The story of Alice In Wonderland is one that has been enthralling children and adults alike since its publication in 1865. Many would have read about her adventures, but for the majority of people, I would imagine their first taste came in the 1951 Disney animated feature. Now Tim Burton has taken the helm to bring a new Aliceto an entirely new generation of audience.
Set a few years on from the original story, Alice is now 19-years old and is an outsider in the stuffy Victorian society she has been bought up in. A dreamer like her late father, she constantly thinks about a world which is full of talking animals and where anything is possible.
With an impending proposal from a stuffy lord on the horizon, Alice does what every normal girl would – run after a white rabbit in a blue coat and fall down a magical rabbit hole. We’ve all done it.
A sequel of sorts to the original book, and taking on elements of Through The Looking Glass and the original source material, Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland is, at its best, a magical, spectacular, grand vision of the world of Wonderland brought to vibrant life with the use of CGI and 3D. Although I am not a huge fan of CGI and 3D, mostly because I think far too many films are relying on them to create the ‘wow factor’ rather then focusing on a good story, I can’t imagine any other techniques bringing the Wonderland of Tim Burton’s imagination to life.
Looking at it, it just breathes the style of Burton. The landscape looks like it could have come out of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and his use of colour is both visually engaging and engrossing. You find your eyes constantly wandering to see something you might have missed. Such is the detail and wonderment of the world created entirely through CGI effects here.
I liked the 3D too, certainly more than I suspect many will. For me, while there are the obligatory items flying at your face to make you jump, it’s not overused and it does help the film.
Taking the lead role in such a production is a heavy burden for any actor but newcomer Mia Wasikowska fills the role of Alice with such ease you would think she had been playing her all her life. She manages to play the role with enough innocence to be believable and enough strength to be able to pull off the obstacles put in her way. Most of all, she is not annoying, which was my issue with the original Disney cartoon.
Of course, all the attention falls on Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter and I am pleased to say both he and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen manage to rein in their performances in roles that could have become very overpowering very quickly.
Depp takes the Hatter and makes him more human, his madness coming in waves and taking things a bit darker than previous incarnations. He skips from happy go lucky to a bit of a Scottish William Wallace warrior with ease, and delivers another slightly different role to his hardly-unimpressive filmography.
As for The Red Queen, Bonham Carter plays the role as a spoilt brat, wanting everything to go her way, otherwise off with your head. I think Burton could really have pushed this character a bit darker as I think the original Disney version was far more menacing, and that is really what you need from your villains. Her sidekick The Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) stole the show for me villain-wise, and in some ways I feel he should have been an extension of her, rather than his own standalone character.
Anne Hathaway brings a saintly glow to her White Queen, angelic with a hint of something a bit more sinister (after all, she does come from the same gene pool as The Red Queen) but fawns around the set suitably well. Supporting roles are filled with a veritable who’s who of British vocal talent with Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as The Caterpillar, Michael Sheen as The White Rabbit, Christopher Lee as The Jabberwocky and good old Barbara Windsor as The Dormouse.
Personally, I warmed a lot to the casting of Matt Lucas in the dual roles of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. As well as being funny and happily stealing any scenes he appears in, Lucas manages to make the rather creepy characters become completely not creepy at all and, in fact, rather endearing. You might not take that as a good thing, but I think it worked here.
When I first heard that Burton was attached to this project I did slightly worry for a moment. After all, his last adaptation of a children’s book, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, left me feeling a bit empty afterwards but, thankfully, Alice In Wonderland sees Burton back on on his game. For his Alice is a fun, endearing and magical movie at its best, and one well worth seeking out. It’s not perfect, certainly, but Burton’s trip to Wonderland is a welcome one, indeed.
Alice In Wonderland arrives in cinemas on Friday 5th March.
It’s also proven to be quite a divisive film amongst those of us at Den Of Geek who have seen it – we’ll have another perspective on it this coming Friday…!