Is it me or am I the only one not drinking the Tim Burton Cool-Aid when it comes to his take on Alice in Wonderland? I know that there are a lot of Tim Burton Haters out there. I’m not one of them. I know that he is a supremely talented individual who manages to create worlds where both adults and children can get lost in and marvel at. With the exception of a couple of duds in my humble opinion (anyone remember Planets of the Apes? Don’t get me started on the Batman films either), his dark, artistic vision is truly unique in Hollywood. He’s able to take any project and give it that Tim Burton twist, making it entirely his own, even if the project is an adaptation. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. There are many that disliked Sleepy Hollow but I actually loved that film. He completely changed it and pretty much tossed out everything that came before and made it his own story loosely based on the iconic story.
When I first heard he was doing Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, I was psyched. I immediately thought of American McGee’s take on Alice a few years ago when he created the video game for EA Games. I played that game briefly and liked what I saw. It was very dark and macabre. Alice wasn’t a pure, pristine young girl wandering the world of Wonderland without a clue. American’s Alice had attitude and a dark side to her. She was totally goth and a bad-ass. I’m sure many would’ve an issue with that interpretation as well but I liked it. It was waaaay off from the original source and just wickedly dark! On a side note, I recently discovered that American’s production company, Spicy Horse, is in the works of developing the sequel to Alice. It is slated to be released in early 2011 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
I was impressed with Tim Burton’s art direction. The sets, the special effects, the weird characters and the total landscape of the film was simply beautiful. Seeing it in IMAX 3D with my 7 year old daughter made it a special treat.
The story however…. Well, let’s just say that as much as I loved the visuals it was not enough to keep my interest. The story was sorely lacking. It isn’t every day that I fall asleep in a movie theater… while a movie is playing no less. I dozed off a few times. Perhaps I was tired or had little sleep the night before. Whatever the reason for my catnap, the movie wasn’t enough to stave off my forty winks.
The movie was slow in many parts and just plain didn’t keep my attention. Alice goes back to Wonderland only to find that it has completely changed since her last visit (which she has completely forgotten as she arrived many years before as a child). The Queen of Hearts rules the land with an iron grip and Alice is tasked with the mission to retrieve the sword that will kill the Jabberwocky (voiced by the ever talented Christopher Lee) by her reluctant hand. Throw in the other characters in the mix and you get the gist of the story. There are other reviewers out there that can do a far better job at describing the story than I. I wouldn’t do it justice as I was dozing off here and there towards the end.
Mia Wasikowska’s performance wasn’t particularly striking for me. She was pretty bland for me as Alice. Johnny Depp’s take on the Mad Hatter had a feeling of “been there, done that”. I saw bits of Willy Wonka and even Jack Sparrow in the Mad Hatter. I think Johnny Depp is a fantastic actor. I feel however that his performance in this film wasn’t totally fresh and new. The same goes for Helena Bonham Carter. None of the characters were memorable for me (okay, the exceptions were the Cheshire Cat and the Blue Caterpillar).
In all fairness I will give this movie another shot when it comes on Blu-ray I suppose. No doubt my daughter will want me to buy the film for her. Perhaps with a second viewing I would give it a better review. Highly unlikely but it’s been known to happen. If you want to see a “typical” Tim Burton creation and be dazzled with the 3D that’s now bombarding our movie theaters thanks to Avatar, then go with your child(ren) and have fun. They will not be creeped out nor will they have nightmares for days to come. The movie is pretty safe and that was part of the problem for me.