim Burton’s new brilliant interpretation on Alice. Straying away from the original story that simply has a curious Alice going back and forth between various characters works out excellently for Burton; an adult Alice works better and actually presents viewers with a story that is interesting. But with an adult Alice, comes a more adult story. It didn’t take long for me to wonder why the story was rated PG. After the initial entrance into Underland, the story turns dark when the Bandersnatch, another creature belonging to the Red Queen, attacks Alice and the mood doesn’t change from there. The climax of the film also shows Alice decapitating the Jabberwocky (which was actually more terrifying than I thought it’d be). It’s safe to say that not only is this NOT a kids’ movie, but one that young children will not understand much. But on the bright side, it will be a visual treat for them.
Burton, being the visual artist that he is, delivers once again when it comes to Alice. It is an enchanting feast of color and brilliance and the Real-D touch adds a tinge of depth that any artist would appreciate. If you are a fan of Burton’s work (Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Edward Scissorhands) then you will appreciate what he does with Alice. And, of course, like most Tim Burton films, the characters are as engaging as they can be. With Burton comes the likes of top British actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, and what seems to be his favorite American actor, Johnny Depp. Each actor brings a damn near perfect portrayal of their character; Depp with The Mad Hatter and Carter with the very ill tempered Red Queen easily stand out. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice and while she delivers a nice performance, it is not a stand-out performance; she is often blank-faced and loses the curiosity and charisma that someone like Alice should have.
The climax of the film comes when Alice defeats the Jabberwocky in what is a generic but visually good battle sequence. With very rich characters, a great story, and excellent acting, it is a shame that screenwriter Linda Woolverton had to result to the typical Hollywood ending and while it’s done well (hello, it is Tim Burton we’re talking about), it leaves much to be desired.
This is not your typical Alice in Wonderland story and anyone looking for that should simply watch Disney’s 1951 version. Burton offers up a new dark and grim Alice but makes it work with the spectacular visuals and good direction.
Overall Rating: 8/10 = B-
By: Kenni Nwajagu
Contributing Editor for Gossip On This