In preparing for this post I brushed up on my limited knowledge of the two Alice books, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” This Tim Burton film isn’t either story, but a collection of concepts from both. Many of the film’s key elements are drawn from the nonsensical poem “The Jabberwocky” which appears in the second book. In the film, the Jabberwocky is under the Red Queen’s command. In connection with a prophecy his existence is used as a catalyst for the characters to act against. Large parts of the film are dedicated to events such as seeking the vorpal sword created for his destruction and the use of the Bandersnatch, which against all reason becomes Alice’s friend.
The expected cast of characters populate Underland. Yes, it turns out that all these years we have been calling it the wrong name! Alice called it Wonderland because she had misheard the name when she first visited. Back to the characters, there are the Red and White queens, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Caterpillar, a much more vibrant Dormouse, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and a handful of talking flowers. New characters include Stayne, the Knave of Hearts; and Bayard the bloodhound.
The White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway, might come across as annoying to some. She is playing the part true to how it was described by Lewis Carroll, but it makes her oddly ambivalent and dare I say “floaty?” Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, was fantastically insane. The makeup and digitally enlarged eyes make it hard to tear ones attention away from his performance. The Red Queen, played by Helena Bonham Carter, was delightful although her enormous bobble head and lisp were odd touches. She also had an obsession for people with large parts making the people of her court quite the freak show.
In comparison, the character of Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, seemed so ordinary. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it made a great counter point against the other characters, emphasizing the difference. The director had a fantastic time making her grow and shrink out of her clothes for the first half of the film. The whole story is geared to help Alice learn to stand up for herself so she can speak out against a hideous marriage proposal and live her dreams, which she does.
I give the movie a 6 out of 10, enough to keep watching but not enough to want to rush out and buy it. It’s fun to watch for the artistry of the makeup and costuming. The story is interesting and well-fleshed out without feeling like it’s trying too hard. I predict it will be nominated for a few Oscars.
Need to beef up your Alice knowledge? Look here: