Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

I have to start by saying I might be slightly biased in this review, mostly because I absolutely love the story of Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors. Before even going to the movie I knew the combination of the two was going to be something that was going to please me, or at least be something worth seeing. Since I was so excited about this movie, I was worried that it was going to disappoint me, but I'm glad to say that this movie exceeded my already high expectations. The only disappointment I had came at the end, and it was something I knew was going to happen anyway.

This movie was about Alice as a grown woman living in Victorian England. She doesn't fit in well and is always daydreaming, taking after her Father who took his company to great heights because he believed in the impossible. When she finds out that her life has been planned out in a way that she doesn't desire (she's about to be engaged to a man she doesn't like and is expected to live like a normal Victorian woman), she runs away, following the white rabbit that she's been seeing all day. When she gets back to Wonderland, she can't remember anyone and thinks it's a dream. All of the residents say that she's destined to slay the Jabberwocky, and they despirately need her help because the Red Queen has taken over all of Wonderland and is chopping off heads in her wake. (This story is typical of Tim Burton, showing how a "normal life" can be even worse than the one of extraordinary danger.)

The story was even darker than I expected. There's a particularly disturbing scene where Alice has to cross a moat by using severed heads as stepping stones. And apparently the red Queen has chopped off so many heads that the water on the inside is red with blood and heads look lifelessly up from it like hundreds of lily-pads. (I highly don't recommend letting young children see this movie.) Still, the dark storyline was something that I enjoyed because I thought that there was a parallel to Alice's misery and the state that Wonderland was in. There was great symbolism about Alice losing her "muchness" because she was conforming to society's standards and not being herself (everyone is accusing her of not being the "real" Alice), as well as how running from her problems didn't make them go away. By the end of the movie, Alice has learned she needs to face her problems and that she needs to stop trying to please others and live her own life. There was also a slight insinuation that the Hatter was possibly the right "guy" for Alice, someone half-mad like herself, but she needs to solve her problems and not run away from them, so of course, she can't stay. (Like I said, I was disappointed, but I knew it would happen, still I haven't spoiled the ending because there's a lot more to it.)

The casting was excellent. Everyone portrayed their characters well. I thought it was interesting the way that Depp portrayed the Mad Hatter, using a split personality to portray his madness. When the Hatter was discussing something serious or dark he would lapse into a Scottish accent for a moment and take a much darker tone. The voices for the others were also well placed. I can't think of one character that didn't fit the role.

The effects in this movie were very well done. There were enough digital animation and live action shots to make the characters seem realistic and the setting to be absolutely beautiful. I had a little trouble seeing some of the details of the shots though because the 3D made live action shots blurry. I still want to see the scene where she's falling down the rabbit hole without seeing it in 3D so that I can see the interesting objects that seem to be rushing towards her. Also, I must say, the costumes were exquisite. Everything was a feast for the eyes, and even if you don't like the thought of the story, at least see it for the costuming and effects. I liked how everything was bright colored in Wonderland in contrast to the drab whites of Victorian society.

As I said, overall this movie was a treasure worth seeing again and again. The symbolism was good. The story, while dark, was excellent, and even though some liberties were taken with the original work, the story was close enough that it felt like a continuation of the Alice in Wonderland novels. I did wonder what happened to the red queen though. The queen of Hearts isn't the red queen. I think she was made into the red queen for the sake of simplicity, and I can respect that. Anyway, see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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