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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.04.10] review news fantasy

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Year: 2010
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Linda Woolverton, Lewis Carroll (books)
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Few stories have the staying power to live on for a few years never mind over a century. Fewer still have been adapted as often as Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice in Wonderland.” The story has seen life on film, on television, in comic books, video games, toys cartoons and been the basis of countless re-imaginings but few have been as ambitious as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Working with Disney screen writer Linda Woolverton, Burton took Carroll’s original story which he felt was more a series of events rather than a narrative, and built a somewhat fresh look at the classic tale. In Burton and Woolverton’s version, Alice is approaching 20, a girl of strong mind and will who is about to be married off. During the engagement party, a flustered Alice runs off in search of a white rabbit only to find herself taking a tumble into the wonderfully twisted Underland, a world where the ruling Red Queen is at odds with the dethroned White Queen. The story has already been written and the White Queen and her supporters believe Alice has come to defeat the Jabberwock but Alice… she’s not so sure. A series of events, most of which are reminiscent of the original tale, lead to the final battle between the Queens and their champions – I’m sure you can figure out how it ends for this is after all, a Disney movie.


So what of Burton’s vision? As has come to be expected from his films, Alice is lush, colourful, beautiful and a little off kilter. The costumes, sets and even make-up (heck, even the name “Underland”) are all a little off, something which I’ve come to expect from Burton but as much as all of this suggests that something dark and awful is brooding in the corners, we never get to see it. The creatures have jagged teeth, long claws and vicious growls but they fail to scare and it’s likely due to the fact that the film doesn’t manage to build any excitement or urgency. In trying to build a “story,” Burton and Woolverton have lost some of the magic in Carroll’s original tale and what’s left is what Burton tried to avoid: a series of events loosely tied together into a convoluted story which loses steam 30 minutes in.

One would hope that even with the mediocre story the visuals and acting from a star studded cast would help the film stay afloat but even that fails. Once in Underland, the twisted trees and creepy surroundings seem like left overs from Sleepy Hollow. I’ve come to love Burton’s look but this time around, with a story so familiar and one which has seen so many great incarnations with even the most kid-friendly version being a bit twisted, it’s not quite enough and the 3D adds nothing to either the film’s look or appeal. As for the acting, there’s little to cheer about here.

Johnny Depp is channelling a slight variation, one which is a little less wobbly, of Jack Sparrow complete with incomprehensible speech, Crispin Glover is wasted as a whiny playboy Knave of Hearts – his performance is not nearly despicable enough. Both Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway are great as vying queens, their over the top mannerisms and ticks are wonderful but the characters are flat and uninteresting. Of the human characters, the only one who really stands out is Mia Wasikowska who plays Alice. Her face displays great emotion and her inflections on the language can make even the most nonsensical line interesting. My only complaint: there isn’t enough Alice in the film. The voice acting, on the other hand, is all top notch and excellently executed; from Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit to Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky, these characters all have minor screen time and lines but they deliver each one with gusto.

Alice in Wonderland feels every once a Tim Burton film but it lacks the dark magic of his previous projects. One would think this would be the perfect marriage of slightly twisted story and slightly twisted filmmaker but there’s no spark and for all it’s pretty trappings, Alice in Wonderland is a bland and long winded affair riddled with so many problems that by the credits, even Danny Elfman’s score seems bombastic and out of place. In one word: disappointing.


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monnibo (4 years ago) Reply

Thanks Marina! I always appreciate your thoughtful reviews.

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agentorange (4 years ago) Reply

As I suspected. I wasn't impressed by any of the footage I saw this year so I can't say I'm shocked to hear this is an epic fail. The movies Tim Burton makes, the more Sleepy Hollow seems like a masterpiece. That's a bad sign.

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chuck (4 years ago) Reply

Slightly off subject but does anyone remember the 1976 xxx version of Alice in Wonderland with Kristine DeBell? It is the strangest adult movie I've ever seen. It had extensive sets and costumes, musical and dance numbers, and comic relief. In the age of straight-from-the-DV-cam porn, something like this is a strange throwback. It's almost charming that someone would put this much effort into a stag film. Clips are available on youtube. Ms. DeBell went on to appear in The Young and The Restless, Night Court, Meatballs, and BJ and the Bear. End of threadjack.

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agentorange (4 years ago) Reply

@chuck

What kind of cult movie fan do you take me for? Of course I know that film! It's an oddity for sure. An erotica classic. Can't say that I've seen hide nor hair of it for, oh 15+ years, but I remember it well.

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Anonymous (4 years ago) Reply

The movie trailer looked sick and twisted.

The most important question ? will the kids love the movie ?
The kids don't care who Tim Burton is, as far as they are concerned he is probable humpty dumpty.

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Aliza (4 years ago) Reply

Hi guys what makes you think this movie was good and it was directed by Tim Burton and what a fine movie experience it was for all this time around the movie looks more finer and rest of the movie cast are there to add more color for the movie
source
http://www.80millionmoviesfree.com

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chuck (4 years ago) Reply

@Aliza-
Wow! They should put that on the DVD cover.

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trogen (4 years ago) Reply

OK fair review, but i have two points:


1. you clearly didnt like it too much (not one positive point) but you still awarded it a 6.5? Explain...


2. you were obviously not under the influence when watching this movie, which is only acceptable if you are under 18 years of age. This is alice in wonderland FGS!

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Anonymous (4 years ago) Reply

Do you think that Tim Burton would stop making movies if Johnny Depp vanished.

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Marina (4 years ago) Reply

@trogen

1. Mia is excellent as are the character actors and the set-up, before Alice travels to Underland, is brilliant but it all goes downhill shortly after that. It does have moments, just not enough of them.

2. If I need to take drugs to see the movie and enjoy it, then the movie is shit. It shouldn't be a requirement, only an enhancement.

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Hot Fuzz (4 years ago) Reply

Drugs make everything better ;)

But seriously, what's with Alice being 20 and about to get married? What a terrible decision. SYFY did that in their new Alice as well. What lesson's would a 20 year old need to learn from "Underland" (gag)? It takes all the weird formative female psychological shit right out of the story.

Sounds lame.

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Marina (4 years ago) Reply

The making her older part is, to me at least, a way of taking a familiar story and spinning a new story out of it, one that includes much more Hatter than the original. Hmmm, wonder why... /sarcasm

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Joey (4 years ago) Reply

From your review and the trailers, it looks and sounds like Burton borrowed heavily from the novels of Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars. Which aren't very good books to begin with but I'll probably still go see the movie. It looks visually entertaining and besides, if I wanted Alice in Wonderland I would read the book.

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projectcyclops (4 years ago) Reply

I kind of gave up on Burton a while back. He hasn't made a great film since Ed Wood, and seems to be trapped in Hollywoodland. He needs to get out of his comfort zone big time. When I first heard he was making this I was almost excited but as more info on casting and CGI content was revealed my expectations got lower and lower.

Thanks for the great review Marina, but there are my worst fears confirmed.

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Brett (4 years ago) Reply

@Joey Just got back from watching this at IMAX and have to say Beddor's books were way WAY better than this film. Very sad. I really don't think Burton ever read those books or based the film on them. I whole heartedly believe he failed on his own. So we have SYFY Alice which was horrid and now this, hopefully when Beddor's Looking Glass Wars come out it will be better. I think it has every opportunity to be the best Alice if he does it right.

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Hal (4 years ago) Reply

I like Jan Svankmejer's surreal sort of animation one, weird and unsettling.

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bad dog (4 years ago) Reply

This sounds like all of Burton's recent movies. Beautiful to watch but with terrible storytelling. People like him so much they won't admit that he's really a darker, twisted version of George Lucas, focusing too heavily on the eye candy and leaving out the essential of what makes a great film.

P.S. I love the approach of the sequel to a classic tale. Love it or hate it, Hook did it really well with the Peter Pan story. I wish Burton's last movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was the same: A sequel, with Charlie grown up and in charge of the factory; instead, we got Johnny Depp channeling Michael Jackson.

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Rantastic (4 years ago) Reply

One scene that really bugged me more than anything when watching AIWL:
The scene where the March Hare (Rabbit at the tea party) stops his insane banter long enough to look at a spoon and say: "Spoooon".
The audience fell into fits of laughter from this moronic, Pathetic, ADD syndrome induced word.
Have we as a society become so stupid that this is what makes us laugh, like some simpleton contemplating his navel?
God help us. I hate every one of you that laughed at that and hope you all end up working at Wal mart.

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Kwirk (4 years ago) Reply

@Rantastic
I laughed at the "SPOOON" part and I'm a Partner in a well respected solicitors, so I guess it's not only people who work in "Wal Mart" (I'm English not american) who laugh at small childish things, leave people who enjoy a little childish comedy every once in a while and don't go claiming everyone is pathetic just because they thought it was amusing

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kaijinu (4 years ago) Reply

well, when I heard this was a Tim Burton film, yes, i was expecting something "gothic" around the corner. Some dash of blood, black make-up, or something that lives up to the T.B. Atmosphere. But sadly, no. we get none of that.

It's a visual treat, at least, recommended to take the "Mondays" away for some. (you need a child's heart to truly love this film...something I possess for my age.)

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yomama (4 years ago) Reply

The whole thing with Alice defeating the big dragon thing at the end is totally typical Disney **** I wish that Disney would make the main character die for once. Tim Burton didn't live up to his creditentals. He needs to get his ass up off the ground and do something good. Like Edward Scissorhands. Now that was some good film-making.


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