Movie Review – Alice in Wonderland

Some adults analyze and look back on many of the classic children’s stories and begin to wonder what the writers were thinking…..did they really think it was appropriate to entice children with stories about child-devouring witches (and various other evil witches), wicked step mothers, hungry wolves, evil trolls, poison or hallucenogenically drugged foods, flying monkeys, and – in the case of the subject of this post – blood queens who order the beheading of everyone she dislikes!  Grace Slick wrote “White Rabbit”, a song that compared “Alice in Wonderland” to the use of psychedelic drugs in the ’60s.  Looking at it from that angle, who would want to encourage children to eat or drink unknown substances at the encouragement of unknown persons with the promise of making them smaller or larger than real life?  Children should be terrified of these stories!  But, instead are enchanted by them.  One would think that repeated reading of such stories would scar a child’s mental state, but they come through them not only unscathed, but with richer imaginations and sense of adventure because of them!  The critique of classic children’s stories are generally shrugged off with the thought that they are just stories – fantasies.  Children are not stupid – they can sort through them to find the moral of the story and learn from them and parents can utilize other means to protect their children from the evils of the world without denying them the exposure to ageless, classic stories.  There are far worse things they can read and watch than childhood fantasies.

With a few exceptions, that childhood enchantment with these stories  continues into adulthood.  I know it has with me – which is why I was so excited to see this movie as soon as it opened!  I loved this story as a child and wonder if it was the reason I had a love for hats in my early adulthood and still adore tea parties!  All the characters in Wonderland are so vivid and colorful – I think much more so than most other stories.  I just loved it and it was a particular thrill to know that Johnny Depp was cast to play the Mad Hatter!  What a treat!

I was concerned, though, that Tim Burton may have gone towards the dark side and make it more macabre than magical.  But, I was happy to discover that he didn’t go there – at least not totally.  He stayed true to the fantasy while adapting it to an older Alice.  I had heard that the film was shot in 2D and the 3D aspects were added later – that true 3D enthusiasts will be disappointed in the way it looks.  Luckily, the only 3D movie I’ve ever been to was a nature film at the Imax where I felt like I was right in the ocean with the fish we were watching.  So, I didn’t have much to compare it to.  I thought it was well done and flinched at things that were thrown at me!  haha  I was a little disappointed, though, that it was only certain scenes that were 3D – I would have liked to see more of it throughout!  But, what they did was effective!

I found the approach of telling the story a little differently very refreshing.  Alice is now 19 and, after years of what she thought was just a recurring dream, finds herself following a white rabbit into a rabbit hole, yet again.  She arrives and goes through similar experiences and meets all the same characters as she did when she was a little girl – but has no memory of ever being there before.  The characters debate whether they lured the “right” Alice back to help them save the day by slaying the Jabberwocky.  She continues to think she’s just having a dream and takes charge of the way it goes.

True to form, Johnny Depp was the perfect Mad Hatter.  In my opinion, Depp is one of the greatest character actors of our time.  He molds himself and becomes whatever role he takes on.  I continue to be amazed at his abilities and what he brings to each film he is a part of.  This is no exception.  His expressions and muttled way he talks brought life to the Mad Hatter like no one else could.

Helena Bonham Carter was incredible as the big-headed Red Queen.  She went from one moment of glancing alluringly to Stayne-Knave of Hearts (portrayed by Crispin Glover) to jolt into her constant demand of “off with their heads”!  All in a blink of an overly expressive eye!  Since all you see of her is her enormous head (her body is an animation), it is her eyes and the way she said her lines that bring life to her character — and she is brilliant at ensuring you know at all times exactly what she is thinking!

Other fun standouts for me were Tweedledee/Tweedledum, the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, and the Dormouse – all had delightful scenes and interacted beautifully with the other characters.  I was enchanted by them.

I also heard negative criticism about the action scene towards the end with the Jabberwocky.  The thoughts I read from some was that it was not necessary and a cheap shot at adding an action/adventure aspect.  Phooey!  I thought it was absolutely appropriate to the story and gave it a climax that pulled everything that lead up to it together.  I don’t understand the criticism.

The only thing that left me thinking it should have been different was the ending…….I won’t go into details and spoil it, but…….the ending was very good and fit the older Alice perfectly.  But, I just wish that Johnny Depp would have made an appearance in the very final scene implying a continued connection…….just the hopeless romantic in me speaking!

I was memorized by it and am so happy I went to see it on the big screen in 3D!  It was well worth the extra price for 3D and a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  I may go see it again!  I rate this one an A- and encourage anyone who is still intrigued by the children’s classics they grew up with to go see it and become enchanted all over again.

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