Alice in Wonderland * * *

Genre: Fantasy

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Linda Woolverton, based on the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover

Voice Cast: Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee 

Running Length: 108 minutes

Synopsis: Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now 19 years old, and it seems that she has completely forgotten about her first trip down the rabbit hole. However, when she’s practically coerced into a marriage, Alice decides to takes a time out from the proposal party, only to find herself falling down yet another rabbit hole, once again travelling to Wonderland. There, she finds the same cast of oddball characters – the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Absolem the caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Cheshire cat (Stephen Fry), and more. And of course there are the Wonderland queens – the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) wants to off Alice’s head, but the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) would like to regain her reign over Wonderland with Alice’s help. The way to do it? Get Alice to use the Vorpal Sword on Frabjous Day to kill the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee).

Review: There’s no doubt that Tim Burton is a visual genius, and once again it shows in the weird and wonderful depiction of Wonderland in this film. It’s not really kid-friendly, but there’s no denying that the oddity of it all has a queer charm (see the Red Queen’s swollen head for a good example). One wonders how isolated the actors must have been because it seems almost the entire movie is composed of CG imagery.

The flora and fauna of Wonderland is quite possibly almost as detailed as the world of Avatar, but the one differentiating factor is that whilst 3D enhances the Avatar universe, sadly in this case watching the film in 3D will likely diminish the viewing experience. Yes, that’s right – if you have a choice, try not to watch the movie in 3D. The bright colours of the background end up looking muted and dull through 3D glasses, and the experience is not immersive at all. In fact, during the action sequences, 3D actually looks blurry and is not a particularly comfortable viewing experience. Perhaps it’s because Avatar has now set the standard so high, Alice in 3D feels nothing more than a poorly executed gimmick.

This is also a movie where the voice talents fare better than actors who are physically present. Whilst Mia Wasikowska is perfectly decent as Alice, her character is rather colourless to begin with and there’s little depth to speak of. And as always Johnny Depp is cast as yet another quirky Burton-esque reinterpretation of a classic character, though in this instance the performance feels a little perfunctory. My favourite in the movie is actually Helena Bonham Carter, and much as it is totally over the top and she spares no expense in chewing up the scenery, it’s a really fun performance to watch.

One of the biggest issues I have with this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland is how the reimagining has actually turned the movie into a generic fantasy movie starring well-loved characters from the Wonderland universe. This is particularly apparent in the showdown between Alice and the Jabberwocky – the only reasons (I feel) this entire segment exists is to make sure there’s enough fodder for spinoff video games to capitalize on, and to appease cinemagoers who demand action sequences in every movie they watch. Make no mistake – the movie is entertaining enough, and certainly worthy of a trip to the cinema, but there’s this nagging sensation that something had been lost in translation.

Rating:  * * * (out of four stars)

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