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Alice in Wonderland Another Visual Onslaught, Little Else

Alice in Wonderland
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Linda Woolverton based on the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Disney, 2010

What better story for Tim Burton to tackle than Alice in Wonderland, a story full of the imaginative by which he can exercise his use of vibrant colors and odd sets, and once again explore a character who doesn’t conform to society?  Add 3D and Burton has finally reached a visual nirvana he probably couldn’t be happier to see ushered in.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burton go back to his previous efforts and make them all 3D, just so now they can be once and for all, complete.

For all of the Burton visual creativity, he usually ranks around Ron Howard as far as making average films.  If it weren’t for the distinguished look, with his oddball characters, I think Burton would barely register on my radar.  And so it goes for Alice in Wonderland, another movie that sucks you in with all that Burton represents and is always a draw when you see the trailers, but ends up being an empty exercise when you see the actual film.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a British girl being raised in polite society, and is expected to be a certain way that she definitely is not.  She thinks and acts differently, asking “Why?” instead of responding, “Yes, of course!”  She has a recurring dream about being sucked into a rabbit hole and having some sort of adventure, one that this girl who is expected to be married to a stuffy, awful Duke is probably secretly longing for.  Well, she gets her wish, and anyone who has ever heard or read or seen the story of Alice knows that she indeed gets sucked down into a rabbit hole and is introduced into the world of Wonderland.

Why is she here?  I guess something to do with the wicked Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who abuses animals to do extravagantly needless but rough tasks.  She’s got her right-hand man, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) to help her maintain her rule, along with a big giant dog and yes, the Jabberwocky…uh, yeah, the Jabberwocky…you know that nonsense poem written by Carroll that has inspired lots of academic study, has been adapted here for the movie’s third act, I guess in order to make Alice’s adventures have an ultimate point and look more like Lord of the Rings.

Alice gets help from the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and his friends, such as Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), among others.  She just wants to get the heck out of there, but she needs to complete some tasks so that the beautiful White Queen (Anne Hathaway) can return to power, or something.  Yeah, Alice in Wonderland was never the most coherent story.  Like many fairy tales, the whole adventure is about growing up and leaving your childish things behind.  It doesn’t usually make much sense.

So again, much like Avatar, we have a movie here made for 3D and the emphasis is on the visual, with little story to grab onto, and generally, those movies don’t last in memory too long.  Also, just like A Christmas Carol before it, this story has been adapted roughly sixty times, no joke.  Even with the 3D, you are running up against every adaptation good or bad for the last century.  This 3D stuff is usually good for depth, enhancing an already visually stunning piece, and not much else.  All this stuff that kind of comes at you, or tries to get you “involved,” usually comes up short, because it reinforces the idea that you’re watching a movie.  I hate being reminded.

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