ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Directed By: Tim Burton
Screenplay By: Linda Woolverton
Based On: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (Film 1951)
Premiered On: March 5, 2010
Distribution By: Walt Disney Motion Pictures
As the sequel of this film officially premieres today and I am quite the avid fan of the works of Lewis Carroll and the many, many multitudes of works done based on his most classic of tales, today’s review will be on the most latest adaptation. To begin with, while a great many can argue, rather rightly, that this film is based primarily on the original books, it and most of the other recent live action films are inspired by the original animated films. As such I will try to be a bit fairer on the variations told between this film and the works that inspired its creation.
Contrary to what the film’s title suggests, this is not the original story retold in live action, but a sequel of the events that had transpired since then. Alice has grown up and recalls the events of her trip down the rabbit hole as nothing more than a fanciful dream that, for whatever reason, does not seem to want to leave her be in the years since. At a garden party for a local lord and old friend to her recently deceased father, Alice is given an unwanted marriage proposal and, unsure of how to deal with this situation, runs off only to find a rather familiar sight.
A rabbit with a waistcoat and watch, who lures Alice back down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland, or Underland as its denizens call it, where she learns that she is a victim of prophecy. She and she alone is destined to confront the champion of the Red Queen of Hearts, who has since grown into a truly bloody tyrant in the years since Alice last visited. Which in itself would not be so bad if not for one thing…
The champion of the bloody red Queen of Hearts is none other than the Jabberwocky…
Between this film and the original animated one, there’s a great number of differences to be had but I’ll try to stay on those that have been… noted… by most others of far greater experience than I. First and foremost, the changing of names, specifically Wonderland to “Underland” along with a great many of its denizens whom I shall focus on first. When it comes to the characters of Wonderland, aside from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, just what are their names exactly? The Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Hearts just to name a few. Do you see what they all have in common?
They’re titles. Each and every one of them. While I admit that the choice of “real names” for these characters was a bit over the top, I mean really Nivens McTwisp for the White Rabbit? Never mind calling the Knave of Hearts… Illosovic Stayne? What? I mean, I get that this is an extremely fanciful place and what have you but c’mon, at least give us something that we can actually pronounce with hearing someone else say it first.
As to calling it Underland instead of Wonderland, there’s a bit of an interesting story there. See, the original draft for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had a completely different name than what we know it now. The original manuscript, which was handwritten and illustrated by Carroll himself, was called Alice’s Adventures Underground. Though no official reason had been given as to why he changed the title, the most popular speculation is that he wanted to separate Wonderland from the real world, which is exactly what this film is trying not to do, in a sense.
For a good portion of the film, Alice believes that she is dreaming the same dream though quite different than usual. She all but flat out refuses to acknowledge that the world around her and all who dwell in it are real, living, people though she never acts like they’re not. Most of the time at any rate because dream or not, you see anything remotely resembling what the Bandersnatch looks like in this film, you run.
One particular aspect that I will give this film credit for is the fact that the White Queen, more informally known as… Mirana of Marmoreal? I… What is even…? Y’know what, never mind. Anyway, the White Queen, who she herself admits to being a pacifist, is shown to well and truly be the sister to the Red Queen. Aside from her making a shrinking potion comprised of ingredients that are quite dark, if not outright disgusting, there’s a moment where Alice comments that the White Queen cannot imagine what goes on in the palace of the Red Queen.
The White Queen pauses in her potion making, holding up the large knife she had used to dab two teaspoons of wishful thinking into the brew and whispers, “Oh yes I can…”
It’s a short moment, blink and you might miss it, but it well and truly defines the character of the White Queen. The actress whom plays her, Anne Hathaway, confessed that her character was every bit the sister to the Red Queen and shares the same degree of fascination with the darker arts but whereas the Red Queen embraced them gladly, the White Queen does all that she can to avoid it, turning her portion of Underland into a pristine world of pure white to her sister’s bloody and tyrannical red.
Like most of the live action films adapted from Disney animated films, Alice in Wonderland does not have a song to sing during it save for the credits and a surprisingly fitting soundtrack. While the aptly named “Alice” sung by Avril Lavigne is the “end credits” song, I… admittedly don’t quite care for it both as an actual song and one to fit towards the movie. No, that honor goes to “Her Name is Alice” as sung by Shinedown.
Overall, I give Tim Burton’s take on the tale of Alice in Wonderland… Eh… Seven stars. It more than deserves its awards for Costume Design and Best Art Direction, especially for the likes of the Mad Hatter and Queens. Visual Effects wise, it’s no Avatar but dang if it doesn’t come close. As a story altogether on its own merits, it’s… not bad per say but as Cinemasins delights in pointing out, there are a few too many common tropes played in the film’s beginning. More to the point however, contrary to most other depictions of Wonderland, this one is by no means entirely kid friendly.
Never mind the ingredients for a shrinking potion, the obliteration of the Hatter’s entire clan, or the treatment of sentient animals by order of the Red Queen, it’s what she keeps in the moat of her castle that keeps me from suggesting this as a film for all ages.