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A book review of a movie: Tim Burton's film "Alice in Wonderland"

Perhaps it was all my imagination, but I’m pretty sure I felt the whole world shudder when news came out that The Karate Kid is going to be remade. I mean, sure you have Jackie Chan (of whom I am proud to call myself a diehard fan) and Will Smith’s kid, but what kind of reinterpretation can we expect from a movie so firmly set in real life? If Hollywood is going to do remakes, they should stick with movies from/about the far past or movies that are clearly not set within the trappings of real life.

So, when Tim Burton announced his intent to remake Alice in Wonderland, many Hollywood gossip websites and movie reviewers revved into instant excitement. Tim Burton! Johnny Depp!!! Anne Hathaway!!!! A movie set completely outside of reality!!! The cast was outrageously talented and we all believed that Burton would do an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland that would blow the Disney cartoon version right out of our minds.Personally, I expected a dark look at Alice’s insanity in an uptight society…an interpretation similar to that of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea interpretation of crazy Martha from Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre.

Unfortunately, when the movie was released, many reviews sounded a little “meh” about Alice in Wonderland and even more reviews seemed downright dismayed by the whole movie. Even my friend, a huge fan of Tim Burton, told me I shouldn’t waste my time with Alice in Wonderland. Like the Contrary Mary that I am, however, I thought “what do they know? I’ll probably love it.” So, off we tripped to see Alice in Wonderland on the big screen and, like everyone else I had talked to, I felt this movie did not achieve even a quarter of its potential. Actually, Alice in Wonderland probably didn’t achieve a quarter of a quarter of its potential. How sad is that?

Like myself, many people are probably thinking “aaah, what does she know? I’ll probably love Alice in Wonderland.” So, instead of just talking about how much I disliked the movie, I will give you a brief synopsis of what I liked and didn’t like. Then you can decide for yourselves if the movie is worth watching in an expensive theatre or downloading for free from the internet.


THE GOOD


Tim Burton is a master of visual effects and costuming. That’s why this movie was so appealing in the first place: Depp’s mad hatter costume was absolutely stunning to look at and Anne Hathaway’s look helped her achieve the otherworldliness so necessary for the White Queen. Even the Red Queen, with her giant head and teeny-tiny body, was pretty neat to look at. Alice was blessed with three (or more) different costumes that were pretty original and totally different from the cartoon version of the movie. The stunning costumes were probably the best and most memorable part of this movie. Too bad we can see all of these costumes when we do a Google image search of Alice in Wonderland.

Despite his lack of a costume, the Cheshire Cat was probably the best character in the whole movie. Voiced by Stephen Fry, this cat’s initial lack of allegiance to either Red or White Queen was pretty interesting (too bad they didn’t go further with that) and his computer created body was very fun to watch. I sometimes wonder if the Cheshire Cat is so appealing because he is exactly the same, in character and looks, as that of his Disney cartoon movie predecessor. 


THE BAD


I never thought I would have to put him in this category, but Johnny Depp’s performance as the Mad Hatter is just that—bad. Reminiscent of his drunken turn as the pirate Jack, Depp swings from a tipsy English bloke to an enraged Scottish poet without rhyme or reason. In what could have been an inspired move, Linda Woolverton (the screenplay writer) had the Mad Hatter recite Lewis Carroll’s non-sensical poetry during his Scottish rages. Unfortunately, Depp’s slurred recital of the poetry made these poems even more incomprehensible than they were meant to be. I spent a good portion of the movie asking my husband what Depp said and my husband spent a good portion of the movie answering “I don’t know.”


Now, perhaps it was a Disney thing or perhaps it was just a bad decision by Woolverton and Burton, but the plot to Alice in Wonderland was so thin, so worn out, and so boring that it could have just been called “A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Alice in Wonderland and her crazy made-up friends.” This movie was as deep as a puddle and about as interesting. Unfortunately, the lack of good jokes and dialogue means that Alice in Wonderland will not be one of those classic kid’s movies.


Lastly, Burton’s combination of computer graphic images and real life actors was neither original nor pleasing to my movie senses. Like the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the computer graphic characters just seemed fake beside their real-life actor counterparts. While Burton tried to counter this effect by using computer graphics to alter Helena Bonham-Carter’s Red Queen character, the end result was as flat as the red card army. Like any good pseudo-Luddite, I firmly believe that computer graphic images should either be used completely (in movies like Monsters, Inc.) or they should be used sparingly and only when absolute necessity dictates it.


There are many more reasons not to like Alice in Wonderland but, like me, you might feel compelled to find them out for yourself. All I can say, however, is that Tim Burton’s version of the classic series is an epic fail. Tell me your opinion in the comment boxes below!

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