With each Tim Burton film you feel like you've stepped into a whole new world. The man has the technical skills and vision to create a type of alternate universe with every film he makes. When film technology gives him some new stuff to work with (improved computer animation and 3D) it seems like the sky should be the limit.
Based on his past work and his zany way of telling stories, Tim Burton (Corpse Bride, Sleepy Hollow) seemed like a brilliant choice to direct this film. Who else could give the story its crazy, off kilter and seemingly written through a haze of drugs due? But, alas things don't always work out as you foresee them.
Unfortunately, I left this film thinking that Burton had tried to do too much with his reworking of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It is almost as if he tried to shove every idea that popped into his head into the film and what worked worked and what didn't…well, he tried.
Alice in Wonderland is not a child's tale. It is more like a bad dream you might have as an adult. It is weird and what happens to Alice can be seen as disturbing. Burton is smart enough to make this a film for adults, but not smart enough to know when enough is enough.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska – from television's In Treatment) is now a 19-year-old girl who is debating whether she should accept the proposal of snooty and squeamish Hamish Ascott (Leo Bill – Becoming Jane, Kinky Boots). While running off to chase after a white rabbit (Michael Sheen – New Moon, Frost/Nixon) she keeps seeing in the gardens, Alice falls down a very deep hole.
When she finally hits the bottom of the hole she then proceeds to drink a potion that makes her small and then a cake that makes her giant. She has tumbled into Wonderland. The White Rabbit has lead her there thinking she is the Alice who will slay the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee – The Golden Compass, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 2005) controlled by the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter – Fight Club, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).
Believing she is just in a dream as it was like the ones she had as a child, Alice goes along with it to a certain extent believing she is going to wake up any moment, but is convinced she is not the "right" Alice as she could never slay anything. A myriad of characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp – Public Enemies, Pirates of the Caribbean), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway – The Devil Wears Prada, Valentine's Day), and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas – from television's Little Britain) try their best to convince Alice that she is the one who will be the heroine by slaying the Jabberwocky.
As usual this Tim Burton film looks great. But I was thinking as I was watching it through my 3D glasses that it might look even better in plain old 2D. The colours and animation might pop even more. The way the characters are all envisioned is also quite original, as you might expect from Burton. The Burtonian Wonderland creatures and characters are not the warm cuddly cartoony things you've previously seen. Most are grotesque and odd. Tweedledee and Tweedledum are oval but flat and the Red Queen's bulbous head made me laugh on several occasions. Wonderland itself is a strange place so it is no wonder that the characters living in it are odd to say the least.
The story and visuals go along swimmingly until we get to the climax. Then the film devolves into many battle/action films we have seen time and time again until you feel like plucking your eyes from your head. The fight sequence lasts way too long for my liking and it ends exactly the way you could have predicted at the beginning of the film. Leading me to scream out "Why, Tim, why?". A letdown, to say the least, after the excellent and visually engaging first 2/3 of the film.
Another letdown for me was the acting by Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway. Hathaway seems to be going for the zen-like good witch thing, but ends up just looking silly. Johnny Depp, who is usually wonderful in this type of strange character, seems to have taken his cue from his director and made a character that is a hodge podge of many things. Sometimes he seems like he is redoing Jack Sparrow from Pirates of Caribbean and then he is doing Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He starts with a British accent then for no reason moves to a Scottish brogue and then back again. It was all very confusing.
Though this is not up to the high standards that Tim Burton has set for himself "Alice in Wonderland" is still better than most of the schlock out there.