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.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin PosterWhen I first heard about this film I wasn’t very interested. I thought, “A film about an autistic woman who works with animals? I think I’ll pass.” Fortunately, we had gotten the movie on the recommendation of my aunt, and I didn’t really have that much of a choice. We were going to watch the film.

I’m glad I did.

The Story

Temple Grandin is the true story of a woman and her family who would not let autism get in her way. The film covers her journey through higher education and on to a successful career.

The film portrays her struggles in a world that she sees through pictures. She’s unlike everyone else because all she understands are those pictures, and she has difficulties understanding things that can’t be pictured. The first person she finds who is like her is her blind college room-mate who interprets her whole world through sounds.

In the end, however, Grandin finds that her autism gives her a unique view on animals. She can very easily think as they think and, using this ability, she is able to construct a more humane way of dealing with cattle heading for the slaughterhouse.

The film also has a very good message, which I think is best summed up in Grandin’s own words: “Different, but not less.” I think this is something that is very important for us all to keep in mind. God has created all people in His own image, and He gives all of us our own quirks and differences. Some people’s differences are more noticeable than others, but that is not a reason to treat them as lower than we are or to look down on then. Being created in the image of God gives all human life dignity and we need to remember that as we deal with people.

The Good

The acting in the film was excellent. Though some characters were better than others, there really weren’t any that made me cringe. The actors portraying the disabled people were especially good.

The storyline was also good. After all, it was true!

The Bad

There were a couple instances of language, as well as some images which might be potentially disturbing to young children. On the whole, however, this was a pretty clean film.

There was also one other thing. I almost didn’t mention this, but in the film it came up several times. During the course of the film, Grandin deals with death several times. Being autistic, it’s very hard for her to conceptualize things she can’t see, so every time she sees something die she asks the question, “Where does it go?” She can see that the thing that was once there, life, is now gone and she wants to know where it went. Unfortunately, this issue is never really dealt with. Her friends usually brush the question off by saying they don’t know.

Now obviously this wasn’t a Christian film, so I probably wouldn’t have agreed with any answer given, but I think if the film had been made by Christians it would have been an excellent time to weave in a message about heaven and life after death.

Again, a very minor detail that I personally would have changed.

Conclusion

This film was an amazing testimony to the fact that people with disabilities are “different, but not less” than other people. A very powerful story with an excellent message.

A Christmas Carol (2009 Disney Animation)

A Christmas Carol PosterI must say that I had high expectations for this film. While I am very familiar with Dickens’ masterful tale, I had never seen it as a movie, and was greatly looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, Disney has almost ruined it in this animated feature film.

 

The Good

It was very well made, technically speaking. The detail they put into the animation of the film was incredible, and it would have been amazing in 3D! That is also however, where Disney failed in this film.

It was also good in that, for the most part, it stuck to the book. There was only one place where the changes made to the story made no sense what so ever, but more on that later.

 

The Bad

I believe that the film was mainly made to show off what could be done with 3D. As I mentioned, the animation was technically well done, but there where many things that seemed like they had been added to the story just to show off what Disney can do with 3D. For example, toward the end of the film there’s a scene where Scrooge is chased through London in miniature by the ghost of Christmas-yet-to-Come, who turns out in the end to also be the angel of death.

While I’m sure it looked great in 3D, it didn’t really have anything to do with the Christmas Carol Dickens wrote. The whole scene should have been cut and replaced by other, more meaningful, scene that Disney left out.

 

Conclusion

While I was very much looking forward to watching the film, I was greatly disappointing. Maybe if I hadn’t had such high expectations I would’ve enjoyed it more, but I doubt it.

Hopefully I can find a better rendition of Dickens’ classic story to enjoy later this Christmas season.

If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace PosterAmazing Grace is the story of British abolitionist William Wilberforce and his struggle to end slavery in Great Brittan. The film follows him through his struggles and joys as he fights what appears a first to be a losing battle, but in the end, wins.

 

The Good

The overall message of the film is about fighting for something bigger and more important than ourselves. At the beginning of the film, Wilberforce is striving to be a politician, but his friends are all trying to get him to take on the issue of slavery. After becoming a Christian, Wilberforce does tackle the issue, and continues to fight for the abolition of slavery year after year, through defeat after defeat. The film is an excellent example of persevering through seeming overwhelming odds to, in the end, achieve a noble victory.

Also, I think it is worth noting that technically speaking, this film was excellent. The amount of detail taken in choosing and decorating the sets was incredible! While BBC didn’t (to my knowledge) have anything to do with this film, I came away with the same sort of feeling I get after watching one of their more recent films – “Wow, why haven’t we independent Christian filmmakers done so well?”

 

The Bad

There wasn’t a whole lot in the film that was offensive. John Newton was not portrayed very accurately (though besides that, the film was surprisingly historically accurate), and there where several instances of language, and a few scenes which included a low cut dress or two, but that was about all.

There are however, some scenes which would only be appropriate for mature audiences. The evils of the slave trade are discussed several times, and the characters use some rather vivid descriptions, which, while not inappropriate, are probably not suitable for young ears.

 

Conclusion

I enjoyed this film, and would probably recommend it to mature audiences who where aware of the few problems this film contains. It is an excellent example of perseverance.

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon PosterI’m not a huge fan of Dreamworks. Nothing personal, but none of their films have really interested me. I’ve only seen two, so I’m not working off of much, but the first one I watched (Over the Hedge, for any of you who are wondering) was a waste of time. So, while I was looking forward to watching How to Train Your Dragon, my expectations weren’t very high. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

However low my expectations were, I was pleasantly surprised. The story was interesting, though not as good as most Pixar films, and the quality of the animation wasn’t bad, despite the highly stylized people.

 

The Story

The film is set in a Viking village with a serious pest: dragons! The dragons have an inconvenient habit of attacking the village at night and carrying of the village’s food supply. The villagers fight back, attempting to kill as many dragons as possible. The young hero of the film, Hiccup, attempts to help fight dragons, but is told to stay inside and out of the way, despite this, he runs out and joins in the fight, and even manages to shoot down one of the most dangerous of all the dragons!

Unfortunately, no one believes him when he claims to have done it, so, the next morning, yet set out to find and kill his dragon.

To cut a long story short, instead of killing the dragon, he befriends it, and finds out that everything his village knows about dragons is wrong. In the end, the village finds out that Hiccup was right, they are able to set free the enslaved dragons, and everybody lives happily ever after.

 

The Bad

The story is set in a pagan viking culture, which poses some obvious problems. There are multiple reference to praying to the viking gods, which, as Christians, we know to be wrong.

At the beginning of the film, the son’s relationship with his father is very poor, with multiple instances of disrespectfulness, which the film usually portrays in a humorous light. Fortunately, this relationship improves toward the end of the film, giving the impression that the father and son will grow closer as time passes. The relationships between the “teenage” vikings also is rather poor, though in the end, they too work together for the good of the village.

There are also a couple of sexual innuendos and a few kisses between the hero and heroine.

 

The Good

The entire theme of the story was redemption. The viking’s need was to stop the raids from the dragons, which could only be accomplished by freeing (or redeeming) the dragons from the even bigger dragon that enslaved them. The story also dealt with motives, and the need to have good ones. At the beginning of the story, the vikings kill dragons because they “are vikings, and that’s what vikings do.” Hiccup is the first person to stop and think about whether or not that was really a good enough reason to kill them, and in the end, they find out it’s not.

The film also provides an example, albeit a rather poor one, of a father and son growing closer as the work together towards a common goal.

 

Conclusion

While the story was enjoyable, it does have some major problems. This film is only suitable for discerning audiences, and I can’t say it’s high up on my list of recommended films to watch.

As a side note, I want to thank and credit my dad for helping me review this film. Much of what you see written above are his observations, which I have plagiarized for the purpose of this review.

Thanks Dad!