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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Alice in Wonderland


Tim Burton emerged as a promising director in the 1980s, making a number of great films about lovable outsiders (Pee Wee Herman, a reinvented Batman, Edward Scissorhands, etc). Having long since fallen from grace, his post-1990s output has been characterised by self-indulgent collaborations with leading man Johnny Depp, muse Helena Bonham Carter and composer Danny Elfman. The worst of all these films is the putrid Alice in Wonderland.

The most striking aspect of the film is the visual one—an unholy compromise between live action and motion capture CGI. Burton’s recent films have embraced quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake without any of the heart of his early work, and Alice’s visuals are emblematic of this. It is unbearably ugly, its disgusting candy-coloured facade doing little to cover the soulless emptiness underneath.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) does a passable job in the lead, but most of the supporting cast are uninspiring. As the Mad Hatter, Depp is on autopilot, going through his usual quirky motions. Bonham Carter’s Red Queen feebly tries to channel Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder but falls short. The voice actors, including Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry and Michael Sheen, simply read their lines, letting the CGI do the acting for them.

Burton has stated that he doesn’t thinks there has been a definitive version of Lewis Carroll’s children’s book and offered his film to fill the void. It is therefore somewhat bewildering that his version often deviates from the source material for the sole purpose of deviating from the source material. Now an adult, Alice returns to Wonderland while escaping from a suitor. Her adventures incorporate events and characters from both of Carroll’s novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, without being faithful to either. Instead, it employs every cliché from recent generic children’s fantasies. Think Bridge to Terabithia meets The Spiderwick Chronicles meets Prince Caspian (the dormouse has even been turned into Reepicheep). True to form, the film ends in the kind of badly choreographed climatic battle that the worst fantasy films relish.

For even-handedness’ sake I will note the positive aspects in the film. I counted two: Firstly, Anne Hathaway is mildly entertaining as the White Queen. Secondly, the Jabberwocky slightly resembles a monster from a Japanese Kaiju film. That is all.

I conclude with a plea. Please do not watch Alice in Wonderland. Burton’s hordes of fangirls are likely to watch anything he directs, so my plea will probably fall on deaf ears, but if this review is enough to deter just one person from watching this film then it will be worth it. Burton could smear excrement onto celluloid and his fan base would ensure its profitability, and that is exactly what he has done with this movie.

Alice in Wonderland
Director: Tim Burton

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