MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dariusz Walski
WRITER: Linda Woolverton
MUSIC: Danny Elfman

Director Tim Burton brings his vision of Lewis Carroll’s famous story to the big screen. Rather than being a true adaptation, though, the film is actually a sequel to the original stories and not a very good one at that. This film’s story does for Carroll’s story what Spielberg’s “Hook” did for “Peter Pan”. The film is a combination of computer 3D effects and live action.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now 19-years-old and once a snooty young man named Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) proposes to her, she gets confused as to what she should do and runs away. Soon after, she follows the famous White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) down a mysterious hole to the world of Underland (she mistakenly called it Wonderland the first time through). Once there, is seems she does not really remember much of her earlier adventures.

She meets up with all the famous characters from the novels including Absolem (Alan Rickman), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas) and, of course, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). They all seem to be wondering whether or not she is the true Alice. The Hatter eventually tells her of how the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) took over Underland with the use of the Jabberwocky, a violent creature whose fear-inducing nature keeps everybody in check.

Alice learns that if she is the true Alice everyone keeps talking about, she will have to face the Jabberwocky and save Underland. This is one of the biggest problems with the film. The entire story is a set up for a forced third act that feels completely out of place and feels like an excuse to have an action scene thrown in for good measure. This, however, is not the only problem with the flick.

During the first act, almost all of the effects feel like unoriginal 3D gimmicks. The worst thing about them is that they are not done particularly well. It felt as if Burton and his crew just wanted to throw things at the audience to say at this point, “There, you have your 3D, now let’s get on with the story.”

By the second act, these effects are toned down a bit but now there is a whole new problem. The purpose of the second act seems to be about setting the audience up for a surprise and the third act. The thing is if anyone has read the books or even seen the Disney animated movie, the surprise will not come as any shock at all.

Finally, the Jabberwocky has to be the most uninspired creation in the film. It turns out that the damn thing is nothing more than a dragon. The only real difference is that it can talk and it seems to breathe an energy beam instead of fire. Burton has been known to create original characters before such as Edward Scissorhands and his take on the Jabberwocky is wholly uninspired. It looked like a combination of a traditional dragon and the Creeper from the “Jeepers Creepers” films.

There are some good performances to be found throughout and some of the visuals are pretty good. While Wasikowska is an adequate if not sometimes boring Alice, Carter steals the show as the Red Queen. Anyone in the audience can tell that she is having fun playing the fiendish character. Another point goes to the voice talent that includes Rickman, Sheen and, above all else, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat.

Despite these performances, Burton’s uninspired follow-up to Carroll’s novels proves to be wholly unnecessary and completely unoriginal in its execution. Audiences can definitely skip out on this one.

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