19 March 2010

Review: "Alice in Wonderland"

Film directors are known for using the same actors in multiple films. Diane Keaton appeared in many of Woody Allen's early films, and Mia Farrow appeared in almost every single one of his films during the 1980s. I do not think that any director has the list of frequent actors as Tim Burton. When one thinks of Tim Burton, one must also think of Johnny Depp, who has been in seven films, and the past three in a row. But he is not Tim Burton's only favourite, he has also worked with Helena Bonham Carter for each of his past six films since 2001. Both actors star in this reincarnation of Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is a terrific story that has been adapted multiple times, though the most well-known may be the 1951 Disney animated film that remains of my favourite Disney films. The studio began its marketing campaign in June 2009, when images of the main characters were released. There were also Facebook groups created for members to gain early access to the film's trailer. Alice in Wonderland is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's story, and as excited as I was for the film's release, I was incredibly disappointed by the final product. The film started slowly and had a terribly weak ending that left me wanting to go back and watch a different version.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska, of HBO's In Treatment) is a nineteen year-old girl who has a vivid imagination and talks about strange creatures. Her father has just died and she is attending a party at a wealthy estate. It turns out that the party is for her engagement and, after hearing Hamish Ascot's proposal, she ends up chasing after the White Rabbit and falls down the rabbit hole. She has no memories of Underland, but the inhabitants are awaiting the return of a girl named Alice who once visited as a small child. Underland is ruled by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who stole the crown from her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). It is believed that Alice will slay the Red Queen's Jabberwocky and reclaim Underland for the White Queen. With the help of the Hatter (Johnny Depp), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), Absolem the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the bloodhound Bayard (Timothy Spall) and Mallymkun (Dormouse) (Barbara Windsor) Alice must find the courage to fight against the Red Queen and defeat the Jabberwocky.

I saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D, and even though the 3D animations were not as amazing as Avatar, I feel that the film would have been better in 2D. I was incredibly disappointed by the story and felt that the film pushed too hard to force the symbolism of Alice's struggle in Underland with her pending engagement. I had a lot of trouble during the first act of the film and found myself losing focus. I was able to get past that, but when the film approached the climactic battle scene I felt like Alice in Wonderland lost itself as a film. Roger Ebert mentioned this in his review, and questioned why the battle sequence was necessary. I found Helena Bonham Carter to be the most enjoyable part of the film. She was as enjoyable as her head was large. I was even able to cope with Johnny Depp, until the end of the film when I was worried one moment would ruin the entire film for me. Another site mentioned this, and I did not read the article until I had seen the film, but the author and I have similar feelings. At the end of the day I am left to wonder if Tim Burton was pressured by Disney to make a family film or if he is just running out of creative ideas?

My rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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