Oooohing and arrrrring...
Let's face it, Tim Burton's latest offering has been getting some rather mixed reviews since its release earlier this month. In the UK, we've had to contend with Disney's little spat with Odeon Cinemas over the length of time Disney would wait until releasing the film on DVD and Blu-Ray. And if you're a resident of Cornwall, then there's been the local media pouring over a National Trust property in North Cornwall, Antony House, where the beginning and ending of the movie was filmed.
What about the film?
I have not read the first novel since I was about ten, so my knowledge of the story is a little hazy, and strangely mis-mashed with Disney's previous version of the novels in its 1951 cell animated venture and what Square-Enix did with it all in the Kingdom Hearts games. This sadly means that I cannot tell you how the film works as an adaptation, though this is perhaps for the best for Tim Burton's mark is all over this incarnation.
Despite the marketing of the film as yet another collaboration between Burton, Depp and Carter, the script was written by recurring Disney scriptwriter Linda Woolverton (previous work includes The Lion King, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and Beauty and the Beast). So we know that we are in true Disney territory with this film. Beyond the Disneyfication there is a large amount of British actors behind the voices of many of the characters.
Without spoiling too much:set in the mid-1800s, Alice, nineteen years of age, is none too happy with how her life is going. From a well-to-do family, Alice in no way looks forward to what adulthood and being a Victorian lady will bring her. As if her wishes for an alternative are granted, Alice (classically) tumbles down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland, where she soon finds that even the fantastical is not as cut and dry as her boring old life.
In all too familiar a move Burton has waved his hand over the imagery of Carroll's/Dodgson's original novel and the Disney incarnation that came before this film, and plastered all over this translation his bland vision of the Gothic. As if the crazy yet grubby outfits were not enough, Burton overly uses the transition between night and day to add atmosphere to the film. The problem with the constant switching between night and day? It messes up the audience's appreciation of the passage of time within the film.
Don't start saying that Burton did it so as to further reflect the intriguing logic of the original novels as it only happens when it would better serve the mood and feeling of a scene. In the dark very bad things happen, and in the light there is a chance of hope. This switching happens so much that it can actually detract from appreciation of the film.
Don't forget that it's in 3D
That's right, it's another film that Disney have produced in "3D". Sure, if you don't have photosensitivity issues that may be affected by the use of such technology it's fine, but the use of 3D didn't seem to add much to the film. It certainly didn't help convey anything, and didn't add a sense of excitement and suspense that a horror film such as The Final Destination managed to use 3D technology for.
Issues with the ending
I don't want to say specifically what happens, but that the ending is not believable. Seriously, there's no way that would have happened and it breaks away far too much with the film's verisimilitude that was established earlier. There are also further issues with the film's handling of destiny and personal choice, and you don't witness Alice's character changing and developing enough for her actions to seem like her own; it's as if she's forced straight through the hero's journey without any thought as to how she develops as a person and matures.
This all seems rather harsh
I'm not exactly a fan of Burton, I don't just go and see his films because he's directed them, but I genuinely tried to give the film a chance. In the end though, there was too much that just grated against my nerves to make it truly enjoyable. In a way, Burton's directorial vision has trampled over the film too much, and Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter seemed greatly like a return to his role as Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films. Though I will say that Carter makes a pretty damn good Red Queen.
Is it worth watching?
It's all right to pass the time with, but this is a mediocre film at best. If you want to see it in 3D then it's best to catch it at the cinema anyway. This is perhaps only for Burton and/or Depp fans. Overall I would suggest reading the novels instead.
Official UK website
Wiki entry on the novel that inspired it
Details on Antony House