Alice In Wonderland (2010)

DVD Cover (Walt Disney Studios)
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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #312
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Connections: Alice In Wonderland

Alice, an unpretentious and individual 19-year-old, is betrothed to a dunce of an English nobleman. At her engagement party, she escapes the crowd to consider whether to go through with the marriage and falls down a hole in the garden after spotting an unusual rabbit. Arriving in a strange and surreal place called "Underland," she finds herself in a world that resembles the nightmares she had as a child, filled with talking animals, villainous queens and knights, and frumious bandersnatches. Alice realizes that she is there for a reason--to conquer the horrific Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne. --IMDb
Review by Crispy
Added: February 26, 2014
A few months ago, one of my best friends passed away. She was one of the biggest bibliophiles you could ever hope to meet, and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was her absolute favorite; her extensive book collection had no less than fifteen different copies and variations of it. It's her birthday today, and I'd like to review a handful of adaptations as something of a tribute to her. In 2010, Disney brought in Tim Burton to re-imagine the story. Unfortunately, the results weren't pretty.

As a child, young Alice Kingsley is plagued by a recurring dream involving caterpillars and rabbit holes, but her father assures that she should enjoy the over-imaginative dream. Years later, however, when Alice is nineteen, her father has died and she no longer has an ally for her whimsy. Indeed, her mother is forcing her to repress it and marry a man she has no interest in. At the engagement celebration, Alice periodically notices a white rabbit nervously jumping among the bushes. As the dreaded moment arrives, Alice is surrounded by the whole party leaning in to hear her answer to the proposal, she looks up and sees the rabbit staring at her before again taking off. She abandons the crowd and follows it into a hole under a tree, following the tunnel to a room surrounded by doors. As she runs through the familiar pattern of Drink Me bottles, Eat Me cakes and forgotten keys, a collection of voices criticize her from afar, wondering why she doesn't remember this from "last time." Eventually she gets through the door and is met by a collection of familiar characters, who debate whether or not she's the "real Alice" before visiting the caterpillar, Absolum, for answers. He explains that it's her destiny to pick up the legendary Vorpal Sword and slay the Jabberwocky, freeing the land from the tyranny of the Red Queen. Naturally, Alice wants nothing to do with fighting the monster, but after the group is attacked by the Knave of Hearts and a vicious creature known as the Bandersnatch, she begins to understand the fury of Underland's oppressors firsthand. But can the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter still persuade the reluctant Alice to save Underland?

So this is obviously a sequel to the story, but not any one adaptation in particular. While the plot is well-known enough and the various adaptations are close enough that it ordinarily wouldn't matter, it's obvious that Alice was called to Underland for a purpose. The inevitable flashback should have had more towards this end, as it's the the major deviation from the source material. Speaking of deviations, I absolutely hated that they changed the name of the world to Underland. There was no reason for this other than a shallow attempt to make the land darker. Also, while it hasn't been acknowledged by any of the higher-ups, the film takes a lot of cues from the 2000 video game, American McGee's Alice. The macabre appearance of Wonderland is obvious, but that's just Burton being Burton. The main plotline of that game also involved a teenage Alice returning to end the tyranny of the Red Queen and her terrifying pet, the Jabberwock (this film calls it the Jabberwocky, but that was the name of the poem, not the creature), and it's story was much darker, much deeper, much less convoluted than this one, and while it too was a sequel to the general story, it was able to tell its tale without creating any discrepancies.

I'll give Tim Burton all the praise in the world for the incredible visuals in his movies, but I feel like he's lost his touch in the last decade or so. Namely, his movies almost look too Burtony, like a caricature of his style. It's one thing to have a distinctive visual signature, but it's become a trap that he doesn't seem to be able to escape from. Unfortunately, he's lost a vital part of what made him so great in the 80's and 90's; if you look at his classics like Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice, you'll see how he seamlessly blended the dark gothic visuals with a whimsical comedy. Nowadays, it's painfully obvious that he's trying to force the whimsical side. It's why the March Hare is a jittery idiot, why the Queen is an insecure child, and why the Mad Hatter is basically Captain Jack Sparrow with multiple personalities. When your biggest downfall in Alice in Wonderland is a lack of whimsy, you've got a serious problem on your hands. With all that said though, it DID look good. The card soldiers and the Jabberwocky were both as scary as they're supposed to be, and this is perhaps my favorite look for the Cheshire Cat. I just wish he could break the mold he's been confined to for some time.

As far as Alices go, Mia Wasikowska was one of the most mundane yet. I'm not saying she was bad per se, but she sure wasn't memorable either. The character believed she was merely having a dream, and her subsequent jaded behavior didn't quite translate to an enjoyable viewing. Like I said before, Johnny Depp merely channeled his popular Jack Sparrow character, except just a touch more random. He'll occasionally switch to growling his lines, occasionally switch to a Scottish accent, occasionally fall into bouts of confusion. I couldn't tell you 'why' for any of it. Across enemy lines, I wasn't crazy about Helena Bonham Carter's Queen of Hearts. I know she's been nominated for a pair of Oscars, so she must have some talent, but every time I see her I can't help but feel like she's given most of her roles due to being Tim Burton's squeeze. Her queen was a impertinent child throwing a two hour tantrum, and was just as taxing. Sure, Miranda Richardson played a childish queen in the 1999 adaptation, but her character wasn't supposed to be a feared tyrant like this one was. Crispin Glover was able to conjure up a bit more malice as the Knave, but it was all undermined since he was merely a sidekick.

As I'm sure you've figured out, I didn't much care for Tim Burton's take on the classic. He's quoted as saying he never had an emotional tie to the original book, and damn does it show. Apparently, Disney is keen on kicking out a sequel in a few years with a different director on board, and maybe the potential in the concept will present itself there. One can only hope. 3.5/10.
George Snow #1: George Snow - added 03/25/2014, 06:50 PM
I went into this knowing it wasn't going to be a faithful adaptation. As a hardcore Alice In Wonderland fan, and a person who doesn't particularly care for Burton, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this. It holds it's own for me.

I was in England and I was using a Disney Alice In Wonderland small shoulder bag for my camera. I was hanging with some friends and the girl in the group gave me a list of Alice novels I should look for. The versions all had excellent drawings. Unfortunately, I lost the list.
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