Alice in Wonderland

Brought to you by OBS staff member Karolina

Rating:  Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.

Running time: 108 min

Directed by: Tim Burton

Warning – Slight Plot Spoilers in this Review!

Review: The movie begins with a young Alice Kingsleigh, waking up and seeking out her father(who is in a business meeting) after a ‘dream’. As he puts her to bed, she relays some of the fantastical things that she dreams, and her worry that she is going mad. Her father reassures her with “You’re mad, bonkers … but I’ll tell you a secret: All the best people are.”

The story then jumps about 13 years forward, and Alice is a beautiful young woman (played by Mia Wasikowska) who is about 19 years old. Her beloved father has just passed away, and she is on her way with her mother to visit the Ascot family at their Victorian Estate – as Lord Ascot is now in charge of Alice’s Father’s business. Alice’s mother and Lord Ascot have a quick conversation where he promises to keep the business true to Alice’s Father’s vision.

Meanwhile, Alice awkwardly flits in and out of society’s elite, only to find out that one reason that her family was invited to the Ascots’ that day was so that Hamish, Lord Ascot’s snobbish and socially awkward son, wishes to propose to Alice. Luckily for Alice, she is distracted from the seriousness of this, not only by her sister Margaret – her cheating husband – but also by a very familiar white furry friend from her ‘dreams’ as a child. Alice interrupts Hamish’s forced and very public proposal by running after a rabbit in trench coat – and down the rabbit hole she goes.

This movie is very much a mixing of old and new. The old, beloved characters of Lewis Caroll’s ‘Wonderland’ become the inhabitants ‘Underland’. Characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (such as the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat) and characters from ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Jabberwocky) are pretty much unchanged in their behaviour. The Red Queen – while very similar in temperament to her literary counterpart, is different in look, with a massive, bulbous head (not only is she giant, she has also got a giant head). The Knave of Hearts is a little more sinister. The White Queen is a little quirkier than in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and the biggest change is in the character of the Mad Hatter. He’s not ‘crazy’ in this movie, at least – not like he was in the books- he is more damaged, and mostly by the Red Queen’s tyranny over the land. Both he and the Cheshire Cat are Alice’s biggest allies to fulfil her destiny in this movie. There are new characters added as well, such as Bayard the bloodhound, who is loyal to the White Queen, but being blackmailed to work for the Red Queen who has his family- and a minor character form Lewis Caroll’s poem ‘The Jabberwocky’ – the Bandersnatch plays a substantial part in this movie. In Tim Burton’s version, the beloved characters receive names; Absolem for the Caterpillar, Iracebeth – the red queen, Mirana – the White queen and so on and so forth. While Alice – who had been brought back by the White Rabbit to save Underland from the Red Queen by killing the Jabberwocky on Frabjous Day – has to decide whether is is THE Alice or not. There are some fantastic literary moments with Alice quoting the White Queen when she says that she sometimes believes six impossible things before breakfast, and she murmurs ‘curiouser and curiouser’ when first in the room that will lead her into Wonderland. Also the first time you see the caterpillar, he opens with the classic line ‘ Who are you?’. To add to the new, there’s also a lovely moment where Alice quotes her father about all the best people being bonkers to the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp is great as the one minute silly, the next minute brooding [and SCOTTISH! Guh!] Mad Hatter). The movie slowly weaves itself into an almost seamless tapestry of new and old as Alice slowly discovers that she is THE Alice – but still herself – and faces her destiny and fights for her friends, who were always more real than she could have imagined. Alice blossoms throughout the movie, and comes out the other side as a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants, and, with the help of her father’s friend Lord Ascot, and she sails towards her future with a transformed Absolem butterfly by her side.

The cast in this movie is amazing – Mia Wasikowska is suited as the befuddled but strong willed 19 year old Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Cheshire Cat (who I could NOT get enough of!!) voiced by the great Stephen Fry, Bayard the dog voiced by Timothy Spall, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, Alan Rickman is perfect as the voice of the Caterpillar, Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare (SPOON!), Matt Lucas as the Tweedle Twins, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky, the great Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter … I could go on and on and on. Every one played their part wonderfully and added a new dimension to their character – Tim Burton really knows how to pull a fabulous cast together and make them work brilliantly.

Visually, this film is great too – wonderful colours throughout Underland each scene having the right feel and lighting and colouring etc to suit the mood, for me- and the computer work and CGI was so wonderful to watch, too.

There were a points for me that didn’t make this a perfect movie – and I’m sure that some of these points are not going to be met with agreement
1. I am a huge Tim Burton fan – I love his work. However – this was a little too trademark Tim Burton for me. I know, that sounds strange. Let me see if I can explain myself. Obviously there are going to be certain characteristics to a movie that makes it a certain director or writer’s work. However, once something starts becoming a bit predictable, it loses its’ shine for me. I guess I was hoping for a little more subtlety in this movie.
2. I said before that the movie weaves itself into an ALMOST seamless tapestry of old and new. There were parts of the movie that seemed a little bit clunky to me – like when Alice finds herself in the room with the ‘drink me’ bottle and ‘eat me’ cake. I definitely (like the characters of Underland) felt like sighing and saying ‘Hasn’t she been here before??’
3. A little nitpicky thing (okay, two) – the dormouse being quite hyperactive didn’t work for me. I missed the sleepy dormouse. And the second nitpicky thing was the fact that I saw it in 3D – but , that one was my choice.

All in all; a really lovely film about growing up -still believing in fantasy and ‘six impossible things before breakfast’ , but incorporating that into your life, making it something new, and taking it on your journey into the unknown.

Rating: 8 /10 stars