Alice, an unpretentious and individual 19-year-old, is betrothed to a dunce of an English nobleman. At her engagement party, she escapes the crowd to consider whether to go through with the marriage and falls down a hole in the garden after spotting an unusual rabbit. Arriving in a strange and surreal place called “Underland,” she finds herself in a world that resembles the nightmares she had as a child, filled with talking animals, villainous queens and knights, and frumious bandersnatches. Alice realizes that she is there for a reason–to conquer the horrific Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne. Directed by Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Big Fish).
Rating: 6 out of 10
This summer I visited New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, where Burton’s illustrations and films were part of a featured exhibit. I had no idea walking in what a talented illustrator and artist Burton is. I’ve always enjoyed his films — “Edward Scissor Hands” “Batman Returns” and “Big Fish,” which is one of my all-time favorites. But Burton’s talent as an illustrator is in plain site when watching some of his pictures — and “Alice in Wonderland” is a perfect example of that.
This is a smart picture in many ways. There is great love in the recreation of an iconic world with equally iconic characters. But this is Burton’s vision, a much darker place where we see the heads of the Queen of Hearts’ victims floating in the moat around her castle. The world Burton takes us through is both beautiful and scary, just as they were in Lewis Carrol’s novels and it works very well.
The acting is fantastic. Johnny Depp never disappoints and Mia Wasikowska was perfect as Alice, bringing beauty while having a feisty sense of innocence that teeters on adulthood. The only problem I have with the movie is the script moves awkwardly toward Frabjous Day, but we’re never really told what it is. We just know that Alice has to fight the Jabberwocky, a massive dragon who is part of the Queen of Heart’s army. Alice, a frail looking English school girl, suits up in armor and brandishes a sword, but it’s a little hard to buy into her being a heroic warrior taking on a dragon, complete with cheesy, action-movie line, “Off with your head” as she flies through the air, swinging a sword down on a dragon that is several stories tall. The film unfolds in an anti-climactic battle and ties up every loose end in far too tidy a fashion for Burton. That’s what you get with a Disney film. This is a visual feast with much left desired from the script.