So, tonight I went to see Alice in Wonderland. I’ve just about come to terms with calling it that when I’m talking about the film, as I suppose it’s the proper title, but when we’re discussing the book, make sure you say Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ok? Right. Glad we’ve cleared that up.
Tim Burton – who is the only director who could possibly do Alice – sets his version of the book when Alice is 19, paying a return visit to Wonderland. So all the same characters are there (from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There as well) but he can throw in a Hollywoody Quest Plot where Alice has to slay the Jabberwocky. In a nice touch, they refer to this foretold event as The Frabjous Day.
Burton never seems to quite decide whether he’s adapting the book or creating a sequel – everything is new to Alice, who has forgotten most of what happened (Tweedledee – or is it Tweedledum? – voiced my thoughts at one point when he said “Surely she should remember all this from the first time?) but that’s a small matter when it comes to his realisation of Wonderland, which is rather wonderful. Very Tim Burton. Even better than the setting are the characters – Helena Bonham Carter is, visually and character-wise, perfect as the Red Queen; Johnny Depp is delightfully mad as the Mad Hatter; Stephen Fry was born to be a Chesire Cat. And so it goes on – some great decisions with make-up and special effects make the characters dazzling. The only dubious member of the cast was Mia Wasikowska as Alice, who wasn’t brilliant… but once she got to Wonderland she didn’t have much to do but look surprised and/or determined, and she managed that with aplomb.
My real problems with the film were mostly about the plot – I know that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland doesn’t have a very linear plot, but it does have a brilliant rhythm and warped internal logic, which could perhaps have been carried across to the film. Instead, the plot led to the inevitable battle scene… why do all big budget films have to have a battle scene now? I blame Lord of the Rings… they’re always so long and dull and nothing happens except we see just how much money they had to throw at CGI axes.
Also – perhaps I should have expected this with Tim Burton – the film was rather more sinister than the book. I’m mostly thinking about the hedgehogs… (what a sentence to write!) who enjoyed being croquet balls in the book, but were terrified in the film. Everyone seems contentedly mad in the book, and rather more scared in the film – but I don’t think Burton will ever make a cheery film.
Still, worth seeing – doesn’t match up to the book, but it is one of my favourites so that comes as no surprise – and I got all excited about it being in 3D (you just know in five years time that our 3D film technology is going to look wildly dated). Let me know if you’re going to see it, and what you think… (and make sure you read the books)
My previous experience with getting videos across from YouTube haven’t always been successful, but hopefully above this post is the 1903 version of Alice which I’ve seen linked to in a few places… look out for some wonderful ‘surprise-acting’ and quite impressive effects for over a hundred years ago.