Down The Rabbit Hole

Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton, Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, and Alan Rickman. Released 2010

Tim Burton’s latest film is adapted from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. The original stories were a bizarre dream world full of contradictions, witty wordplay and smiling cats. Carroll’s work is littered with craziness and when translating this onto film, it’s only fitting that the director be someone just as strange as Carroll…and who’s a better choice than Tim Burton?

Now, I think it’s important to note here that I am a HUGE Lewis Carroll fan. I’ve got this big ass book (courtesy of Tyler, thanks hun) full of everything he’s ever written. Letters, poems, riddles the whole sha-bang. What attracts me to his work, in particular the Alice stories, is just how strange they are. They are devoid of any real plot (Alice just wanders from place to place until she wakes up) but what makes the stories so good is the weird conversations the characters have and how one event just sort of blurs with another, without any sort of transition.

The books force you to stop trying to make sense out of things, if you think you’ve got “the deeper meaning” figured out, Carroll throws something twice as crazy at you, just to screw with your head.

When I went to see the movie I was excited to see how Burton would handle the nonsense of the books and if he would tweak it to his signature dark style. I wasn’t impressed…

The movie’s main problem was that it tried creating a plot (fools) and a rather weak one at that. Basically, Alice returns to Wonderland (which is actually called Underland) to find the whole gang of fairytale creatures and talking animals waiting for her to explain how she has to slay the Jabberwock on the Frabjous day because the Compendium that predicts all events past, present and future says so. You follow?

Curioser and curioser...

The movie tried justifying everything that happened by holding the audience’s hand and walking them through the story. A small example would be giving names to the little cakes that Alice eats to grow bigger, or providing a whole back story on why the Mad Hatter is so…mad. It lost all of the strangeness and dream like flow wherein nothing is explained that made Carroll’s work a classic.

I've often seen a cat without a grin, but never a grin without a cat!

Despite this, the movie did have some high points, mostly the overall look of the film and the acting. Johnny Depp played a great Mad Hatter. The tea party was great at showing just how crazy all the characters are, and Depp’s random slipping in and out of a Scottish accent was one of the few small ways the movie included something that they don’t explain.

Stephen Fry did the voice of Cheshire Cat perfectly, delivering his lines with a small air of menace, as if he’s hiding something sinister behind that giant smile of his.

Helena Bonham Carter played the tyrannical cross between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. While her performance was stunning her character’s relationship with the Knight was a little odd because it tried to create some sort of sympathy for her character as if she wasn’t evil after all but just misunderstood.

Mia Wasikowska stood out above the rest. Her portrayal of Alice was just as rebellious and curious as her Victorian counterpart and she played the role beautifully.

Tim Burton created a unique take on the Alice in Wonderland story, but it lacked a significant amount of the strange, nonsense, dream like feel that made Carroll’s stories so much fun to read. It’s a movie you’ll watch once and then never have the desire to watch it again which, unfortunately, I did.

Oh and bonus points for whoever can come up with the most original explanation for why a raven is like a writing desk.