Week 15: Alice In Wonderland (2010)

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Alice in Wonderland
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska and Stephen Fry
Written by Linda Woolverton and Lewis Carroll
Cinematography by Dariusz Wolski
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Running time 109 minutes

Before Viewing

I’ve been a fan of Tim Burton’s for a long time. I still remember being amused by Beetlejuice, seeing something in it that I see in all of his films. Tim Burton, to me, is a successful filmmaker because he uses his imagination to show us things that don’t exist. He, more than any other filmmaker, pulls from his imagination to create visuals that just boggle the mind sometimes- but they work, because they fit into his overall vision.

Interestingly enough, my favorite Burton movie is Ed Wood, his most conventional film (but even that one has many of his quirky trademarks). This was the first Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration that I saw (Edward Scissorhands was their first), and I really think it goes along way to show just how talented Depp is (yes, Jack Sparrow is funny, but Ed Wood was outrageously so). I also really enjoyed their work together on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Although Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies of all time  and I had mixed feelings when I heard there was a new version coming out, I felt this ‘reimagining’ of the book was great. They are a talented duo. When I heard about Alice in Wonderland, I knew it was a movie I’d want to see, especially since I’ve read the book and enjoyed the Disney film (and like the Disneyland ride).

My Thoughts After Viewing

To start off, let me just begin by saying that I saw the movie in 3D. I’ve always been intrigued by 3D technology, going back to when I was a kid and the local independent station was going to show an old 50s 3D movie on TV (unfortunately, we didn’t live by a 7-11, and so I didn’t have the glasses). I do want to talk about 3D, but after I talk about the movie.

I had a good time at the movie. I went with my 7 year old daughter, who’s pretty astute herself (she’s going to be doing this type of writing for a living one day, watch!). We went to enjoy the movie, and we did. I was worried it might be a bit intense for her (there is a eyeball popping and a Jabberwocky decapitation), but she did well. I think back to the movies I saw as a kid (like Clash of the Titans, with boobs, blood, and body parts as well), and maybe there’s just a certain age where kids are ready to accept it. It really wasn’t that bad. She handled it quite well.

Once again, Tim Burton takes us places that don’t exist (save for in his mind), and does it quite well. Interestingly enough, Wonderland looks exactly like Tim Burton’s vision of it, and we accept it. It looks lush, green, and mysterious but never threatening. He also gives us things to see that could come right out of Disneyland, and I think this level of recognition works, especially with younger ones. I think the thing that works best is that the movie is really like a sequel to the original rather than a remake. Since Alice is almost an adult, we’re a bit more comfortable when she’s in Wonderland- she’s not a little girl lost, but someone with a mission. When we find out what that mission is, it works better for us because I don’t think we want to see a little girl with such a grown-up responsibility. We can accept a grown up Alice as an adventurer and warrior .

The acting was great all the way around. I was pleased to see that Johnny Depp was restrained in his portrayal of the Mad Hatter. He’s not over-the-top mad (which would have been a mistake), but had a rather sad air of tragic madness about him due to an event rather than just being that way. He’s just such a versatile actor. Helena Bonham Carter was the same as the Red Queen. Her voice is just perfect- she sounds like what the Red Queen should sound like- somewhat spoiled, somewhat of a baby, and extremely British. The CGI work in it on the characters was great, save for one- I thought Helena Bonham Carter’s big-headed Red Queen looked good, the CGI-created animals looked great (especially the Cheshire Cat), but I thought Crispin Glover’s Knave of Hearts looked odd. He was supposed to look very thin and card-like, but he just succeeded in looking fake. That broke the illusion for me a few times when he was on-screen.

Speaking of illusion, this was the first live-action movie I had the opportunity to see in 3D. I was very pleased to see that Burton didn’t overuse it, or use it in a gimmicky manner. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could have watched the film in 2D and not felt like I had missed a thing. I know that 3D is the next new big thing in cinema, and filmmakers would be wise to study its use in this film. Too much 3D can be overkill- just enough enhances the moviegoing experience, but it doesn’t really bring anything to the narrative aspect of the film- it’s just fun!

Final Verdict

It was a good movie, worth seeing in 3D if you can, but not a dealbreaker if you can’t. It’s a fine addition to Burton’s body of work.


2 thoughts on “Week 15: Alice In Wonderland (2010)

    Hivan said:
    November 7, 2011 at 8:31 am

    It’s nice to hear your 7 year old daughter can handle viewing decapitations.

    Paul Santa Cruz responded:
    November 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Actually, she was 8 at the time. And in the context of the film, it’s not different that what you see in some of the classic Disney films (say, Sleeping Beauty). She did well.

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