Never have hallucinogenics been so dull.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl who dreams big, beautiful and often times, crazy things. So often so, that the real world surrounding her just doesn’t do anything for her. That’s why when it turns out that she’s set to wed a British chump, she can’t help but run away to her own world of extravagant and out-of-this-world beings. However, in this world, Alice does’t know if she’s dreaming it all, or if it’s really happening. Either way, Alice is thrown into a whole new world that she’s just getting used to. In this world, Alice meets all sorts of colorful and wild characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and then, there’s mystical characters like the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and most importantly, the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). All of whom are characters that Alice has at least one or two interactions with in this world, but mostly of all whom make her wonder if she’s in a dream that she needs to wake up out of, or a world that she needs to escape from. Either way, she needs to do something, and quick!
It’s an honest surprise how bad Alice in Wonderland turned out to be, because you’d think that this would be something in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. Alice in Wonderland is the kind of oddly strange, but endearing story that benefits from an extra bit of weirdness, as well as visuals, and considering that Burton is quite solid at being both “weird”, as well as “visual”, it’s almost a no-brainer that he’d be chosen for this.
So why oh why did everything go so wrong?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that the script Burton may have been working with here was probably really, really bad. For one, it never knows if it wants to be overly-goofy, or just plain weird, but with a darkening and serious tone. Burton himself never quite figures that out, either, but it seems like the script is going to battle with itself over whether or not it wants to set out and scare people, or if it wants to just be a silly old time, where colorful things and characters do crazy, over-the-top things.
Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with the later, because Burton himself has proven, time and time again, that he’s more than able to handle all of that and make it fun, even when it can get brooding. Here though, it never fully comes together. Burton always seems as if he’s trying to settle on one style, but instead of sticking to one in particular, he goes back and forth so often, that we never know what to expect with the movie, nor do we actually care. It’s just such a mess in its own right, that the time it takes to figure its own identity and mood out, it gets to become too late and we already don’t really care.
And that’s a shame because Burton is obviously way better than this here, and it’s clear that he took the visuals very seriously. Sure, some will complain that there’s an over-reliance on CGI and special-effects here, but honestly, what did you expect? It was a live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, in the year 2010 – how could it have not been mostly all CGI? The visuals themselves do look quite impressive and it’s clear that certain details from the original flick are here as well, except on a greater scale, but there gets to be a point where you wonder for how long can pretty colors and things make you forget that a story is clearly lacking?
In the case of Alice in Wonderland, not long.
It’s clear that a lot of this story is plodding along, introducing its zany characters one by one, but never really giving them any arch or sustainable personality that makes us want to see them, again and again. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter may have been perfect casting, in hindsight, but in the movie, it’s a typical Johnny Depp performance: He over-acts a whole lot, switches up accents half-way through for some reason, and seems like he’s just making everything up as he goes along. Helena Bonham Carter is at least fun to watch and listen to as the Red Queen, if only because her gags are the only ones that land; Crispin Glover plays her right-hand man and is suitably creepy, although, maybe not creepy enough, given that it’s Crispin Glover we’re talking about here; Anne Hathaway is pretty as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska seems like she’s interested in doing so much more than what she has here, but instead, has to do a lot of looking around and staring into space; and the voice talents all come in and add another level of charisma to the CGI-creations.
But really, do any of them even matter?
What ends up happening by the close of Alice in Wonderland is that the story goes from point to point, without ever really caring about anyone, or what’s happening. We’re told that the Red Queen is out to take over Wonderland and is this evil, ruthless Queen who doesn’t care about anything that exists, but are we supposed to take any of it seriously? Or, are we supposed to just laugh at her big head? The movie never knows what the answer is and that’s a huge problem.
Eventually, there’s a big battle that comes into play and seems absolutely random, even by this film’s standards. There’s no rhyme, reason, or understanding of what’s happening, for what reasons, and what is to be accomplished; all we do know is that Tim Burton wants his characters to battle it out with one another, for one reason or another. Which maybe would have been fine in any other Tim Burton movie.
Just maybe not in Alice in Wonderland. Sorry.
Consensus: As messy as you can expect a Tim Burton movie to be, but for all of the wrong reasons, Alice in Wonderland never makes sense of its tone, its character, or even its plot, but knows that it’s pretty to look at and only focuses on that.
2.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz