Alice in Wonderland

On paper. it was a smart idea on Disney’s part – take a cult classic out of their back catalogue of animated features and use new technology to bring it to life. Along with the enigmatic Tim Burton at the helm of course for mass credibility. That however is where the good ideas here ended.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now 19, haunted by recurring dreams revolving a strange world and even stranger inhabitants. Escaping from the garden party turned engagement celebration, she falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in Underland, the very same world she dreamt of all her life. Here it is foretold that she will slay the Jabberwocky, champion of the Red Queen and as a result, return the White Queen to the throne.

Nothing beyond that happens in actuality.

Given the large body of material within the two Alice novels, it’s rather strange that Burton decided to use a script that hinges itself upon a character already well established in the media, the Jabberwocky and nothing else; the only other significant plot devices concern a calendar capable of preempting the finale and whether or not the protagonist is the one they have been searching for. It’s perfectly acceptable to subvert a well-known work using new material; if it builds upon that which exists already and add something new overall. Sadly everything outside of the sparse narrative is a construction, inserted artificially to give the plot and movie as a whole the right look and feel. Beloved characters flitter in and out of every scene without any express purpose other than to bring this to a reasonable 90 minute or so running time. Wore still, the British cast members (such as Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman), given the dialogue and representations they have to work with come off as hamming it up, a fact not helped by the stuffy portrayal of the aristocracy Alice herself inhabits.
Depp as the Mad Hatter attempt to juggle two accents, evidently to add some sort of depth, yet reminding us of how little substance there is overall to the piece that it is just another element that does not belong here. Alice herself is so poorly constructed that by the end I couldn’t have cared if she was the predestined hero because she gave me no reason to. If a protagonist can go the majority of a movie without expressing any convincing emotions or reasonable intelligence then the screenwriter has done a poor job. Wooden would even be too nice a word, rigour has well and truly set in.

Visually, Burton has put forward the elements commonly expected of him, except in a world that many would associate with such colour, vibrancy and warmth, the end result is lackluster and hollow. This is no more obvious than when seen in 3D where despite large parts of the surroundings being forced forward, they are of little interest. Ironically this scenic application of the 3D effects reminds us of the supreme lack of characterization there is, the inhabitants of the world feeling even flatter than the colour palette; story also suffers as it is impossible to ignore how insignificant it is when brought to us so aggressively.
The battle scene is something that could be seen in any other CGI-laden movie of the last decade, if not more, it’s pointlessness embodied by a Depp dance number promised from the beginning and (not to be entirely flippant) a historical inaccurate, or at least significantly improbable ending for Alice herself; she may as well have whipped out her Blackberry and checked what happened on Facebook while she was gone.

Were they right when they called her the real Alice? Perhaps from a corporate point of view she has all the right ingredients but deep down, there just isn’t enough soul in the movie to carry such a well-respected brand.

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