Forget about the Alice you knew and loved growing up. Now, picture a dark and twisted Tim Burton-esque setting with characters you loved as a child. That is more like what you will see in the latest Alice in Wonderland creation.
As a young girl, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) would tell her dad about her crazy dreams and would ask if she’d gone crazy. His response would be to lovingly squash those ideas and reiterate that all the best kinds of people have a little crazy in them. Fast forward 13 years and Alice is on the verge of being married off when she starts seeing animals that no one else is privy to.
In the middle of an undesirable proposal, Alice runs off and follows the rabbit she keeps seeing. She falls into a rabbit hole and after a drop that seems to last forever, she hits the ground in a circular room of doors. All of the doors are locked when she finds a key to a tiny door that she can’t fit through. While deciding her next move, Alice finds a liquid that instructs her to drink it and a piece of cake that instructs her to eat it. After following the directions she goes through a few changes that help her get through one of the doors.
Now the interesting things really begin. Her new surroundings are dark, but colorful and mysterious, but enchanting. Alice comes into contact with a group of characters who appear to know who she is. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) are a few of her new companions and it doesn’t take long for them to find themselves in a scary situation.
After escaping an unwelcome guest, Alice is introduced to the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). Much like the other beings in this new land, Hatter knows exactly who Alice is and what she is destined to do. Wonderland is made up of the good and evil as well, White Queen (Anne Hathaway) vs. Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
Alice ends up in the queendom of Red Queen, but Red doesn’t recognize this older Alice. She is under the assumption that Alice is a giant girl named Um. Alice is there looking for Hatter after he was captured by Red’s henchmen. As Alice tries to release her new friends and dethrone Red, she must decide whether she’s strong enough to fight off her enemies.
Even trying to describe the details of this film was difficult, so legitimate opinions are even more so. I thought artistically the film was well done; Burton has such a visceral mind that anything he thinks of can become reality. However, the special effects were just a little too much for me. I realize that Wonderland is a magical world, but I was just overwhelmed with the visuals of the setting and characters.
I can’t say I loved Wasikowska as Alice. I suppose her somewhat moody portrayal of this iconic character worked for what Burton was trying to create, but overall she seemed too depressing. Depp is always great in what he does and he was so well disguised in this character that I was able to separate the actor from the character. His accents changing were a bit confusing for me; I couldn’t remember if Hatter did that in the original takes of this story.
Bonham Carter was amusing, but I found myself more immersed in her male counterpart, Stayne (Crispin Glover). How great is Glover? He never needs to speak much in the roles he plays because his presence speaks so much more than dialogue ever could with him. I’m usually great at picking up the voices of animated characters and I was able to easily pick out the voice of Rickman as the caterpillar. His voice is so distinctive and I thought he was a great choice for the voice role.
I didn’t hate this film, but it wasn’t my favorite either. I can appreciate the art that Burton was bringing to life. However, when the film was over I found myself thinking…”huh?” The artsy/special effects/fantasy elements in film are usually not my first choices when I’m picking a film to watch, so it’s entirely possible I’m missing the bigger picture here. Had any other director created this film I probably would have hated it, but if you are familiar with Burton’s work, you know to be prepared for seeing something completely odd and original.