Release Date: March 5th, 2010
Click here for the Alice in Wonderland Trailer.
Nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsley(Mia Wasikowska) is an odd young lady who doesn't quite fit into Victorian society. Her eccentricities were mirrored only by her beloved father Charles(Marton Csokas) and when he died, Alice seemed to almost die with him. Since his death, Alice has been troubled by a recurring dream in which she encounters strange creatures in a very peculiar world.
One day while attending a party at the estate of Lord Ascot(Tim Pigott-Smith), the man who now owns the trading firm previously owned by her father, Alice learns that Hamish(Leo Bill), Lord Ascot's son, intends to propose to Alice. As Hamish proposes, a white rabbit appears to Alice holding a pocket watch. Alice follows the White Rabbit, named Nivens McTwisp(Michael Sheen), and falls into a rabbit hole.
When she awakens, Alice finds herself in a bizarre world called Underland. Alice had visited Underland 13 years ago but had lost almost all of her memory about the experience. What little memory she had left of Underland had been thought to be a dream. While in Underland, Alice meets an assortment of characters including McTwisp, Uilleam the Dodo(Michael Gough) and the brothers Tweedledee and Tweedledum(Matt Lucas). The group takes Alic to meet Absolem the Caterpillar(Alan Rickman) who, through a misunderstanding of words, makes the group believe that this Alice is not the same one that arrived in Underland 13 years ago.
While talking with Absolem, the Knave of Hearts Ilosvic Stayne(Crispin Glover) arrives with soldiers from Iracebeth of Crims, otherwise known as The Red Queen(Helena Bonham Carter). Stayne attacks the group capturing the white Rabbit, the Dodo, Tweedledee and Tweedledum while Alice escapes. Alice is then found by the Chessur Cat(Stephen Fry) who takes her to the march Hare(Paul Whitehouse), Mallymkun the Dormouse(Barbara Windsor) and the Hatter(Johnny Depp). The Hatter explains to Alice that she has returned to dethrone the Red Queen by killing her dragon known as the Jabberwocky(Christopher Lee) with the Vorpal Sword on the Frabjous Day. In doing so she can save Underland and return power to the Red Queen's sister Mirana of Marmoreal known as The White Queen(Anne Hathaway). However, Alice is unsure if she could ever perform such a feat, but the balance of Underland lies in the courage that she must gather and the belief in herself she must obtain.
Lewis Carroll's original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is probably one of the best known and most beloved stories in all of literature not just by children, but by people of all ages. Being how iconic and popular it is, making it into a feature film is no simple task. Walt Disney's animated feature, released in 1951, brought the novel to life in a truly magical way and launched a film that has swept the hearts of people of all ages to this very day. So, needless to say that taking on this story with live people was risky.
Director Tim Burton is known for making stylishly dark and highly creative films that are both extremely off-the-wall and also extremely entertaining. When audiences see Burton's name behind a film, they know to expect something completely unique and entertaining. Seeing how already colorful, absurd and imaginative the original Alice story was, the only natural fit for the director's chair (in my mind at least) was Burton and he did a fantastic job.
Burton used a mix of CGI effects, drastic makeup and live people to comprise his vision of Wonderland. Every character aside from Alice was enhanced wither by CGI or extravagant makeup and costumes. The world itself was, for the most part, completely computer generated but the look of it made you feel like it was an actual world that any one of us could fall into. I absolutely loved the whole visual image of the film. The different enhancements in characters like the Red Queen, whose head was three sizes too big, and the Knave of Hearts, who was enhanced to be over 7 feet tall, made the film different from anything you typically see today in a film industry that is riddled with movies grounded in reality. For me, this is one of the most visually stunning films released ranking up there with James Cameron's Avatar. The world created by Burton was filled with so much color, life and creative ingenuity that it was simply a joy to just look at, whether you like the movie or not.
If you are a fan of Tim Burton then you aren't surprised when you see the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. Both Depp and Carter are regulars in Burton's films, even appearing along side each other in such Burton classics as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride. Depp did a fantastic job as The Mad Hatter. Most adaptations of the character present him as a single-note character whereas Depp tried to bring out a more human note in the character. What I loved most about Depp's performance is how he changed his motions so rapidly during the film and how each emotion was like a different incarnation of the character. Depp would frequently change facial expressions and even accents, providing a Scottish accent when his character entered a darker, more dangerous personality.
Helena Bonham Carter was also extremely good. Her character was s mixture of original story's characters of the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. My favorite thing about Carter's performance was how she made the character act like a toddler. Her character would constantly yell and complain and throw temper tantrums when things wouldn't go her way which added a great sense of humor to the woman obsessed with cutting off people's heads. The over sized head of Carter's character added a nice bit to the interactions between the characters with their little comments about its size. This was another feature that added a great deal of humor to the film.
Other supporting characters that added there actual likenesses to the film were also very good. Crispin Glover was great as the Knave of Hearts Stayne and Anne Hathaway brought a great performance to the White Queen. I really loved how Hathaway's character tried to act so sweet and innocent yet occasionally let slip some downright insane dialogue. Other actors like Matt Lucas(Tweedledee and Tweedledum), Stephen Fry(Chessur Cat), Michael Sheen(White Rabbit), Alan Rickman(Absolem) and Christopher Lee(Jabberwocky), who only contributed their voices, all added special qualities to their characters. Sometimes it can be hard to only do a voice in a film but all the voice actors really did an amazing job bringing their respective characters to life making the movie feel truly real and enriching.
Even though Burton loaded his film down with big name celebrities and such, the real gem here was Mia Wasikowska and her portrayal of Alice. The young actress isn't one of the biggest names out there in the film industry but after her performance in this movie you can bet she soon will be. While all of the other characters in the film were outlandish, bizarre, insane, and colorful, Alice was the opposite. Very pale, very calm, Wasikowska was the weight that kept everything in balance. Wasikowska kept the film grounded and gave the audience a truly inspiring heroine that most people will have absolutely no problem connecting to. While most of the actors in the film performed flawlessly with their outrageous characters, it was the calm collected attitude that Wasikowska presented that was such a stark contrast to the rest of the film which truly captivated me. Wasikowska made the audience feel like they really were in Wonderland.
Overall this film was fantastic. I think the success of it is in no small way related to the fact that Burton didn't make a sequel or a re-imagining of the original story. Instead, Burton's film is an extension of Lewis Carroll's classic stories. By coming up with a pretty unique story, Burton has given us something more than we could have ever expected. He didn't try to cash in on the already wonderful story but instead made a film and story that can be added to the legacy of the iconic Wonderland. Hardcore fans of Tim Burton will absolutely love this film and I believe that die hard fans of the original stories as well as the Disney animated film will find something to love around every colorfully enigmatic corner.
I give Alice in Wonderland 10 Futterwackens out of 10.
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