Alice In Wonderland may not be a horror movie, however since Tim Burton was one of my favourite directors, I deem his overall gothic style appropriate for this blog.
The underlying word here is WAS. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Tim Burton. I’ll line up to see any of his movies on opening night, and will probably buy the DVD as well. But, ever since Mars Attacks!, his movies have been very inconsistent and one can almost feel his struggle to direct both a visually compelling movie as well as a coherent, emotionally involving story. Yet, only Big Fish and perhaps The Corpse Bride have really lived up to the level of Edward Scissorhands. Although I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd much more than stinkers such as Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are still flawed movies.
At least for Alice In Wonderland, he is blessed with a decent story care of Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) and if it has to be a Disney writer to keep him in line, so be it. I read and watched the original Alice in Wonderland and vaguely remember Alice Through The Looking Glass, and the film does a good job of blending the two together for a well paced, though simplistic and obvious storyline that – except for some minor eye gauging – is mainly directed at kids. Alan Rickman (Harry Potter) as The Blue Caterpillar and Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) as The Red Queen are delightful standouts in the colourful cast of characters and the movie is filled with fantastic landscapes and gorgeous costumes. The varied and lopsided perspectives are very interesting to watch and a good fit for Burton’s offbeat style; from Alice growing and shrinking, to The Red Queen’s unusually large head to the wicked Knave of Hearts’ (Crispin Glover, Willard) elongated legs.
However, I have the same problem with Alice in Wonderland that I have with Avatar. Though I fully appreciate and admire how these amazing effects allow beautiful worlds to come alive, 3-D is supposed to involve the viewer, and yet I couldn’t feel more distant from the film. Despite a subtle but film-saving performance by Mia Wasikowska (In Treatment, Amelia, Defiance), there is zero emotional connection between her and the other characters, and with the audience. The growth and maturity she brings to her character is wasted on the flat by-the-book interactions that occur along the way. We begin to feel some emotional involvement in the last scene between Alice and the Mad Hatter – but it ends too quickly and we ultimately are left with nothing. And then there’s Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chocolat) who has now become a cross between Jack Sparrow and his messed up Amelie-Meets-Michael Jackson-Willy Wonka. Again, I absolutely love Johhny Depp, but if I have to watch him rambling incoherently in white makeup in one more movie, I’ll stab myself. He has become so self involved in his crazy characters that he no longer interacts with the rest of the cast – this is Alice in Wonderland, not the Mad Hatter in Wonderland. Off with his head, please!
The Na’vi of Pandora could have wandered into Wonderland (or Underland as it is now called) or vice versa – and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I couldn’t care less whether the Red Queen took over Underland or if the Na’vi were destroyed. If this is the future of filmmaking, I’ll take a regular version of Lord of the Rings any day.