Title: Alice in Wonderland
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helene Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Lewis Carroll (novel)
Runtime: 108 min
Release Date: March 5, 2010
Tim Burton's slightly darker twisted take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland introduces us to an Alice that is no longer in her childhood. Alice is now a young woman, a woman who has had her life preplanned and dictated to her since her father passed away. Alice is a constantly distracted, fiercely independent individual who wants nothing more than to live life on her own terms. When Alice is unwittingly proposed to by a pale, smarmy and entirely repulsive young Lord in the interest of a beneficial marriage she sprints away from the crowd of onlookers as the hapless Lordling looks on.
In the process of chasing what Alice can't help but assume is a rabbit wearing a waistcoat she falls into a rabbit hole that is much more than it appears. After a dizzying fall sequence Alice finds herself in a bizzarre and strangely familiar world where the impossible seems to happen with great frequency. The talking animals of Wonderland have lured Alice here in the hope that she can save them from the tyrannical rule of the Red Queen, played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter. Alice is once again finding the world spinning out of control around her. Alices adventures find her chased by all means of creature and characters, from card shaped knights to a strange cross between a tiger, a snow leopard and a beachball Alice must run for her life for most of the first few minutes of the film. With the help of "Ches" or the cheshire cat, Alice eventually finds her way to the Mad Hatter (Depp) who has hatched an unsurprisingly mad scheme to bring down the red queen.
While the acting from Depp and Bonham Carter is excellent, Mia Wasikowska's performance as Alice is surpsingly run of the mill. While even the most talented stars in show business may be hard pressed to measure up to Depp and Bonham Carter (remember them in Sweeney Todd?) Alice could perhaps have been cast as someone slightly more vigorous. Great acting aside, the show is quite literally stolen by Burton's vivid portrayal of Wonderland - a mash up between Avatar's neon color palette one moment and an almost monochromatic scene the next. As usual Burton isn't the best story teller with some rather disjointed plot elements and a script that could have used a helping hand or three. Whatever shortcomings Alice in Wonderland does have, many viewers enjoy nothing more than a twisted, garish, vivid world brought to life by Tim Burton - and this he delivers upon in spades.
This film received a rating of PG. There is very little content that would be considered inappropriate for a young audience though some themes may be a little dark or scary.
If there's one thing Burton usually brings to his movies it is a unique visual flair - and Alice in Wonderland is no exception. Filmed entirely in the digital domain on Panavision Genesis cameras with some high end Dalsa, Zeiss and Angenieux lenses this is a beautiful film. The color palette used in many of the early Wonderland scenes is outstanding with a huge range of hues. Detail is finely resolved and there is no noticeable artifacting visible from the digital post production process.
The film comes to theaters in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which while slightly atypical works well for the subject matter ( We don't need many pan shots of massive vistas in this film). Now - on to the griping. Most of us are now permanently spoiled when it comes to 3D after the Avatar experience - we now expect immersion to be seamless, no headaches, perfectly natural 3D that helps bring the movie to life. Alice in Wonderland does attain this at certain moments, however most of the time the 3D does unfortunately leave a little to be desired. I would not go so far as to say it detracts from the film, but I did leave the theater thinking that I would be completely satisfied if I had seen the movie in 2D instead.
The audio mix in Alice in Wonderland is capable and well thought out. The music is quite haunting and fits very well thematically with the movie - in fact the music is the most memorable part of the audio from my experience. There are no massive explosions to induce heart pounding bass in the film, though one scene does dig quite deep for a moment or two. Overall the mix is just above average, with clear well resolved dialogue but reserved use of the surrounds and LFE channel. You'll love the music if you're a score nut like me but may not leave terribly impressed otherwise.
Alice in Wonderland is an interesting take on Lewis Carroll's classic story. The characters are true to the literary archetypes they are based upon, with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter capturing the essence of their characters extremely well. Unfortunately, Alice, the character who should be the star of the film is portrayed so tamely that she is at times washed out by extremely colorful characters surrounding her. Burton's visual style is evident throughout the film in a gorgeous digital transfer and is a treat to look at - though the 3D doesn't seem to add much to the presentation. If you're a fan of Burton's work or are simply looking for something a little more engaging than "Cop Out" to watch on the weekend, give Alice in Wonderland a look, just don't expect it to steal your heart.