Friday, 5 March 2010
Alice In Wonderland - Review
I have always had a love/hate relationship with Mr Burton's films. for having produced some of my favourite movies of all time - his first Batman film and, in my opinion, his masterpiece, Big Fish - he always tends to muck it up by producing some completely soulless duds - such as his woefully adapted Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the dire Planet of the Apes remake. However, even the most cynical of critics would be hard pressed to argue that Lewis Carroll's beautifully written novel, Alice in Wonderland, tackled by the stylised Gothic filmmaker wouldn't be a match made in heaven. Or is it?
To my surprise, the Alice of 2010 tells a different story to the brilliantly crafted animated adaptation Walt Disney made in 1951. Set 12 years after the events of the original novel, Alice Kingsley, now 19, attends a party at a Victorian estate shortly after the death of her beloved father. Alice spots a White Rabbit, wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch. In shock and confusion, she runs off and follows the White Rabbit through it. She eventually tumbles down a rabbit hole into Underland, more commonly referred to as "Wonderland" by its inhabitants where she once again encounters the iconic characters and spins off into a grander, more dangerous adventure than her first visit.
I must commend Burton for at least trying to tell a different story than rehash the tale we've all seen time and time again, however its such a shame that it lacked any real sense of magic and - dare I say - wonder, that should be associated with Alice in Wonderland. The overall plot reminded me deeply of another indirect sequel, Disney's Return to Oz, which was hardly perfect but still had a sense of danger and darkness that clearly Burton wanted to add to his Alice, but failed miserably. It came across more like the underwhelming Narnia series, than the beautiful psychedelic vision that Carroll had most likely envisioned. Or even Walt Disney after him.
Never one to think an artist's work should be hindered in any way, especially when it comes to filmmakers, I have always felt Burton tends to shine when he is given strict boundaries to work with as oppose to being let completely loose to do what he sees fit.
The performances mostly weren't as terrible as the ill-conceived plot, the standouts being Wonderland's inhabitants themselves. The likes of the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) personally stole the show for me but it was a shame they were merely supports to another of Johnny Depp's needlessly erratic performances - reference Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - and Mia Wasikowska dull and forgettable Alice. Special mention should go to Mrs Tim Burton for her quite comedic take on the evil Red Queen.
Visually Burton should have had this film in the bag, but alas because of his choice of taking the plot down a more of a pseudo-Lord of the Ringsesque fantasy route, Wonderland was merely a decayed shadow of what audiences had experienced in the vibrant animated version. The 3D did not help either, similar to my experiences of watching Avatar back in December, I felt the glasses hindered my enjoyment, dulling the already drab colours down further.
Save for a few fun performances and a surprisingly delightful score from Danny Elfman, Alice in Wonderland once again sums up everything wrong about Tim Burton as a filmmaker. Being let loose on a feature and stamping his authority on everything, he failed to make a film that was magical, inspiring and wonderful. If you want to watch a film based on Alice's journey through Wonderland, watch the original Disney film and not this poor contender to the crown.
See this if you liked...
Alice in Wonderland (1951), Return to Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia
Alice in Wonderland is in cinemas everywhere now...unless your local cinema decided to boycott it, which in fairness they're probably doing you a favour.
Stick around this weekend folks for theFILMblog's annual Oscars preview!