So, I made a point not to look up any reviews or anything involving the cast (besides the inevitable Depp) or plot or anything about Alice in Wonderland… I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I figured it would be more visually stimulating than anything else, and indeed it was, especially in 3-D! I’ve been such a fan of the book and older movies from the Disney animated movie to the one I grew up most familiar with - of which was out a year earlier than the Disney film; the obscure and delightfully creepy Alice in Wonderland by master puppeteer, Lou Bunin in 1950 (of which I just recently discovered was finally out on DVD!! Despite the poor quality of the video mastering, I’m SO glad to finally have this film again!). So yeah, I had low expectations, and perhaps that’s why it, for the most part, really was lovely to me.
First, to get the negative out of the way. My biggest peeve: It didn’t have that dreamlike quality that Alice movies/stories are meant to have. There was too much of a plot, not enough creativity. It felt too real, and they put too much emphasis on it being real rather than a dream. Too much was given away, not enough was left up to the imagination.
As for the characters….
I thought it was interesting how Alice’s dull acting was boring, yet to me, still came across as powerful and mature; I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I loved her various dresses, and I was surprised that she wasn’t more whiny and that she didn’t have that spell of tears, where she momentarily gives up and acts like a lost little girl. She quickly grew accustomed to the world, and after a short while I figured out why (though her age really should have given it away, I suppose I am used to associating Alice with a mid-20s-ish woman such as in Lou Bunin’s version so it didn’t seem weird to me) - the movie was actually a sequel, which was probably a given to most people, but again, I didn’t do any research about this movie as I wanted to be surprised.
I noticed that Depp wasn’t nearly as impressive as I had hoped. His accent shifted a lot and there were times he had a lisp and others he didn’t… although perhaps that was all just part of his madness, in which case, I change my statement - he is brilliant! But it just felt like he unmistakably shifted into the character of Jack Sparrow a time or two, and it felt like he couldn’t quite grasp the character of the Hatter. However, I still found him endearing, courageous, kind and delightfully mad in ways I think only Depp could perform. He looked amazing as well, as could be expected, and it helped that I have an infatuation with the idea of the Mad Hatter, spooky clown makeup & natural red hair… (*chews her Squish’s long fiery tresses*)
Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was… weird at first, but she was perhaps the best actor and the character with the most amusing lines. “I love my fat boys” XD Her humor is always delightfully dry and subtle.
The dodo was precious and I loved the variety of animals and flora that I thought were delightfully portrayed. So many mushrooms… it was the ethereal atmosphere that really kept me interested. However, naming the Caterpillar “Absalom”? What? I adored the hare and the Cheshire cat very much in design and character. (The hare was my favorite character… “spooon…” XD) The actual designers for most of the characters from the film are on deviantART: http://michaelkutsche.deviantart.com/ and http://imaginism.deviantart.com/ - they have posted some gorgeous illustrations done for the movie that you should check out :)
All in all, I liked it, because I didn’t have high expectations. There were just enough twists to make the movie stand out, and the visuals were, obviously, outstanding. But the story lacked something for me… effort, perhaps? Creativity? Less realism, more surreal dreamlike qualities? I’m not a very harsh critic, but if you’re hoping for a movie that has a well thought-out story and acting that surpasses the visuals, this one might not be for you. Still, I know I’ll be buying it on DVD for the inspiring magic of the atmosphere and characters (for the most part).
I now definitely want to paint a digital picture of the Mad Hatter, Cheshire cat and the adorable March Hare.
And now I shall fuderwhack… vigorously.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Some general random trivia about Alice in Wonderland:
- The 10/6 on the card in the Mad Hatter’s hat was explained in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Nursery Alice’: The Hatter used to carry about hats to sell: and even the one that he’s got on his head is meant to be sold. You see it’s got its price marked on it - a “10” and a “6” - that means “ten shillings and sixpence.”
Ten shillings and six pennies (expressed in conversation as “Ten-and-Six”) was quite a large sum in the mid-1800’s.
- There is no answer to the riddle of “how is a raven like a writing desk?”. Some have invented their own answers since, including the most famous “because Poe wrote on both”, and “because there’s a B in both and an N in neither”.
- The Alice books were banned in China; it was in 1931 by the Governor of Hunan Province, on the grounds that “animals should not use human language” and that it was “disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”
- In Disney’s animated movie, Alice was supposed to sing a balled called “Beyond the Laughing Sky” that would be somewhat similar to Dorothy’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
- The first Disney movie was kind-of a flop. It wasn’t a total disaster, but just like with any book-to-film adaptation, there were literary fans waiting to pounce on inaccuracies and omitted scenes they felt were vital. It wasn’t a big hit until the 1960s and ‘70s, when it became associated with drug culture. This wasn’t exactly how Walt pictured the film succeeding, but Disney eventually rolled with it – the company re-released the movie in 1974 and again in 1981.
- In a new preface that Carroll wrote for the 1896 edition of Alice, he gave what he considered to be the best answer to the Mad Hatter’s riddle; “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle as originally invented, had no answer at all.”