Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland PosterWow. Wow, wow, wow! Alice in Wonderland is definitely the weirdest film I’ve seen in a very long time. It was very different than the book (which, mind you, is not necessarily a bad thing) and also contained elements from Carrol’s second book, Through the Looking Glass. But if you’re expecting a pleasant re-telling of Carrol’s classic tale, keep looking.

The Story

Alice Kingsley is a nineteen year old girl who’s really not sure of anything about her life. She’s troubled by a recurring nightmare set in a strange place called Wonderland. When she first had the dream seventeen years ago, she explained it to her father and asked him if she was going mad. He rather humorously replied that she was and after a brief pause added, “but all the best people are.”

Now, seventeen years later, her father has passed away, leaving Alice’s mother to run the family and find Alice a suitable husband. When the young man proposes, Alice is not sure what of to say so she runs away and, after finding a white rabbit with a waistcoat and a watch, she follows him back to his hole which, she quite naturally, falls down.

And thus Alice is introduced to the strange world of Wonderland, or Underland, as she finds out later it is really called.

Soon Alice finds out why she has come back to Wonderland. The Red Queen has overthrown the White Queen and is currently terrorizing the inhabitants of Wonderland. A mysterious magic scroll clearly foretells that Alice is the only one who can defeat the monstrous Jabberwocky on the Frabjous day. So everyone is looking to Alice to save them.

Yet Alice still thinks it’s all a dream.

The Good

Most of the technical aspects of this film were quite good. The entirety of Wonderland must have been 3D and they did a good job creating a visually interesting world in which to place their characters. On a similar note, most of the 3D characters were very well done, with only one (the bandersnatch, for those of you who were wondering) looking obviously fake to me.

They also did a pretty good job of keeping Alice fairly modest, despite the fact that she was constantly shrinking or growing out of her clothes during her stay in Wonderland.

Tim Burton (the director), is quoted to have said that he didn’t care for the original books because they were about a little girl who just wanders around from one strange place and adventure to another. Not much of a story. His version of Alice in Wonderland didn’t seem to start out much better. But, fortunately, it changed. About halfway through the film Alice begins to take control of her life and, despite the fact that she was predestined to fight the Jabberwocky, she does have to make the choice to go out and do it. A rather interesting (though weak) example of predestination versus free will. She also chose to return to her world in the end, despite the fact that by doing so she would have to face all the problems she had left behind her.

Other reviewers have also mentioned that, towards the end of the film, Alice was a good example of heroism and I would tend to agree. She was willing to risk her own life to save the lives of others. Now, I personally would prefer to keep ladies off the battlefield, but nonetheless her actions were heroic.

The Bad

While this first point is not bad per-se, it is worth noting. This is not a children’s movie. The book may have been for children, but this film is not.

The entire thing is set in a strange, mysterious world full of odd and sometimes terrifying creatures. Heads are lopped off, Alice receives some rather vicious scratches, and there’s a terrifying dragon-like thing that breaths out electric fire. It get’s rather violent at times. At other times, it’s just plain weird.

There’s also a completely unnecessary kiss at the beginning of the film which implies an adulterous affair. It’s sort of portrayed as bad, but not as clearly as it should be.

If you want a list of the problems in this film, Dove’s review is pretty thorough.

There is one rather important thing that Dove forgot to mention. Feminism. At the end of the film Alice comes back from Wonderland ready to take control of her life. She gives some endearing little speeches to her friends, joins her father’s company as an apprentice, and sails off into the sunlight. “I am woman, hear me roar!”

It’s really kind of sad that they decided to end it this way. While in Wonderland Alice learned several fairly important lessons that could have been nicely tied together to make a very good ending.

Conclusion

The effects in this film were very well done. The acting was good, especially when you consider that many of the characters were 3D, and thus weren’t even on set. Unfortunately, the message was not great, so I cannot recommend this film very highly.

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