Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland

The much anticipated Tim Burton twist on an old tale already made famous by Disney comes at the public in gorgeous 3D. But is it more style over substance? Short answer. Yes.

Like a lot of people, I was looking forward to this until I saw the trailer which looked rather, crap. It seemed to make the audience gasp in wonder at how it looks rather than showing an actual film, but I still held on to hope. Who can say what the story was about when they saw the trailer? But talking about trailers, I saw this at the Waterloo iMax in 3D and the trailer for Tron 2 beforehand was absolutely AMAZING. I would probably pay the entry fee again just to see those 2 minutes of genius. It looks incredible in 3D, even more so in iMax and, even though the black and white skin under neon lights is gone, it still looks dark and moody. I can't wait!

Anyway, what of Alice? well, what makes this strange is that this is some sort of weird sequel to the first one. Which means that it's a coming-of-age story taking place after a coming-of-age story. But this isn't Through The Looking Glass either, so it's not even really a sequel ... how mind boggling!

So what of Alice? Well the story is about a girl changing into a woman. Her body changes, literally growing and shrinking (a physical metaphor for her struggle between childhood and adulthood), she has no help from home and has to fend for herself in a chaotic, dangerous world. There's an obsession with time and scheduling ("You're late!"), with rules ("Eat Me"), with responsibility (slaying the dragon) and to not lose your head. Literally. So what of Burton's world? Well it certainly looks pretty but what I loved about the original Disney film, and the book when I read it yonks ago, was that it was quite dark. There was a macabre undertone throughout and a lot of black humour, but this time there's none. As great and cartoony Wonderland looks, it actually makes it a whole less threatening. Why did they do it? It's a safe line between the darkness Burton is known for and the happy colours that Disney is known for and makes it an amalgamation that felt a bit awkward.

So what actually happens? Well story wise, it's complete nonsense and full of plot holes. All you need to know is good queen, bad queen and that's it. It was absolutely frustrating to watch one scene stumble into another. The girl who played Alice does a decent job though, but her awkward fight scenes and that terrible dance at the end was cringeworthy. Depp keeps everything flowing nicely as the Mad Hatter albeit his Scottish accent that turns up when he's angry. It's a bit strange and the dance at the end again? Awful. What were they thinking?! Depp is clearly enjoying the character but since when has the Mad Hatter been so key to events? What I loved about him beforehand is he would turn up and piss about, he had no idea what was going on, even when he turned up in court later on in the original - but in this he's almost some kind of Morpheus figure. It just doesn't work and his role as a missing father figure for Alice is a bit weird as it comes from the fact her Dad did the crazy thing of ... trading with Thailand! The maniac! The voice acting is alright but the real shining stars are Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. Why? Well let me tell you. Please. Let me.

Bonham-Carter as the Queen of Hearts is great. She's the petulant child with a big head (literally) that Alice is trying to get away from and once she sees what that's like face-to-face, she doesn't like it. Hathaway was the only funny thing in the whole movie, her (fake) gracefulness, maternal protection and heavenly presence is the woman Alice wants to be. Kind, sweet and elegant. Alice's real journey here is not only becoming a woman, but 'finding herself' as the blue caterpillar might put it. She is not sure she's the 'right Alice' to begin with and even goes under the guise of a childish name of Um until, somehow, getting the guts up to find her identity in the world.

But why come back to Wonderland now? Well, the real adult world and all it's fakery (mirrored in Wonderland by the plastic falseness of the Queen of Heart's crowd) is shown in a big engagement party for Alice that she's not even aware of. It is the true turning point of having to stand up for herself if she's to make her mark. You go girl! Every character is similar to someone in Wonderland, you can figure it out quite easily. It's not hard.

In 3D this was great, it worked well and didn't make me feel too sick for most of the time but it just wasn't enough to meet even 3D Avatar - which was better as a film in more than one respect. Alice In Wonderland was funny in places, didn't really make any sense, wasn't dark or as dangerous as it should have been and could have been a whole lot better. This might sound like a poor example, but when Dorothy goes back to Oz in Return To Oz and people tell her it's got really bad in Oz, it definitely has got really bad and that was a whole heap darker, and better than this. When Depp says it's got bad, nothing has actually changed storywise from what could have taken place first time round surely? Have they just got a bit fed up of their Queen? The end of the film almost made me want to hide I felt so embarrassed. Very distressing, cheesy and I had to almost look away before my confidence in Burton finally disappeared for good. Watch it for the 3D, but if you just want to see it as a film and you haven't got any kids or anything, don't bother. If you've watched it once, you won't want to watch it again. The fact it's 3D gives it an extra mark. Otherwise it's a 4 for effort (visually).

Rating: 5/10

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