Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice-in-Wonderland

(If this is your first time on this blog, I ask you to read my “About” page first! You can find a link to it at the top left-hand corner of this blog. Thanks!)

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.

We pray that you're a good movie...we really pray that you're a good movie!
We pray that you’re a good movie…we really pray that you’re a good movie!

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!

Father of the year, everyone...father of the year!
Father of the year, everyone…father of the year!

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.

Anyone care to take a stab at it?
Anyone care to take a stab at it?

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.

Wouldn't you follow a white rabbit in a blue waistcoat holding a pocketwatch too?
Wouldn’t you follow a white rabbit in a blue waistcoat holding a pocketwatch too?

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!

Oh yeah, it IS a Tim Burton film!
Oh yeah, it IS 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!”

"She can't even recite 'How Doth the Little Crocodile' properly!"
“She can’t even recite ‘How Doth the Little Crocodile’ properly!”

They also show Alice a scroll that tells of the history and future of Wonderland.

The short length of the scroll makes one wonder exactly how long does the story of Wonderland span out for?
The short length of the scroll makes one wonder exactly how long does the story of Wonderland span out for?

And in the upcoming Frabjous Day, it shows that Alice supposedly slays a dragon-like animal called the Jabberwocky!

Mr. Caroll must have been playing a game of Mad Libs to come up with a word like 'frabjous'!
Mr. Caroll must have been playing a game of Mad Libs to come up with a word like ‘frabjous’!

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!

"And so Alice was chased by a (adjective) (noun) and a (noun) of (noun)."
“And so Alice was chased by a(n) (adjective) (noun) and a (noun) of (noun).”

Alice manages to escape (after the Dormouse stabs out one of the Bandersnatch’s eyes

This is only PG material?
This is only PG material?

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 face of a tyrant!
The face of a tyrant!

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!

Well, I guess that's better than having her power connected to an animal companion!
Did we just enter ‘The Golden Compass’?

When the Red Queen discovers that Alice is back in Wonderland, she sends her right-hand man, George McFly to locate her.

No, Crispin Glover's character isn't really named 'George Mcfly', but are you honestly going to call him by any other name?
No, Crispin Glover’s character isn’t really named ‘George McFly’, but are you honestly going to refer to him by any other name?

Meanwhile, Alice is roaming around in the woods and comes across some familiar characters such as the Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry,

"They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is...that there are no straight lines!"
“They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is…that it originally came from Wonderland…isn’t that quite interesting?”

the March Hare, voiced by Paul Whitehouse,

I'm sure that Paul Whitehouse is a great actor, but give me Jerry Colonna's clever and likable March Hare over Whitehouse's neurotic one any day!
I’m sure that Paul Whitehouse is a great actor, but give me Jerry Colonna’s clever and likable March Hare over Whitehouse’s neurotic one any day!

and of course, the Mad Hatter himself, played by the nigh unanimously loved Johnny Depp.

The only other reason that I watched this film other than the fact that it's a Disney film!
The only other reason that I watched this film other than the fact that it’s a Disney film!

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!

"Ready!"
“Ready!”
"Aim!"
“Aim!”
"Fire!"
“Fire!”
Hat: The Only Way To Travel!
Hat: The Only Way To Travel!

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.

Wouldn't you befriend an extremely large, naked girl hiding in your royal garden who somehow entered without any of the guards knowing too?
Wouldn’t you befriend an extremely large, naked girl hiding in your royal garden who somehow entered without any of the guards knowing too?

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!

"Do you think that the audience will like the fact that this place is called Underland?" "Your Majesty, I feel that at this point in the movie, they're ready to accept anything!"
“Do you think that the audience will like the fact that this place is called Underland?”
“Your Majesty, I feel that at this point in the movie, they’re ready to accept anything!”

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.

Say what?!
Say what?!

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?

"Oh, it's kinda like 'The Sword in the Stone' then! She uses a special sword to bring peace and serenity to the kingdom!"
“Oh, it’s kinda like ‘The Sword in the Stone’ then! She uses a special sword to bring peace and serenity to the kingdom!”

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!

"Why couldn't you tell me the truth earlier?"
“Why couldn’t you tell me the truth earlier?”
"Well, we had to stretch out this movie to last for two hours somehow! Now if you'll excuse me, allow me to exit this movie as quick as I can bundle up in my cocoon!"
“Well, we had to stretch out this movie to last for two hours somehow! Now if you’ll excuse me, allow me to exit this movie as quick as I can bundle up in my cocoon!”

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.

"I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, but you have elected the way of pain."
“I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, but you have elected the way of pain!”

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,

What...the...?!
What…the…?!

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!

Again, is this really PG material?
Again, is this only PG material?

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!

I'm talking about you, you know!
I’m talking about you, you know!

Now to rate the film!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)

alice in wonderland rating new

So, our final score for this film is: 17/35 = 48.57% (F) !

44 thoughts on “Alice in Wonderland (2010)

  1. The Matter Hatter’s dance was the most painful part of the movie!!! I can’t watch it without cringing. Other than that, I enjoyed the movie.to a degree. They seemed to spend the money on the look of the thing, rather than the story, as you mentioned. It has some of the issues of Return to Oz–diluting the magic of the story to make it more “realistic.”

  2. Did you happen to read my By the Book review of the animated Alice in Wonderland? I think that the live action version makes the same mistake nearly all Alice in Wonderland movies made – it tries to construct a coherent story where there shouldn’t be one.

    1. No, I haven’t read your “By the Book” review of this yet, but I TOTALLY agree with you that this film, as well as others, try to make “Alice in Wonderland” a coherent narrative when it shouldn’t be.

      How do you feel about Disney’s animated “Alice in Wonderland”?

  3. Thanks for the well written review! I watched the original animated Alice in Wonderland and all I could say was “What a weird movie!”. I’ve only seen parts of this one but my response was the same. It does have that Tim Burton darkness to it but it’s still weird. Maybe I’ll have to watch the whole thing. Mostly because of Johnny Depp 😉

  4. I too did not enjoy this film, but it may be because I just don’t like the premise of Alice in Wonderland (if it is supposed to be incoherent). I found the imagery boring in the animated version and quite distrubing in the live-action one, although this may have been the intention of Disney. In any case, I hope Maleficient improves on the problematic Sleeping Beauty because she was an awesome villian!

    1. I love Disney’s animated “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s my 2nd favorite film in the Disney Canon actually.

      But this movie is just….argghh….and it made over a billion dollars worldwide….argghh…..and they’re making a sequel….double argghh!!!

      I hope that “Maleficent” is a good movie, although I really don’t want to start feeling sorry for the character. I like her better as a despised villain, rather than someone whose backstory I know.

  5. Oh yeah, I remember being surprised by that selection (in your top 13 Disney canon films list). I have no idea how the live-action version made a billion dollars… this is why you and I write movie reviews I guess haha. Anyway, I agree that Maleficent should stay despicable and evil.

  6. I AM SO SORRY THAT I AM LATE TO THIS REVIEW.

    I only watched this movie once and that was in theatres, but I liked it (maybe because there was something there unlike the 1951 version). I agree with a lot of yor points about some of the acting (Hathaway could have done a lot better) and Alice figuring it out so late that it was real. Great review and I am looking forward to Maleficent too.

    1. Hey, better late than never, and I sincerely thank you for your support for my blogs…I hope this blog picks up, so every follower helps 🙂 !

      Glad you liked this movie; I think I did too when I first saw it, but back then I wasn’t really into reviewing films and examining aspects of them.

      I’m not looking forward for “Maleficent” AT ALL, lol! I don’t want to feel bad/sorry for this villainess!

      1. You have a lot of followers, so your blog will pick up.

        I only got into analyzing movies this year, so I am sure that my opinion of the movie will change as it has with a lot of other movies.

        I understand why you’re not looking forward to it but when Angelina Jolie is in a movie, you know it is gonna be a performance (I am ignoring Shark Tale).

  7. Great review. I don’t even agree on the visuals. They look ugly, dirty and murky but not an interesting way. All the exposition and the prophecy were a huge mistake. The greatest travesty of this movie is all the crap live action ‘retellings’ we’ve gotten and will continue to get. Sigh…

  8. You going to review Maleficent? You are nicer in some ways and tougher in others so it will be interesting to see what you think especially given you aren’t a Maleficent fan like me.

  9. It’s funny that you mention Narnia here before getting round to reviewing it later on. Especially considering that this and ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ came out in the same year. In any case, I’d rather take the two Narnia films made by Disney over this snorefest! 😛

    For a director who had a talent for creating films that ran less on story and rather on emotions and visuals, one would think Burton would have been a great fit, especially if he made the film in the 90s or like ‘Return to Oz’. In trying to make it a fantasy epic it took away from what made Wonderland unique, at least the Narnia books were justified in having actual battles and warriors, Wonderland never had those things!

  10. I actually kinda liked this movie. I have to admit though, the 1951 animated classic is much better than this version of the Alice story. I’m not excited for this movie’s sequel.

  11. Your 2013 review of the live-action Alice in Wonderland is totally accurate. A visual spectacle but nothing very memorable. I’ve yet to see an adaptation that matches the quality of the source material.

      1. I love the animated Disney version, but the tone is really different from the book’s. No disrespect to that movie.

        Yes, I’m reading your reviews in order. There are a lot of Disney movies I want to read your opinions on, even though I know they are old reviews.

  12. I’ll start saying right away that I am not a Disney fan, and I am disapointed by most of their live actions, but, said that, I am Lewis Carroll fan and Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite works by him.

    I actually loved this movie and watch it every once in a while, I loved the visuals (I may be partial because I love the dark, nightmarish yet almost infantile aesthetic.)

    As for the actors, I think all of them did an amazing job, Anne portrayed a girlish, sweet queen with a dark undertone, Johnny was amazing as always (was I the only one that enjoyed his dance? I found it hilarious and accurate to the “mad” character trope.) And as for Mia, I didn’t take her acting as emotionless, rather, she was very good at portraying a victorian girl, who probably grew up repressed, girls were taught to repress emotions during that era, as it was considered improper to show emotion among the elite. I actually found that the lack of emotion also showed disdan for the victorian rules.She was subtle and it was a nice contrast in Wonderland where everyone is over the top.

    That being said, I enjoyed your post despite our different opinions, it was well written and I understood why you did not like it, even if I loved the movie. I think this movie was kind of an extreme, people either love it or hate if, few are in the middle.

    Wish you all the best.

    1. First off, welcome to my blog and I appreciate the comment! It’s wonderful to hear from someone with a differing opinion, but one whom we can disagree respectfully and not attack each other for our opinions, something which many in the film world seem to do a lot, so I thank you.

      I too love the Alice in Wonderland story itself and read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. And Carroll’s Jabberwocky is a wonderful poem!

      You make a point about Mia’s “emotionless” acting being repressed instead of “emotionless”. I guess one argument I would make is that even when we see her by herself, she doesn’t seem to change her emotional state. Surely then she would show some emotion even if she were raised to not show emotion in front of others? I dunno, just an idea.

      Are you a fan of the animated Disney version? That’s one I really love!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s