To those who’ve never read the Lewis Carroll classic “Alice in Wonderland,” Tim Burton’s rendition might portray a dark, garish, almost cruel reality. Quite the contrary, however, Burton’s long fall into Underland represents the dark humor and wit that oozed from Carroll’s imagination.
Still, this isn’t enough to redeem this miscellany of stunning visuals that distracted more than delighted; a weak Alice (Mia Wasikowska) that deterred from, rather than enhanced, the excitement; and awkward action scenes that seemed painful to film and even more so to watch.
The film merges Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” which provides some needed background. However, to those who haven’t read both books, the blending can be confusing.
This “Alice” production, directed by Burton, runs closer to Carroll’s storyline than Disney’s version. Alice, 19 years old and soon to be married, stumbles down the infamous rabbit hole once again into a fantastical world that the locals called Underland.
But in this nightmarish landscape, unlike Disney’s colorful world, a grayish tinge permeates the air, creating a rather startling similarity to Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” (not to mention the severed heads everywhere). Even still, the graphics provide a gorgeous visual treat, nearly running on par with “Avatar.” It’s hard to be upset with something so pretty.
As Alice gathers her bearings, nostalgic characters such as the Blue Caterpillar, Tweedledee and Tweedledum enter the fray. However, doubt surrounds Alice’s return to Underland as a fierce debate ensues as to whether she is the correct Alice to defeat the Jabberwocky — the Red Queen’s evil monster.
As the story progresses, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), desperate to hold onto her power, battles her sister, and rival, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). And of course, the White Queen enlists Alice’s help.
Bonham Carter’s performance as the Red Queen screams “petulant child,” which is spot on for the movie.
Hathaway’s portrayal of the White Queen, unfortunately, was somewhat blasé, which was a pity. Hathaway is a talented actress, and she could have done more, despite the fact that she requested the role.
Regardless, no performance quite compared to the Mad Hatter’s (Johnny Depp). His performance was both over the top and insufficient. Depp presents a strung-out version of the Hatter, but in certain scenes, especially the tea party, it works to the movie’s advantage. The blatant flamboyancy, coupled with Burton’s filmmaking tendencies, coalesced into a crazy cinematic blur. It’s occasionally a bit much, but you’re left wanting more, especially because everyone knows Depp can do crazy better than anyone else.
Overall, it just depends on whether you want to see the movie. It doesn’t run too long, and it’ll be palatable for the majority of audiences, especially with the visually pleasing 3-D effects. However, the recommendation here would be to wait until it comes on Blu-ray.
It doesn’t matter, though; Alice’s Wonderland (or Underland, if you choose) may just be a teenager’s out-of-control dream, but damn, it’s a pretty one.
Rated: PG (action sequences)
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Dominic Baez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org