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Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” opened up a wonderful fantasy land to us, one that was driven by nonsense, rather than logic.
And people around the world fell in love with this wondrous, illogical Wonderland. The appeal of this fictional place as well as that of its characters naturally inspired filmmakers to adapt Lewis Carroll’s books to film numerous times over the years. Walt Disney was one of these filmmakers, hence he created the animated classic, “Alice in Wonderland”, as well as an animated/live-action “Alice Comedies” series 20 years earlier!
Due to the popularity of both those projects, it was inevitable that the Disney Studios would create yet ANOTHER film based on the Wonderland characters. This time, the film would be a live-action/CGI film directed by visionary director and ex-Disney artist himself, Tim Burton. It would be called, “Alice in Wonderland”.
This film would go on to make over a billion dollars which convinced the Disney studios to remake more of their animated classics into live-action films. Some films currently in production include live-action adaptations of “Cinderella”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Jungle Book”, and “Sleeping Beauty”. This “animation-to-live action remaking ideology” has been met with opposition from many Disney fans around the world.
And this controversy would never have arisen had it not been for Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”! So the question arises, was Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” THAT good of a movie to convince the Disney Studios to remake many of their animated classics? Sure, it was profitable, but was the film of good quality or not? Well, to answer those questions, let’s take a look at the film together! Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
The film opens up to a young Alice who’s been awoken by a nightmare that’s apparently been plaguing her night after night and asks her father whether or not she’s going mad. Her father affirms that she’s indeed lost her marbles, but that all the best people in the world have! Umm…great analogy, Pops!
We then cut to years later when Alice, played by Australian Mia Wasikowska, is now 19 years old. Apparently her father has died by this time and her face remains either completely curious or emotionless, I haven’t yet made up my mind which.
She and her mother are attending a posh get-together in which we come across a few other relations and friends of Alice including a cheating brother-in-law, an insane great-aunt, two “twinnish” sisters, and an obnoxious guy. So the question arises, what exactly is the purpose of this posh get-together? Well, apparently, this is Alice’s engagement party and the obnoxious guy is planning to propose to her.
When Alice discovers this fact and is faced with answering the obnoxious guy’s proposal, she runs away claiming that she needs a moment. The fact of the matter is that she actually spots a white rabbit in a blue waistcoat with a pocketwatch and decides to follow it.
She follows him and, surprise, falls into a rabbit hole which leads to the beginning of the usual “Alice in Wonderland” story: she falls, finds a door that she can’t fit through, takes turns eating cakes and drinking nondescript drinks to adjust her size until she’s able to fit through the door.
She then enters into a quite dark and creative world that looks like something out of a Tim Burton film!
Basically, she’s arrived in Wonderland! What’s the problem though? All these sights and characters are what comprise the nightmares that she’s been having since she was a young girl. So, our heroine thinks that she’s dreaming rather than actually being in this wondrous Wonderland.
But no, she really IS in this fantasy world, and not only that, but all the inhabitants (including the Dodo Bird, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, etc.) seem to recognize her as if she’s been there before. They all know her name and all claim to have met her before. This, of course, puzzles our heroine who defiantly continues to claim that this is all a dream and that the Wonderland characters shouldn’t know who she is. To solve matters, the Wonderland characters take her to a hookah-smoking monocled blue caterpillar and ask him whether she is Alice. The caterpillar replies, “Not hardly!”
They also show Alice a scroll that tells of the history and future of Wonderland.
And in the upcoming Frabjous Day, it shows that Alice supposedly slays a dragon-like animal called the Jabberwocky!
Of course, Alice denies that this is her since she wouldn’t even hurt a fly (or some such saying). But before this scene can go anywhere else, Alice and her friends are attacked by a “frumious Bandersnatch” and decks of playing card soldiers who all happen to be of the hearts suit!
Alice manages to escape (after the Dormouse stabs out one of the Bandersnatch’s eyes
and after almost all the characters that we just met have been captured by the soldiers).
Where have the soldiers taken everyone? To the Red Queen’s castle, of course! The Red Queen, played by Helena Bonham Carter, has apparently taken control of Wonderland and has forced her sister, The White Queen, into exile.
The problem is that the majority of Wonderland’s inhabitants pledge their loyalty to The White Queen and it’s only through Alice’s slaying of the Jabberwocky can the Red Queen be vanquished. Why? Well, because the Jabberwocky is the “pet” of the Red Queen and I guess her…power is connected with this pet!
When the Red Queen discovers that Alice is back in Wonderland, she sends her right-hand man, George McFly to locate her.
Meanwhile, Alice is roaming around in the woods and comes across some familiar characters such as the Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry,
the March Hare, voiced by Paul Whitehouse,
and of course, the Mad Hatter himself, played by the nigh unanimously loved Johnny Depp.
They all claim to know Alice which continues to puzzle and frustrate her, but she continues to try to understand what’s going on.
After almost being discovered by George McFly, the Mad Hatter decides to take Alice to the White Queen’s refuge for protection.
On the way there, he recounts to her the story of how the Red Queen took over control of the kingdom from her sister, the White Queen, and how the Wonderland characters have been waiting for Alice’s return to set things aright.
But trouble shows its face when some of the card soldiers catch up with the Mad Hatter and Alice. The Mad Hatter allows himself to get captured, but only after getting Alice to safety! How does he do this? By flinging her from his hat after having first shrunk her via the shrinking liquid!
The Mad Hatter is taken to the Red Queen’s castle while Alice comes into contact with a dog named Bayard who’s also been forced to work for the Red Queen. He promises to take her to the White Queen, but instead she commands him to take her to the Red Queen, thereby making her whole hat trip entirely pointless!
Anyway, she surreptitiously sneaks into the castle and happens upon the Red Queen’s croquet game. She then interrupts the game by causing herself to grow via the magical bread and claiming to be someone named Um. The Red Queen actually doesn’t recognize Alice and believes that this giant girl is actually one called Um. This is weird because the Red Queen stated earlier that she could identify Alice anywhere by her “tangled mess of hair”! Oh well, maybe the size of Alice deluded her! In event, the Red Queen befriends Alic…I mean, Um, and allows her to stay in her castle.
Meanwhile, Bayard makes his way to the refuge of the White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway in an extremely forced performance, and informs her that Alice has returned to Wonder…I mean, Underland! (Yeah, this land that we know and love is supposedly called Underland now!) This brings some level of relief to the White Queen and her followers!
Back at the Red Queen’s castle, Alice uses her time wisely to extract the Vorpal Sword from the Bandersnatch’s lair via a trade of his eye.
Ok, I went too far! Let me expound upon this matter! According to the Oraculum (the scroll telling Underland’s history and future), Alice has to slay the Jabberwocky with one particular sword called the Vorpal Sword. It’s apparently the only type of sword that can slay the Jabberwocky! And the Sword is safely kept in a chest guarded by the sleeping Bandersnatch in the Red Queen’s castle. This makes us wonder why the Red Queen didn’t just have the Vorpal Sword destroyed so as to make Alice unable to fulfill her prophecy rather than keeping it safely stored in the castle! This also makes us wonder why does Alice bother getting the sword in the first place if she has no intention of slaying the beast? Oh, well, I think we’re looking into this much too deeply!
Alice then gives the Bandersnatch his eye back (she gets it from the Dormouse) in exchange for the Vorpal Sword. Ok, are we up to date now?
Um…sure! Moving on!
News of this gets out and the Red Queen and her followers realize that this character Um has been Alice all along! What a shock!
While they all try to capture her, Alice escapes via the Bandersnatch, who she’s now befriended, as do all the captured Wonder…umm…Underland characters from the Red Queen’s castle, including our friend, the Mad Hatter. Where have they all escaped to: the White Queen’s refuge, of course! There they prepare for the Red Queen’s retaliation and for the occurrence of the Frabjous Day.
And Alice, after talking with the hookah-smoking monocled blue caterpillar for like, the third time, FINALLY realizes that this is NOT a dream! This is actually a real place that she’s experiencing! And not just that, but she’s been here before! That’s right, apparently she visited this place when she was MUCH, MUCH younger! And all the “nightmares” that she’s been having since a young age have all just been memories of this place! And when she was younger, she called this place, “Wonderland” as opposed to its supposedly proper name, “Underland”! FINALLY, our heroine understands things that most of us already figured out much, much earlier!
Knowing the truth gives Alice the courage and determination she needs to slay the Jabberwocky! And just in time too, for the Frabjous Day arrives with the Red Queen’s army and the White Queen’s army face-to-face to prepare for battle! And soon, the fighting begins!
While the armies fight with each other, Alice focuses on slaying her enemy, the Jabberwocky, briefly voiced by Sir Christopher Lee.
In the end, Alice decapitates the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen loses her followers, the White Queen regains the crown, and the Red Queen and George McFly are banished somewhere or the other and are forbidden to have kindness shown on them or have anybody speak to them! This kinda makes things problematic for the soon to be released sequel! But I’m not complaining, I’m just waiting for this movie to end!
So, let’s wrap up: the Underland characters rejoice, the Mad Hatter performs a Futterwacken dance,
Alice gets back to the real world, rejects the obnoxious guy’s proposal, and instead joins a business venture with her late father’s old business partner! What a way to end this tale, what a way to end this film, I’m being sarcastic, by the way!
Goodness, what can one say about this film? I mean, it destroys the basic love that we all have for the original Lewis Carroll books as well as for Disney’s animated classic, “Alice in Wonderland”.
The story is an extremely basic fantasy kingdom Narnia-like story, and quite boring and prolonged for that matter. The fight scenes are nothing spectacular, especially the way that Alice slays the Jabberwocky, you’d think a huge beast like the Jabberwocky would put up a more interesting fight!
The acting honestly is nothing to commend. I mean, maybe the Red Queen was enjoyably over the top, maybe George McFly was enjoyable because we know he’s George McFly, maybe the Mad Hatter was likable because we know he’s Johnny Depp; but Mia’s performance still puzzles me as does Anne Hathaway’s. And the voices? Many of them are mere cameos such as Michael Gough, Paul Whitehouse, Sir Christopher Lee, Imelda Staunton, etc. None are good enough to make any lasting impression!
The only thing good about this film is the visuals and the overall look-and-feel of the movie. It gets very creative and dark, and the CGI makes things appear nice. I mean, the effects are extremely inferior when compared to those of “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, but for the time, “Alice in Wonderland” provided some great visuals.
So to answer my earlier question, this movie had a lot of problems! But the movie did make over a billion dollars! And that was enough for the Disney Studios to go on their merry way remaking these animated classics into live-action features. But for me, and many Disney fans, this movie was nothing of quality, and all we can do is pray that the future live-action remakes of our beloved animated classics improve from this!
Now to rate the film!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, our final score for this film is: 17/35 = 48.57% (F) !