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Alice in Wonderland
Genre Fantasy
Year: 2010

Lewis Carroll wrote what some conspiracy theorists believe was a tale about the effects of hallucinogenic drugs. Perhaps the whole who ha started with Go Ask Alice about a teenage girl’s spiral into drugs in the ’60s, coupled with a song called White Rabbit. Whatever… Disney adapted it and they do Alice in Wonderland plays in churches, must be okay.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland seems more concerned with Alice’s chastity and transition into womanhood at the age of 19, as she escapes an arranged marriage “proposal” ceremony to return to Neverland Wonderland. Burton revamped Charlie & The Chocolate Factory with his trademark twisted fairy tale flair and Johnny Depp taking cues from Michael Jackson. He does something similar in Alice in Wonderland… which for all intents and purposes is a 3D sequel to the beloved Disney 2D classic.

So in case you’ve never heard about rabbit holes, magic mushrooms and white rabbits, you can either watch The Matrix, read the leather-bound Alice in Wonderland book… or get the nutshell edition here: a young blonde falls down a rabbit hole, has a psychedelic “dream” about cards, cats, caterpillars, hatters, queens, rodents and two fat kids only to emerge with a deeper understanding of her real-life predicament. Burton’s history with Disney, experience in CGI-intensive features and his creepy fairy tale style made him the perfect choice to direct Alice in Wonderland and he shows his true mettle in at least the first hour of this epic fantasy saga.

Alice in Wonderland… epic fantasy saga? Okay, so sue him – he’s been influenced by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, Shrek and even The Wizard of Oz – who hasn’t? It’s epic for its use of space and proportion with Alice growing and shrinking (obviously uses the same wardrobe as The Hulk)… pity she didn’t have some cake leftover for the battle with the Jabberwocky. It’s also more adult-orientated as the Brothers Grimm intended fairy tales to be with the darkness filtering through in every scene. Severed heads, battling demons, gouging eyes out… just another day at the office, really.

The Lord of the Rings influence is most obvious with several scenes reminiscent of the one to rule them all. The final battle, the Jabberwocky – voiced by Christoper Lee, the crowd scenes and even some of close-up profile landscape shots have been borrowed to lend scale and an air of epic fantasy adventure to Alice in Wonderland. The Wizard of Oz influence maintains a slightly camp, musical quality to the picture with the ensemble’s performances, characterised by Anne Hathaway’s role as the White Queen with the irritating hand gestures and gag reflex.

Then modern day fairy tale comedy, Shrek, is a strong influence with Mike Myer’s Johnny Depp’s take on the Mad Hatter or should I say Mike Myers . The on/off Scottish accent and the comic voice modulation mixed with Gene Wilder’s actual hair make the role very Mike Myers. Then Helena Bonham Carter’s Queen of Hearts is a knock-off of Lord Farquaad: short, big head, single…  need I go on?

Burton has also incorporated surrealism, most notably Salvador Dali’s art into the design of Alice in Wonderland. This dreamy quality fits like a hot glove through butter and is integrated into the film quite effortlessly. Burton has almost ignored the Disney 2D classic in making his translation of Alice in Wonderland. It’s fresh because we’re witnessing Alice’s older, braver face in a darker, more threatening Wonderland. Although, she still possesses an innocence and grace as embodied by the fresh-faced Mia Wasikowska – a mixture of Claire Danes and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Then the voice casting is quite simply phenomenal… Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat – brilliant, Matt Lucas as Tweedledee/Tweedledum with his trademark Little Britain facial expressions – amusing, Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar – classic… it’s like a who’s who of British stars. This adds to the story’s English slant (Carroll was in fact a Brit) despite some rickety accents from Burton’s Hollywood cult brigade: Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover and Johnny Depp.

All in all, Alice in Wonderland is mesmerising… from the 3D, CGI and spectacular visual effects to the enchanting, mysterious take on the fantasy fairy tale. The performances are good enough for the story to remain captivating, despite some diction problems, while the direction and detailed art design literally make every shot an artwork in itself. The fantasy does lean quite heavily on its influences, but its fresh take and new face make Alice in Wonderland feel wickedly original. Just like Avatar, this 3D feature is fully immersive, which definitely gives the overall film experience an extra point on the SPL!NG-O-METER.

The bottom line: Enchanting.



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