Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – A Review

I recently saw an internet viral film spoofing the works of Tim Burton. In it, “Burton” tells how the studio wants to make a new movie. His employees sit up with excitement and ask will it be something original? “No” Burton retorts. “We’re going to take a creepy old story and make it even creepier…get me Johnny Depp and my wife on the phone!”. “I can’t not do that”, sighs a disgruntled employee.

 

Rather than being revered and heralded as one of the all time greats, it seems that in recent years Tim Burton has become more of a laughing stock and his visions have fallen below par from his usual high standards. If there was ever a film that Burton was destined to make, it was Alice in Wonderland. With it’s alienated main character and surreal world, it seemed like Tim Burton would rise to the top of his game once again.

 

The film follows Alice 13 years on from her last adventure. And while she has some recollection of those events, she merely dismisses them as dreams and her own sense of fun.

 

While she is faced with the prospect of marriage, Alice is summoned back to Wonderland as all her old acquaintances such as The Hatter (Johnny Depp) the Tweedles (Matt Lucas) Mouse (Barbara Windsor) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) need help defeating the evil Red Queen, played by the brilliant Helena Bonham Carter.

 

As you would expect, the world of wonderland is vibrantly alive with the amazing visions of Tim Burton. The sets are dark and brooding and the character design is fantastic. The Red Queen is particularly good with her bulbus head and over the top mannerisms.

 

Some of the animation is excellent too. I thought the motion capture and animation of their mouths was like nothing I had seen before. The way they spoke was so lifelike, it was unreal.

 

While all this was initially a joy to look at, unfortunately these were the only things to get me excited in a 2-hour-plus film. The rest of it just lacked that certain spark.

 

Take Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter for example. Whereas most of the characters had some kind of physical manipulation, he was “normal” which simply gave him the appearance of a disheveled circus clown. And his accent ranged from John Leguizamo’s Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge and an angry version of his J.M Barrie in Finding Neverland. All things that we have seen and heard him do before. And there in lies the films biggest problem. It feels like we’ve simply seen…it…all…before.

 

Johnny Depp is wacky, the trees curl like fingers, the colours are vivid and the music is orchestral, but i never felt fully engaged enough to care. Mia Wasikowska’s Alice is not a particularly likeable character and plays her with no emotion or feeling whatsoever. Maybe she focused so hard on her English accent, she forgot about portraying her emotions.However, like I stated earlier, Bonham-Carter’s Red Queen is excellent and I really enjoyed Hathaway’s White Queen and some of the other supporting cast.

 

Alice in Wonderland is a dazzling vision from one of the most innovative directors working today. At times it dazzles and wonders, while at others it leaves you feeling deflated, bored and like you’re watching a repeat of some of his previous works. You keep waiting for something to invigorate the experience or to be lost in the next big set piece. Before you go to see Wonderland, maybe it is wise to keep in mind that the film is distributed by Disney and is rated PG. So I doubt it will be as dark and as brooding as some Tim Burton fans had hoped. For some, this film might not be Tim Burton enough to satisfy the die-hard fans, but for some relatively unfamiliar with him and the story of Alice, it might be a welcome introduction.

Categories: Film, Reviews

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