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Published on March 1st, 2010 | by Darren Byrne


Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

It’s definitely Tim Burton’s most commercial Hollywood film to date, building on the platform of his last film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like Charlie, Burton’s vision of Alice has the potential to ruin a character and landscape we grew up with. However, unlike Charlie, this time he got it right.

Alice in Wonderland

Even from the opening before-Wonderland scenes, the mood and atmosphere is set. This is ostensibly a sequel to Disney’s 1951 cartoon, allowing both divergences from the classic tale and also some magical revisits to familiar territories.

Tim BurtonWithout a doubt, there are few directors or visionaries as qualified as Tim Burton to bring Lewis Carroll’s insane world to life. But I was apprehensive – I was worried that he would go too far, too twisted, too dark, losing sight of Carroll’s vision and instead presenting us with his own. Oddly, the opposite seemed to happen. As I was watching the film, I found myself looking for more of Burton’s macabre mind, not less. The occasional glimpse at the black and white colouration of Beetlejuice, the curled trees of Sleepy Hollow, the quirks in character from A Nigtmare Before Christmas, left me craving more of that world.

Wonderland itself is beautifully realised. Whether the 3D added anything to it for me will require a second viewing, but rest assured, there will be a second viewing. There is so much to see – the film is a treat for the eyes. Even the swift layered dialogue begs another visit.

Who the, ahem, is Alice?

Mia WasikowskaInspired casting with Mia Wasikowska. A relative newcomer, her biggest previous role was a recurring part in the TV show In Treatment. She is not only beautiful and charming, but at 21 years of age, she still managed to pull off the vigorous curiosity of a child, without appearing stupid or naive. Although, with the exception of the final scenes, it’s a shame that she was relegated to a reactionary role for much of the earlier parts of the movie. As this is a sequel, Burton was able to focus on and explore the post-pubescent Alice, sexualising her to a degree. She flees to Wonderland when she receives a marriage proposal, she appears naked at one point in the film, her hemline gradually gets shorter as the film progresses. None of it is gratuitous, but instead manages to show Alice growing up, ready to take on the world. It’s a tale of empowerment.

Johnny DeppCuriously, Johnny Depp does not excel in the role. He’s good. He does endear you to the Mad Hatter, but he seems to have carried with him much of Willy Wonka and Jack Sparrow’s baggage. Here, he doesn’t create a new character, but instead is a split-personality mish-mash of many we’ve seen before. This does make it difficult to sympathise, empathise and connect with the Hatter. And I can’t help but think he has too much screen time. The kids will love his madness though.

Anne HathawayContrarywise, Anne Hathaway’s white queen deserves a film of her own. Never before has such a goody-two-shoes been so twisted. Her incredibly OTT performance is gorgeous to watch.

The rest of the cast are consistently excellent: Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, Michael Sheen’s White Rabbit, Barbara Windsor’s Dormouse, Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman’s Blue Caterpillar, Matt Lucas’s Tweedles. The CG involved in creating Helena’s oversized head was flawless and was wonderful to watch. Unfortunately, the missing link was Crispin Glover’s Stayne, the Red Queen’s right hand man. His elongated figure was badly done, awkward and very distracting. Each time he appears on screen, he pulls you out of the film. I couldn’t help but stare at the awful CG, rather than concentrate on the film. It was a terrible oversight in a film where the effects are generally incredible.

Overall, I loved it. No one could have done it as well as Burton. Yes, I missed the singing and dancing of the cartoon. Yes, I wished the few flaws were fixed. But for every flaw, there’s ten amazing things to focus on – the gorgeous scenery, the brilliant characters, the clever plot, the madness, the colour and……Anne Hathaway.

I guess I may as well admit, when I met her at the World Premiere in London last week,  I fell in love. She wasn’t interested in me, so I kidnapped her and she’s now locked in my spare room. She’ll learn to love me…in time. 🙂

I don’t need to tell you to go see this – it’s a no-brainer. Out this Friday, 5th March, take the kids, take your parents, take your friends, take random strangers – this one is well worth it.

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Blogger, writer, movie buff, amateur dramatist and all round nice guy. When I'm not spouting about on Culch.ie, I can be found Tweeting inanities @DarrenByrne or @Culch_ie. I am the admin behind Culch.ie and if you want to contact me for anything, drop me a mail.

8 Responses to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

  1. Emlyn says:

    Great review Darren (and premiere photos), and I can’t wait to catch it this weekend. I always thought Burton could not have gone too far with his usual dark vision for this…it is Disney after all is said and done. I really hope he and Depp get to do ‘Dark Shadows’ at some point now.

  2. Enjoyed that review! Very well written…I do hope Burton rediscovers some of the magic of his original years for his next outing. Big Fish has never been followed properly.

  3. Calum says:

    We were at the premiere in Dublin yesterday. First of all, we were surprised how many young kids they’d let in–some pretty dark Burtonesque moments ensued that probably scared the bejeesus out of some of them!

    Thought HB-C’s Red Queen borrowed a little too heavily from Miranda Richardson’s Queenie in Blackadder II, and the film was probably 20 minutes too long. Other than that, well worth a look.

    (The 3D didn’t add a lot either, but that’s the way it should be, really… just something to bring out the occasional nuance, not to be in your face all the time.)

  4. Darren Byrne says:

    @Emlyn Someone asked me the other day if I thought the Depp/Burton partnership had run its course. I said no, but…I am concerned that Depp may be losing sight of characterisation. He is creating caricatures rather than characters in his recent few outings. Although, I loved his Sweeney Todd.

    @Venntertainment I think it’s time he found an original project again. With Alice, Charlie and even Todd, he was adapting well established worlds and characters. Frankenweenie could be that project.

    @Calum Oh, I thought there was plenty of cutesy stuff for the kids. If anything, I thought they could have gone darker. The Jabberwocky from the *childrens* books was terrifying. In the movie, he was big and scary, but no moreso than Tolkien’s Balrog or Rowling’s Basilisk.

  5. Darren Byrne says:

    @Calum And on the 3D thing, the one thing I meant to add was that this is the first 3D movie I’ve seen that was consistently comfortable on my eyes. I didn’t have to take the glasses off once to rub my eyes or refocus. Even Avatar became a bit difficult after a while.

  6. Emlyn says:

    @ Darren – yeah i agree that Depp seems to be just acting silly or mish-mashing old roles together lately (though yes, his ST was superb and his John Dillinger was a nice change of pace.) The whole Jack Sparrow/mock English cockney thing is becoming a wee bit grating now. Though he’s still one of my favourite actors no question.

    And yes, Burton needs to stop remaking films or doing adaptations…go back to something original (though i still wanna see a Dark Shadows movie lol). And try to make something without Johnny D and Helena BC in it!

    And a last point. As much as 3D looks amazing, i find it very distracting and non-essential to a movie as a whole. I’ve just read that pressure is now being put on Guillermo Del Toro to do ‘The Hobbit’ in 3D – which is very troubling. I found myself taking off the 3D glasses off quite a lot during Avatar (due to eye discomfort) – which again is distracting 😛

  7. Peter Balfe says:

    @ Darren – great review – are you willing to share Anne Hathaway?

  8. Niall says:

    @Darren I wouldn’t read your review until after I’d seen the movie so I’m only commenting now. I was crushingly disappointed by this movie. I don’t know who took Tim Burton and where they are hiding him but if he could be returned I’d be quite happy.

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