‘Alice in Wonderland’
Underland, oh Underland. Yes you read that right. Apparently young Alice had some hearing issues. What, oh what happened to you? Having watched enough book adaptations and read both of Carroll’s books, I went into the movie not expecting a word-for-word interpretation of either book. The movie takes an 18 year-old Alice and follows her return to Wonderland. Her return is set up well, and barring a few moments in the movie, “Alice in Wonderland” was like every other CGI Epic.
Yet this Burton-sized, CGI epic lacks the charm to be “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Don’t get me wrong. It was a great movie, just a little bit average. There were a few things that made it memorable. For one, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) nailed their roles. The Mad Hatter is the right amount of crazy, alternating between his loony self, semi-depressed sanity and the occasional Scottish outburst. The Red Queen has the perfect expressions of anger and arrogance. I guess it also helps that she has a huge head and looks like an evil bobblehead. The tea party with the March Hare, Dormouse and the Mad Hatter is faithful to the book. All of the characters are just the way I imagined them.
Johnny Depp is pretty good as the Mad Hatter. He makes really good switches between his different personalities, given the stark variation between each of the roles. In the books, the Mad Hatter was a supporting character, present at the tea party, but not a major role; yet in the movie he somehow becomes Alice’s guide and protector. It would have been nice to get more of the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman, whom you know as Professor Snape).
As great as the characters are individually, the sum of their parts is missing something. For one, the Red Queen is essentially the White Witch of Narnia, an evil person who needs to be vanquished for doing evil things and well, for just being evil. You don’t get much insight into her motives. The other thing that must be noted is that the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts are two different people in the books, but they are combined in this movie and in essentially every other Alice adaptation.
Character issues aside, the movie missed what Carroll’s books stood for: Nonsense. Sure, reciting a parody of “Twinkle twinkle little star” is nonsensical, but it’s more fan service than anything. Burton’s success seems to have made him more cautious and less willing to take risks. I miss the insanity that he had in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” As far as adaptations go, “Alice in Wonderland” is nothing like “Star Trek.” Burton didn’t need to do an exact interpretation, but it would have been nice to see the spirit of the books in his movie.