By Fred Topel | Image property of Walt Disney Pictures
Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter
Alice in Wonderland is a stream of consciousness collection of magical encounters and whimsical characters. There is a plot if you want to try to follow it, but it doesn’t seem important to enjoying the experience.
Review: Alice in Wonderland
Burton can still come up with fascinating sets, characters and creatures. Realistic frog men, fish men, talking dogs and horses are more convincing than any talking animal comedy I’ve ever seen.
The story is some convoluted fantasy plot that makes this a sequel. Alice returns to a dystopian Wonderland and there’s a prophecy about her that climaxes in a battle with the Jabberwocky. Actually, I’m sort of guessing about that too. I don’t actually understand but it seems like fairly generic fantasy, but it’s magical and whimsical in every scene.
Alice is shrunken for a lot of the movie, so it’s Lil Alice. I guess she’s giant for just as much time, but I don’t remember the size thing being that pervasive in the book. This is a new take of course, but they seem unusually obsessed with the size gimmick. It does show off the scale of Alice proportionate to other characters at different sizes.
The creatures interact with the actors as well as puppets do. There’s a rough connection between them, but I’d rather see CGI mimic the flaws of practical than create some so-called perfection that doesn’t look right anyway.
I love the fun they have with the language. Their made up words are much better than that muggle and quidditch crap from other movies. I guess they’re going back to literary classics, but I even like turning “much” into an adjective. I hope to become muchier in my own life.
There are actually a few scenes where you can take the glasses off and see clearly. As long as the characters are in close-up, there’s no blurring. I’d rather watch the film that way. One 3-D shot I did like was when a water drop twists a section of the screen while the rest of it remains straightforward point of view. That’s a cool effect.
James Cameron was right about the 3-D. He said you have to shoot in 3-D to begin with and Burton said he couldn’t tell the difference between that and just converting 2-D to 3-D. So the 3-D looks like artificial layers of flat elements. It’s good for conveying the differences in scale, as Alice appears in all different sizes, but the shortcut didn’t work. I’ll actually look forward to the DVD version of Alice in Wonderland where I can just watch the normal film without the glasses.
The film opens as a period costume drama which I couldn’t be any less interested in. Even as a brief prologue, it’s so boring. I get that Tim Burton scoffs at this culture, but that world is still boring.
My biggest comparison for this movie is Labyrinth. That is my favorite movie, along with the perfection of Toy Story 2, and Alice achieves a magical whimsy akin to my Jim Henson favorite. When the flamingo apologizes to the gerbil on the croquet field, that’s the kind of reality I love to see in my fantasy worlds.