Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Tim Burton
Rated: PG for fantasy violence and a smoking caterpillar (gasp!)
Movie Released: 2010
Tim Burton’s latest trip down the rabbit hole brings with him all the familiar faces that his flicks normally bring and the bizarre antics and strange worlds that only the mind of the demented mastermind could create. However, the bigger question at hand was never if the man that was behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Sweeney Todd just to name a few, could create the bizarre world of wonderland, but instead if it was really needed to be created in the first place.
Burton set out with his familiar old hats, Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp to create Wonderland, casting Carter as the Red Queen, a short and squat little woman, hell bent on punishing the world by chopping off the heads of all that oppose her, and Depp as the deranged Mad Hatter. The Hatter, a slight bit more comical than Depp’s Willy Wonka role, brings out the creepy child molester in Depp mixed with a hint of loony circus clown. Burton decides to recreate wonderland without retelling the same tale of yesteryear, and brings Alice back down the rabbit hole at the age of 21.
As she begins to realize that Wonderland wasn’t a dream of her youth but instead a reality, she finds out that her old friends need her to defeat a jabberwocky and release them from the tyrannical clutches of the Red Queen’s rule once and for all.
Theatrically, Burton’s film was claimed to have been released in “Wonderful 3-D” for movie audiences- an aftermarket gimmick meant to sell tickets at a higher premium. DVD viewers of course will miss out on the 3-D effects but should know there was little to miss. Unlike 3-D filmed flicks like Cameron’s Avatar, Wonderland was formatted for 3-D after the fact, which means it was originally filmed with 2-D cameras. That means that someone went in after the fact and used 3-D technology to try and add some depth perception and some eye popping cheap pops to try and weasel a few extra bucks out of a theatrical audience. Burton’s film stands alone just fine as a 2-D version and really does not need the effects of amazing 3-D what so ever.
Visually, Burton has created a strange world of fantasy and reality, a perfect in between world for the magical world of wonderland. No 3-D is really needed to find enjoyment in the care and craft that Burton took in creating the world. Much like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton takes a colorful pastel pallet and keeps it on very white cloudy backdrop giving the whole movie a very mystical feel.
Helena Bonham Carter is one of those actresses I can usually live without. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wish no ill will towards her; I just don’t think she would have a career if she didn’t marry Burton. In other words, there are perks to sleeping with the boss. Her perk is she gets to work with Johnny Depp, which puts her in some of the highest grossing films in Hollywood today. Carter always holds her own, but I always feel as though people give the actress more credit than she deserves. One can only play stoic and creepy so many times before people start to realize that she may be a one trick pony. I’m curious to see how many more times Carter can pull it off.
Of course alongside Carter is Johnny Depp, one of the most gifted character actors of our time. What I love about Depp is you forget you are watching Depp acting as a “fill in the blank” but instead believe he actually is the character. This time, Depp becomes a crazy clown faced deranged hat maker who helps Alice remember her first childhood trip to Wonderland. Depp as always does a great job with the material he is given, and as always pretty much steals the show.
Where Alice in Wonderland goes astray is it feels like it brings nothing new to the table. Burton feels as though he is on Auto-pilot. He’s figured out the formula with Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Step 1.) Get Johnny Depp. Step 2.) Get same Cinematographer and turn them loose with this above average at best script. Step 3.) Profit. The film is really not bad. It just brings nothing new to the table. I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen plenty of Burton works, and I know the story of Alice in Wonderland. Just because Burton changes it up by making it take place 16 years later, doesn’t make it a different wonderland. It just makes Alice older, and gives them some liberties with the story.
When it is all said and done, I found enjoyment in Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t miss a bit of the 3-D. It was obvious where they would have tried the cheap pops, and tried to add depth. As a viewer, you should be glad you saved your extra couple of bucks. Now that the flick is out on DVD though, you can kick back and enjoy the film with your family. Alice in Wonderland isn’t ground breaking cinema, but it’s a popcorn escapist flick that’s at least good enough for a one time viewing.