THIS IS A “RATED FOR REDUX” REVIEW; PART 5
In addition to my regular reviews, I will be looking at movies that are going to be or already have been remade in the next/last few years. I’ll give you my opinion of the film as a whole, and then let you know whether or not it should/needed to be remade as well as my reasoning. If I have any information about the redux film I will also take that into account when determining a film’s “Reduxability”. If you have any suggestions or tips I would love to hear them.
Rated For Redux: Part 4 can be found here.
No one doubts that Tim Burton has a unique style. No one doubts that his movies have always shown creativity and heart. However, Alice in Wonderland suggests that Tim Burton has lost his originality. Besides Corpse Bride, you have to go back to 1996’s Mars Attacks to find a Tim Burton movie that wasn’t a remake or based on some form of literature/theater. But while all of these movies (besides Planet of the Apes) were well received, you can’t help but feel like Burton had began to put his emphasis on visuals and theatrics above developing a new and exciting story. Alice in Wonderland largely continues on that trend, but rather than being a straight-up remake, it is more of a pseudo-sequel. Does it help any? No. Instead, it feels like a movie trying to make loads of cash more than anything else; unnecessary 3D? check. Johnny Depp? check. Tons of hype? check (posters went up in November) Watered down storyline? check. Besides bright colors and a few good character actors (which can always be counted on in Burton movies) there is nothing here to indicate that Burton has righted his ship.
Synopsis: Now grown up, and still behaving like a child, Alice runs away from her own engagement party and falls into a hole ending up in Wonderland. Here, she meets Tweedledee, Tweedledum, the Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Hatter and company. They are all convinced that she is the one who will defeat the evil Red Queen’s jabberwocky and restore the crown to the White Queen. Alice, on the other hand, as childish as ever, thinks it’s all a dream and doesn’t believe any of it, of course, until its almost too late…
Acting: Okay (16/25)
- Mia Wasikowska as Alice: Good – Convincing and captures the audience’s sympathy, but then again it is difficult to like a character that is written so self-absorbed.
- Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter: Okay – Yes, he is still Johnny Depp with his commanding screen presence, but he struggled to create an actual character here, resulting in a confusing mess of Edward Scissorhands, Jack Sparrow, and Willy Wonka.
- Helena Bonham Carter as the Evil Red Queen: Okay – Not quite intimidating or menacing, but funny and very emotional.
- Anne Hathaway as the White Queen: Great – Hilarious and obviously having fun with the role. Its a shame the rest of the characters aren’t as original or well played.
- Supporting Cast: Good – The supporting cast is here more for advancing the story than actually becoming well rounded characters that the audience might actually care about, and in that regard they fulfill their purpose.
Script/Plot: Bad (10/25)
- Dialogue: Okay – It tries to be funny at times, it tries to be weird at times, it tries to get across something meaningful at other times. But rarely does anything hit its mark.
- Script: Bad – The dialogue is a clear example of what is wrong. The movie is trying to be so many things; where as the original cartoon and TV movie versions were more fantasy than anything else, this version tends to want to be an adventure movie at times, a comedy at others, and a drama everywhere else. If the writers could have agreed on what they wanted, then maybe it would have felt more fulfilling and entertaining. Instead, we get a mismatched movie that is uneven in tone throughout and incredibly self absorbed.
- Plot: Bad – Maybe it was supposed to be able to entertain children as well as adults, but kids will be bored nevertheless. The plot is incredibly simple; it makes Avatar look like Memento. If anything was wrong about the previous versions it was that they were too long and winding with a deeply involved story, and thus it was difficult to hold kids attentions at all. Burton’s film is the complete opposite, and it still will not be interesting to kids.
- Themes/Messages: Okay – While the movie does try to put some real meaning into why we dream, I couldn’t help but disagree with almost all of the messages this movie was trying to get across. Maybe that’s just me though.
Direction: Good (21/25)
- Professionalism: Great – If there’s anything that Tim Burton can do it is bring a polished shine to his movies with impressive production qualities and thoughtful direction. Direction is not the problem here.
- Flow: Okay – The movie is not consistent in how it moves through the plot. At times the pace is almost too fast and at others it is too slow, diverging from the main plot for laughs or whimsy more than anything meaningful….but again this is something that can be found in all Burton movies. It was just more noticable here because of the disappointing plot.
- Editing: Good – There are some rough transitions and it would have been nice to have some more flashbacks as Alice as a little girl to compare to, but nothing too concerning here.
Special Effects: Great (25/25)
- Special Effects: Great – Tim Burton is known to put on a show, and that means lots of bright colors, wacky costumes, and cartoon-like imagery. I didn’t see the movie in 3D, and while I’m sure it would be more “wonderful”, I’m not sure it is worth the extra money. While enjoyable to look at, some of the special effects (the queen’s enormous head, the red knight’s elongated body, the talking flowers…etc.) seemed cheap or dated.
- Music: Great – Burton’s movies are also known for their great musical scores, and this one continues that trend, even if there is no signing as has been included in his last 2 films.
- X-Factor: Great – Tim Burton is perhaps the best fit for someone to remake Alice in Wonderland.
The Verdict: (72/100) = C-
- What’s Good: Tim Burton is still Tim Burton; we get wacky visuals, a few memorable characters, and Johnny Depp!
- What’s Bad: The plot is boring, the acting is not up to par, there’s no originality, and the messages don’t make sense. With all the hype, this is one disappointing movie.
- Summary: Wonderland without any wonder…who knew?
Is it a worthy remake? It depends if you liked the originals (cartoon or TV movie (s)) to begin with. Of course Burton brings high production values and a unique style, but the original(s), if anything, captured the fantasy and the confusion present in the book. The biggest problem with both the cartoon and TV movies (despite the bizarre and often muddled plot) was the length. Burton’s remake takes care of that, but at the expense of an intelligent story. In my humble opinion, story matters, so I do not consider this a stressful remake.
What went right? Better special effects (+20%), a well-known cast (+10%), and Tim Burton’s unique style (+10%).
What went wrong? The shorter plot is not entertaining or consistent with the original story (-50%), acting is no improvement (-10%), and it can’t recreate the fantasy of the cartoon, the whimsy of the various live action TV movies, or the dream-like tone of the book (-30%).
Reduxability? 50% = It had all the right ingredients, but the dish seems to have been sabotaged by the drive for a profit.
My previous review: Rated for Redux: Star Trek (2009)