Tim Burton’s latest offering has taken a bit of a battering – saying that Alice in Wonderland has had mixed reviews is a bit of an understatement, as it’s ranged from accepting and positive reviews to damning ones. But after seeing the movie’s 3D version, I’m not convinced that the film is as bad as everyone makes out.
The story, admittedly, is not a lot like the book: when Alice (Mia Waschikowska) is 19, she is ready to be engaged to repulsive Lord Hamish but at the engagement party she sees a white rabbit and chases it down a hole. She ends up in Underland, a dark and strange world that Alice recognises from the dreams she had as a child. Everyone in Underland – including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) – is convinced that Alice has come to save them from the Red Queen’s rule and restore the White Queen to her rightful position on the throne. In order to do this, a skeptical Alice must recover the Vorpal Sword and defeat the vicious Jabberwocky on the Frabgous Day.
Other than keeping recognisable characters and some elements like the “Drink Me” potion, Burton has put his own take on the story that perhaps lends itself more nicely to a movie – here there is a clear storyline that is easy to follow but that doesn’t detract from the look or feel of the movie. Underland is a typically dark, Burton-esque place, and there are many points in the film where the 3D enhances the look of the forests and plains that Alice travels through.
Nothing should be taken away from the actors either – Helena Bonham Carter is wonderfully crazed as the Red Queen, whose facial expressions are more telling than anything she says, including her catchphrase “Off with his head!” Johnny Depp manages to swing marvellously from strangely innocent to completely enraged as the Mad Hatter – and actually, his Scottish accent really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. The weak link in the cast has to be Mia Waschikowska whose Alice is nice, but… well, just nice. She doesn’t show her emotions enough and as a result her acting is flat. The wonder that Alice has to feel in the world is lost as a result, which is a huge shame: a film really should have a good leading performance, but Mia is overshadowed by her co-stars in every scene.
My companion at the cinema expressed the view that the 3D effects were not as good as a film like Avatar – I can’t comment on that comparison, although sometimes even I noticed that there were some moments when the landscape seemed to be completely flat. The depth that I expected was sometimes lacking and there were only a few forced moments where spears and hats came flying at you. Perhaps the reason for this was that Alice was meant to be a 2D film but was made into 3D after the success of other films – as a result of not being shot with 3D cameras, the effects are perhaps not spectacular. However, this does mean that it’s a very good film for people who are not sure about 3D effects and want to test them out before going for something more adventurous, like Avatar.
On the whole, Alice was a very enjoyable film that wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some people said. It’s possible that some people just don’t like Tim Burton’s style, which is something of an acquired taste. It wasn’t, however, the best film I’ve seen at the cinema for a while – but good for a night out!