Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Alice in Wonderland (3D)
That's Alice in Underland, thanks very much. Among the changes to your favorite childhood tale that Tim Burton has made is the name of the very place his heroine winds up. Again. Yes, you see, this is Alice's second journey to (W)onderland. This time, she is all grown up and about to be thrown into marriage to a pompous redheaded lord. She'd rather fling herself down the rabbit hole again, and does exactly that. But Alice thinks this is all a dream. A nightmare, rather, that she has been having for years, where there are disappearing cats and blue caterpillars and a mad mad mad mad hatter.
The first time we meet Alice, in fact, is when she is very young and her father is trying to console her after one such nightmare. This would have all been fine, had she not so deeply resembled a fully made-up baby beauty queen...no names, please. It's in bad taste. :)
This new Wonderland is a classic Tim Burton utopia. Not a tree is ungnarled, not a branch unthorned. It is quite beautiful, and the 3D does it justice, though I'm sure that 2D is just fine, too. Our grownup Alice is pale and stubborn and less apt to play along than when she was younger. This time, the Mad Hatter is truly bonkers. But then, all the best people are.
For example, Johnny Depp, again playing against type. His habit of taking roles that go against his natural beauty works for him. With his blackened eyes and socket-effect orange wig and eyebrows , this Hatter is not only mad, he is sad. A sad and lonely hatter, constantly worried that he has fallen entirely off the map.
Helena Bonham-Carter is the evil bobble-head Red Queen, and is beastly to look at, while Anne Hathaway, as Red's sister, the White Queen, is a beauty as only Burton can dream up. Crispin Glover of 80s fame is the lecherous Knave of Hearts, aptly named Stain, and he wears his constant grimace nicely. Some of the best actors in this film are not seen at all, only heard. Alan Rickman is the Caterpillar, the great Stephen Fry is the wily and creepier than usual Cheshire Cat, Christopher Lee is the Jabberwocky, and Michael Sheen is the White Rabbit, dashing about wildly in his waistcoat.
Though there were children at the showing I went to, I'm not so sure this is a children's Alice. This is a dark and Gothic Alice, and some children may be confused. Then again, I suppose that part of the charm of the Alice story has always been its off-kilter-ness (?). Burton's version is not my favorite Alice, to be sure, but it is far better than I had expected it to be. Remember his dire adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Me too. That is not the case here.