Alice in Wonderland: Disney Makes Tim Burton Less Interesting

16 Mar

When you think of Tim Burton you think of creepy, semi-morbid, strange artsy-but good  movies, and Johnny Depp. When you find out that Tim Burton is directing an adaptation of the classic semi-lucid, opium-induced,  fairy tale Alice in Wonderland, you think it’s a match made in heaven. But then you see the movie.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it just doesn’t deliver to its potential. Burton spends a great deal of time establishing the fantastical world of Lewis Carrol’s  works – Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and does so brilliantly, just to have it all end as if it were Lord of the Rings.

The story begins with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) being put to bed by her industrialist father, who has crazy ideas about global expansion of his business.  Fast forward sixteen years, her father is dead and Alice is expected to accept the proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill). The high society etiquette clearly doesn’t mix with Alice and when Hamish pops the question, Alice decides to run away and follow the illusive white rabbit down a hole at the base of a tree.

She arrives in Wonderland (now called Underland) to find Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) debating whether or not she is the “real” Alice.  The concept of her reality being debatable sets a tone very much in line with Lewis Carrol’s unique non-nonsensical style.

But the Carrol-esque dialogue fades into lucidity and a classic story structure emerges in which Alices return to Underland was foretold, and will herald the slaying of the Jabberwocky bringing an end to the reign of the bloody Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter). Burton weaves through aspects of Carrol’s work using the Jabberwocky poem as the film story arch. It’s interesting and inventive, if not wholly satisfying in the end.

Alice encounters the Cheshire cat (voiced by Stephan Fry), after being separated from the tweedles,  who leads her to the Mad Hatters (Johnny Depp) tea party, where he explains the terrible reign of the Red Queen and how Alice is meant to side with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Depp’s love of strange, semi-demented, characters makes him the perfect Hatter. Although, for some reason Depp’s Hatter descends into a Scottish brogue during his more lucid and series scenes…why I do not know, but he’s wearing a kilt and carrying a two-handed broadsword, Braveheart style, in the climactic battle sequence.

It’s all going swimmingly until the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) shows up looking for Alice with a small company of red playing cards. While the Hatter is able to keep Alice safe, he gets pinched and is sent before the Red Queen. So naturally Alice sets out to rescue the Hatter, and the classic fairly tale story unfolds thereafter.

Burton’s interpretations of Carrol’s work is spot on, and overlaying the hero story on Alice’s was a smart way giving the disconnected Alice stories a degree of structure required in Disney story telling.  But when the self-realization journey of Alice ends rather predictably with a large-scale action sequence, you’re just left dissatisfied. This feeling crosses from dissatisfied to active dislike when the Hatter does his “Futterwacken” dance, which is sure to make kids laugh and parents hate life.

But this was really the natural end result of Tim Burton interpreting the Alice stories for Disney. This was a kids movie, not the semi-adult journey into the bizarre  dream world of Lewis Carrol. But Burton’s faithfulness to the original Tenniel’s classic illustrations and Carrol’s creepiness doesn’t really gel with the Disney children film mold.

All this being said, you can’t deny the box office results as it has racked in $430 million world-wide. So somebody is doing something right. Or maybe it’s just because there is nothing else out that is worth seeing…but that’s neither here nor there.

Directed by Tim Burton; written by Linda Woolverton, based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll; Starring: Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsleigh), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Crispin Glover (Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee and Tweedledum), Alan Rickman (voice of the Absolem the Caterpillar) Michael Sheen (voiced of the White Rabbit), Stephen Fry (voice of the Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (voice of the Dormouse), Christopher Lee (voice of the Jabberwocky). Walt Disney Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes.


One Response to “Alice in Wonderland: Disney Makes Tim Burton Less Interesting”

  1. Kelly March 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Fast forward 13 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: