March 8, 2010 -- When director Tim Burton gets together with actor Johnny Depp on a movie project good things usually happen, like the classic Frankenstein take-off “Edward Scissorhands” and the good movie about bad movies, “Ed Wood.” In “Alice in Wonderland” Burton brings his dark-edged vision to a classic children's tale and makes it into a life-and-death struggle of good versus evil. The general view is that the book on which this film is based is a critique of mathematics, but little of that strange new-math illogic remains in this film version. Nevertheless, Burton creates some interesting characters and a compelling story.
Depp (“Public Enemies”) plays the Mad Hatter, who is remade as an action hero, Alice (played by Mia Wasikowska of “Amelia”) is also an action hero as is brave doormouse (an animated character voiced by Barbara Windsor). Since there aren't any monsters to slay in the original story, one is borrowed from the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” that Lewis Carroll wrote for “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) also wrote “Alice in Wonderland,” of course. In the film, Alice must slay the Jabberwock in order to free the subjects of the evil Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”). The Red Queen is as a caricature with a comically enlarged head.
The story is telegraphed because Alice, despite her protestations is constantly told throughout most of the film that she must slay the Jabberwock, a dragon-like beastie. She argues that she is no warrior. She is no killer. But, it is her destiny, and you can't argue with destiny. Hollywood is obsessed with the idea of destiny. I do wish Hollywood would move on to some new idea, like free will, for instance. One of the more interesting characters is the Cheshire Cat (voice by Stephen Fry of “V for Vendetta”). He is very cat-like and mysterious, constantly appearing and disappearing, in pursuit of his own inscrutable agenda. The blue caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman) is like a stoned, pipe-smoking oracle who appears now and again. Also borrowed from Jabberwocky are a fierce Bandersnatch and a deadly Vorpal Sword.
Another subplot in the film takes place in the world above underland (the real name of Wonderland). It seems that this is Alice's second trip to underland. The first trip happened when she was a little girl. The movie is about her second trip when she is 19 years old and is faced with a major decision, whether or not to accept the marriage proposal of a wealthy man. She runs away from the garden party and falls down the rabbit hole. Eventually, she returns and decides what she wants to do with her life, but I suppose that was her destiny as well.
The actors are very good and the characters are solid. The look of the film is electric with amazing creatures and incredibly varied landscapes from lush to bleak (we all know that Tim Burton really likes bleak). I saw this in 3D and the 3D effects were good, despite the fact that it was shot in 2D and converted to 3D in post-production. Expect vintage films to be reworked into 3D in this way in the future. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.