Since I had been in Alice in Wonderland kind of mood for the last week or so anyway, I decided on Saturday that I might as well get the DVD and watch the Disney-Tim Burton-Johnny Depp version of it.
A Short Review:
It is not really the Alice in Wonderland we know from the book (i.e. if you’ve actually ever read it). But that’s okay (and I’d say it’s especially okay if you’ve actually just recently reread the book).
In the book Alice keeps questioning whether she is the same person as she was.
Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I?
In the film, the Wonderland/ Underland creatures also keep questioning whether she is the “right” Alice. Just as in the book, she keeps shrinking and growing, and it takes some trials to find her right size. Both physically and in other respects. The Mad Hatter says to her:
“You’re not the same as you were before. You were much more muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.”
So of course, before we get to the end, Alice must regain that muchness, by doing things she had not thought herself capable of. And so she does; but while the ending is on the one hand very predictable (since it is “foretold”), on the other hand it is still not quite traditional.
On the whole, I liked it better than I expected.
Now for the extended Review:
On the whole, I liked it better than I expected.
Actually, I sort of knew that I would, right from the start. Not before I bought it, but from moment I started watching.
The setting is made very clear. There is a short scene at the start where little Alice tells her father about having had a strange dream. Then suddenly Alice is 19 years old and obviously feeling very much trapped in the social conventions and expectations of her time (18th century Victorian setting). She is confronted with a choice, flees from it by following the rabbit, falls down the hole… and finds herself back in the dream from her childhood, where things are the same and yet different.
The characters in story are picked from both Alice books (the second entitled Through The Looking Glass). Some of them are also sort of mixed up with each other (like the Queen of Hearts from the first book and the Red Queen from the second). Since I have not reread the second book as recently as the first one, my memories of that one are less clear.
Anyway, I found this to be rather okay too, because the context of it all being a dream – a fiction of Alice’s own imagination – is being kept throughout.
At a critical moment, Alice says:
“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole, I’ve been told what I must do and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice, and of not being Alice. But this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here. I make the path.”
Now, if you’re in the mood to be critical, there are of course a few such points you could make as well.
For one thing, you might say it is a bit too much obviously Disney (displayed in faithful dogs and fairy tale castles and whatnot).
For another, you might also say it is a bit too much Tim Burton + Johnny Depp. Some review I read on the internet said for example that there is too little difference between Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. And there is something in that.
Yes. I think I’d say the Mad Hatter is Depps’s Willy Wonka with Depp’s Scottish accent of J.M. Barrie (from Finding Neverland, about the author of Peter Pan) and Depp’s walk from Benny and Joon (where his character imitates Buster Keaton). In short: It’s Johnny Depp… But that also means there is some depth to the character. (For one thing, we get to see the Hatter actually making hats.)
A third point of criticism might be that the story is a bit too much 21st century special effects dragon-slaying adventure. But – the ingredients are there in Carroll’s books, even if the film has made much of what was little in the books, and the other way round.
Some critics might find it a distortion of the story to have a 19 year old Alice. I think it works rather well, seen in relation to all the shrinking and growing and searching for identity. I must also say that I was very impressed with Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice.
The Red Queen is played by Helena Bonham Carter, not really easily recognizable with heavy makeup and some considerable digital distortion of her head. But good acting really makes the character.
Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of the White Queen is also interesting. She’s supposed to be the good one, but there is some darkness in her as well.
All in all, I enjoyed it. Maybe one has to be a little bit mad to do so. But as Alice’s father said to her, and she in turn to the Mad Hatter: “All the best people are”…