Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Linda Wolverhampton(screenplay), Lewis Carroll
Produced by: Tim Burton, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Joe Roth, Richard D. Zanuck
Starring: Mia Malinowski, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonhomie Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crisping Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry
Run Time: 108 min
Most of us remember the old Disney version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland from the simpler time when we were much younger and for most people it would difficult to picture the story in any other way then that early animated version. When I saw the ads for the new version, directed by Tim Burton, I was openly bothered with the bill board sized pictures of Johnny Depp as the mad hatter and the overly large balloon head of the red queen which to me at least, was as annoying as a festering mosquito bite that I couldn’t scratch. Honestly, I didn’t want to see this movie from the moment I saw the first advertisement.
For those people who’ve lived under a rock for the last 100 years and don’t know the basic story; Alice in Wonderland follows a young English girl through a psychedelic underworld after she falls down a magical rabbit hole. The underworld is full of strange and curious creatures, like the Cheshire Cat, waging a war between the good white queen and the evil red queen who currently rules over wonderland with an iron fist. The story itself is simple enough but what makes it unique is that the characters and world in which it takes place are a mixture of a fairy tale crossed with a hefty dose of hallucinogens.
This movie is everything you’d expect if you mixed the Alice in Wonderland with the direction style of Tim Burton. The imagery is extremely dark and twisted like in all of Burton’s movies but he still managed to keep the innocent Disney feeling that the Alice character should personify to the audience. Burton is quite possibly the only modern director who could attempt to make Alice in Wonderland and make it work.
Alice in Wonderland features an all star cast who are, quite frankly, amazing at what they do. Mia Wasikowska, who isn’t well known compared to the rest of the cast, delivered a stunning lead performance as the innocent and pure Alice. Johnny Depp, who has always excelled at playing eccentric characters, was the perfect fit as the Mad Hatter and one can’t forget Helena Carter as the Red Queen.
One big problem with the movie is that character and set design relied heavily on the inconsistent quality of the computer animation. Sometimes the animation was done extremely well and other times I couldn’t ignore the way the characters looked which left me debating their artistic merit rather than suspending my disbelief and enjoying the story. On the other hand, I was surprised that I was able to enjoy the hated Red Queen, giant head and all, even though my first impression of her from the advertising had made her the bane of my small world.
Does Alice in Wonderland live up to the legacy of the earlier animated movie? No. The first Alice in Wonderland was a movie that could be watched by anyone, especially children, but this version left me struggling with the question of whether a younger audience or even someone who wasn’t a fan of the story could enjoy it. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland seems as if it was made for those hardcore fans who have grown up and want a darker version of the original movie.
After seeing the movie it became incredibly apparent to me that Disney was relying on the name, since most of us grew up with this story, and the stars to sell the tickets instead the movie itself. In the end, I’m still trying to figure out if I liked the movie and I’m sure most people who see the movie will ask themselves same thing as well. There aren’t any memorable moments that stick out in one’s mind upon retrospect nor are there memorable characters, since we already knew them from older versions of the movie. Alice in Wonderland isn’t a movie you’ll like or dislike; this is just a movie that is there.