Alice In Wonderland
After hearing so much about the weird, wonderful and utterly bizarre world Tim Burton creates in Alice In Wonderland, its impossible to enter the cinema without feeling extreme anticipation. Alice has had the best opening week in US history, grossing $116 million and getting rave reviews for it’s gloriously inventive visuals. There’s no denying that visually, Alice is a treat. But despite the exuberant effects, play with perspective and 3D glory, it cannot be denied that in terms of story, Alice is more than lacking. We expected to fall down the rabbit hole into Lewis Carroll’s world of bizarre characters, non-sensical riddles and paradoxical quests. In actual fact, we are led through a flattened Wonderland, with Lewis’s wonderful creations treated as little more than boxes to be ticked. And we’re pretty sure than Alice didn’t have to pay £12.50 for the pleasure.
Welcome To Underland
It’s thirteen years since Alice first followed the time-keeping rabbit, and now, as a nineteen year old girl expected to be soon married, she regards Wonderland as little more than a strange dream she once had. However, after being proposed to by the wettest man in the world, she suddenly spies the infamous rabbit once again, and follows him into a world she’d forgotten existed. But Underland (she got it wrong the first time) is not the world it once was, as the tyrannical Red Queen has taken control. It’s up to Alice – along with The Mad Hatter, The Dormouse, The March Hare and the twins TweedleDum and Tweedledee – to overthrow the Red Queen, and place her sister The White Queen back into power. But the problem is, the Queen has the Jabberwocky onside, and only a savior can slay him.
Less Than Curiouser
The wonderful, maddening thing about Lewis Carroll’s novels is that he presents situations that make no sense, proposes questions with no answers, riddles that cannot be resolved. He opens up the idea of logic, sense and story with his wonderful paradoxes, confusing poor Alice almost to madness. Instead of using this basis of Wonderland, Burton – or perhaps more specifically writer Linda Woolverton – decides to do the exact opposite. This is a Wonderland of answers. At the very beginning of her adventure, Alice is presented with a scroll that prophesizes her return, stating that she will slay the jabberwocky. So there you go, Burton seems to say, job done. The riddles have been taken out, the confusion is gone and all that is left is a flat, dull quest with an inevitable conclusion. And Johnny Depp wears contact lenses. So, you know, that’s good.
The characters are predictable and fairly joyless – with the exception of the Cheshire Cat, where kudos has to got to the design team for truly amazing CGI. Helena BC is good, but not as good as you think she’s going to be, and Alice herself has the personality of a playing card. And not one of the ones attacking. Her constant monotone rabbiting of “but this is all a dream” only serves to make you want to bash her in the face for her stupidity, and it’s only through a lot of very convenient plot holes (“do you happen to have…” “Yes I do!”) that her story gets pushed to its supremely obvious conclusion.
Riddle Me This
Throughout the film, Depp keeps asking one of the hatter’s most famous riddles, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” In the novels, of course poor Alice is never given an answer. In this film however, Alice dully asks him outright, “Hatter, why is a raven like a writing desk?” He grins meekly, and states “I have no idea”. Carroll knew that the power of Wonderland lay in its maddening mysteries, not in underwhelming answers. Our message to the Alice team would be this; leave Carroll’s questions hanging. They looked better where they were.