It’s commonplace in the Hollywood machine of today’s world for long standing classic source material to be “re-imagined” every decade or so. I’m sure it has quite a lot to do with making money and knowing that the product already has a core audience that will be interested in it no matter what, but it sure doesn’t lend itself much to the creative process. The latest of these re-imaginings was released a couple of weeks ago in the form of Alice in Wonderland.
Now, I know quite a few people who loathe anything Tim Burton does, and I can find merit in their claims. I have seen a large number of his films, and most of them seem to be cut from the exact same cloth. The imagery is always stunning, but most of the films seem to spin their wheels quite a lot while trying to show us so much of the beautiful scenery.
The film never stalls overall because the story dictates it won’t. It progresses much like a good story should. We are introduced the Alice, get a handle on the kind of girl she is, and then she falls down the hole and into what seems like another world. There, we are introduced to characters and complications arise at seemingly every turn, but this is what keeps the film going. There is almost always a tension brewing, and having the main character constantly have to overcome obstacles keeps you interested even if what is going on in the story is pretty simple. And it is. You aren’t going to rack your brain trying to figure out what’s going on, it’s all very easy to follow.
Performance wise, it’s okay. The young girl playing Alice, Mia Wasikowska, does a great job. A lot of times you would most likely see a deer in headlights performance with expectations so high, but she holds her own and really carries the film amidst the wackier characters. The name on the top of the marquee for this movie is Johhny Depp, and what else is there to say. He’s perfected the eccentric, weird character. Here as Mad Hatter, he’s vibrant and zany, but in true Depp form, there is much more lurking underneath The Hatter. He is almost entirely a mystery, and even by the end of the movie there isn’t a great deal known about him and his past. Then we have Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and this is where I will disagree with most critics.
I thought her performance was a little too hammy. Sure, she’s in a mostly animated movie and there needs to be a bit of scene chewing for the younger viewers, but I was almost distracted at points with her dialogue. Am I not supposed to understand what she’s saying? She’s speaking so quickly and with an accent it’s like she came out of an old Guy Ritchie movie. Nothing other than her infamous “Off With Their Heads!” lines really register, and as a villain in a film like this I just wish she had come off stronger rather than wacky.
Visually, the film soars, and the 3-D is an added element to heighten the visual experience. The difference is that here the film relies a lot on the effect, where a film like Avatar doesn’t rely completely on the gimmick. Burton has never been a master of subtlety, and he throws a lot at you in the visual department that again, at a couple of moments, gets a little distracting. You feel like at any moment you could overdose from vibrant colors. The effect works wonderfully when Alice is falling down the rabbit hole, when the caterpillar is blowing smoke, or during the final battle. Other moments it’s a bit obvious, characters throwing stuff at the lens so viewers will jump thinking it will hit them. It’s a mixed bag that skews more positive than negative, but if you opt for the 3-D experience you will lift your glasses at a couple of moments thinking it’s a bit much.
As a whole, the film succeeds more than it flounders. In a film that mixes animation with real world elements, the viewer is constantly bombarded with bright colors and a vibrant atmosphere. With mostly good performances and a classic story, it’s a worthwhile film to see if the genre is your cup of tea, but I wouldn’t recommend this movie to skeptics because anyone with a negative mindset will probably hate it from start to finish because it’s simple and relies a lot of technical gimmickry for the duration of the film.
Final Score: 7/10 (Good)