This past week I got around to seeing Tim Burton‘s incarnation of Alice in Wonderland. As a child I’d read the stories and found them a bit lacking. Maybe it was the female heroine. Maybe it was the goofy characters but I mainly felt they just weren’t very interesting stories. More to the point I always wondered if they weren’t the work of a very disturbed mind or possibly one in the depths of a serious drug-induced trip. Wonderland is, after all, a pretty twisted and evil place that no child would ever want to seriously visit.
I should say right off that I’m a Burton fan. Most of what he’s given us I find incredibly fascinating and extremely entertaining. I look forward to his re-imagining of most anything. Given my flat support for Alice in book form I was curious to see what he would turn this all into.
The opening moments had my complete attention as the look of the film is vintage Burton. He has a way of delivering visuals that seem as if they come with an extra sense of real flavor. It’s as if you can taste and smell everything here.
If that’s all there was to movie-making this would be up for an Oscar, and may still be for some visual award, but we do demand a story to go with it and here Alice fails miserably. Burton has presented us with a story that has taken both the original tale and its sequel and forced them together into one convoluted mess. In then end it barely resembles either story and, in fact, fails to measure up to either.
Most annoyingly the film not only plods along with a dull story but then devolves into a completely unnecessary action sequence that absolutely no one doubts the outcome of. It also felt as if the writer ran out of ideas and decided to borrow a laundry list of ideas from The Wizard of Oz. Been there. Done that.
When the film ended people quietly got up and left without anyone really saying a word. Not a good sign. I find it also quite telling that here we have Johnny Depp in an entirely forgettable role. It’s not that his Mad Hatter was bad. It’s just that his talents are entirely wasted. That’s even more of a problem when you consider how much they expected Depp to carry this film. You know this to be true by just looking at the movie poster. Instead of Alice we get a shot of The Mad Hatter as if this weren’t called Alice In Wonderland.
The rest of the cast was equally a bit wasted or ineffectual. Crispin Glover‘s character is simply annoying. Anne Hathaway‘s character should be interesting but is distractingly negative.
It won’t be the worst film of the year and it’s worth seeing for the visuals (on cable). I also wouldn’t bring young children to see it as it’s loaded with rather violent and haunting sequences that really shouldn’t be taken in by kids.