Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Unless you live at the bottom of a very deep hole, you will no doubt have heard that Tim Burton is remaking Alice in Wonderland. Well, was remaking, I should say, as it came out last weekend. And I am here to tell you that it is a gorgeous movie. As usual, modern 3D is good even when it’s not particularly serving any purpose, and IMAX always looks and sounds about as good as you can imagine, but I’m not just talking about that, of course. Burton has a stylized signature art style that suffuses every movie he has made since at least Edward Scissorhands. It is slightly dark, in an almost proto-goth kind of way, even though he has sometimes made it darker than others. It is cartoonish without being cartoony. Basically, every world he creates looks like a fairy tale world; in this case, Wonderland already being a fairy tale world in its own right, Burton has pushed it through a glass darkly. Which, of course, is appropriate.

In addition to being so very pretty[1], the casting was consistently spot on. I mean, obviously the focus will be on Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and I kind of thought he alternated between acceptable and annoying. But everyone else was pretty great. Crispin Glover as a gawkily tall bad guy, Alan Rickman as the snide caterpillar, Anne Hathaway as the ethereal White Queen, and then lots more. Perhaps best of all was Alice herself, though; in addition to managing to have girlish innocence despite now being 19 and looking really nice despite unreasonable ongoing damage to her wardrobe, she was a delight throughout the framing story (in which she is blindsided with a marriage proposal from some British lord or other), portraying the uncertainty, the yearning against the bonds the society was placing upon her, and so on. It would not have been Alice in Wonderland by any means, but I think I could have watched an entire movie built from that framing story.

Which is a pity, because the main story? Also was not quite Alice in Wonderland. The March Hare was as mad as… er, he was entirely crazy. And the Cheshire Cat was approximately perfect, plus all the casting I’ve already mentioned above. But the story… after complaining about Depp annoying me, I feel bad to say this, but the story was entirely too sane. It was linear, and standard, and about nothing much more than a hero needing to decide to be heroic. Which in itself is a movie I’ve watched many times before and will watch many times again, but placing characters from Lewis Carroll’s works into a movie does not make the movie suddenly about Wonderland. So I think I was ultimately more disappointed than it deserved, due to the misrepresentation, yes, but also because of how everything that was not the script[2] was so very well done.

[1] I should note that bloodhounds hit the uncanny valley of dogs for me; they looked perfect, but moved all wrong. Still, it’s nice that the technology keeps getting better.
[2] Well, except the dogs. And about 30% of Depp’s performance.

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