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Alice: New twists a success or failure?

Falling down the rabbit hole brings few surprises
“Do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?” the Mad Hatter says.

No one knows the answer.

Another unanswerable question is why a movie like “Alice in Wonderland” could leave the audience with an empty success. This movie seems great, it has all the perfect pieces. But like a mismatched puzzle, no matter how they’re forced, the pieces won’t click together. All the pieces of success were there. A talented cast, including Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and newcomer Mia Wasikowska, all played their characters beautifully. Each matched the insanity portrayed by Lewis Carroll’s original characters; the actors added their own twist to the dark and mysterious players.

The costume design  especially adds to the the characters and the setting. From the light pastels everyone wears to the English tea party, to the eccentric hats that the Hatter makes for the Queen, all help enhance the story.

An interesting note, Burton took the two queens (the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen) from Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” and put them into one character called the Red Queen. But the Queen of Hearts has not been not forgotten, the Red Queen’s castle and all of her clothes are covered in blood red hearts.

The visual effects were startlingly realistic. Alice’s frequent growing and shrinking was executed seamlessly. The faces on the flowers looked natural, and various characters from the mad March Hare, Jabberwocky, Twiddledee, Twiddledum and various talking animals seemed as if they had evolved from the ordinary creatures of our world.

The key improvement from Disney’s animated “Alice in Wonderland” and Carroll’s original version is that Burton’s movie actually had a plot.

As opposed to the two previously mentioned versions, in Burton’s film, Alice is 19 and returns to Wonderland to escape a marriage proposal from an awkward a bucktooth British lord. She doesn’t remember her previous visit to Wonderland, but instead, she has reoccurring dreams that the audience recognizes as scenes from the original tale.

During this visit, creatures question if Mia is the “right” Alice. She is told that she must dethrone the Red Queen’s champion by slaying the Jabberwocky. No, the Jabberwocky isn‘t the amazing dance crew, but insted a terrifying monster. This creature is ink black and physically looks like a mix of Harry Potter’s Basilisk and Hungarian Horntail with a twist of Pirates of the Caribbean’s Kracken. She is absolutely horrified by the thought of killing the creature, but by the end of the movie…. Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

The “Muchness” of Alice in Underland

Walking into the theater, I expected something that followed the Alice in Wonderland, or should I say Underland, idea, but possibly a bit creepier. Tim Burton never disappoints. He took the audience on a magical and slightly trippy ride through, not only Underland, but also a bit of Alice’s past.

The original setting is a garden party where a red-headed, obscure toothed man is proposing to Alice, who is now nineteen instead of six. She is slightly rebellious, choosing to go without a corset or stockings to the party. She longs for her father, who died when she was a child, and possibly some adventure, anything to take her away. So when a rabbit in a waistcoat comes by she immediately follows him.


“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Alice said. Here are six impossibly amazing things about this movie:


One: The cast. I don’t think it is possible to piece together a better cast for this film. From Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter, an eerie role which he embodies perfectly, to Anne Hathaway playing the strangely and wonderfully mad White Queen, to Alan Rickman (a.k.a Snape) playing Absolem the Hookah-smoking caterpillar. Rickman’s deep and mystical voice gives just the right touch to the blue creature. On top of everyone else they added Mia Wasikowska as Alice. She is the perfectly shy looking person you would expect Alice to be, with just a bit of curiosity and a surprising fierceness when needed. The “muchness” is evident.


Two: The mood. The movie was immensely creepy. For starters, Underland looks like Burton filmed it and then tinted the screen a few shades darker. Every animal and card looks evil and, without fail, when they appear on the screen, you jump a little. This sense of almost everything being dark makes pasty Alice, in her classically pastel blue frock, and the White Queen, in a snow white gown, always stand out. Their meaning of light and good is apparent.


Three: The music. Danny Elfmann did a wonderful job helping creating an amazing soundtrack. The main theme is particularly notable. It has a hair-raising feeling when seeing it with the film, but when listened to on Youtube it has a magically curious feeling, almost Harry Potter-esque. The other song that stood out was called “Finding Alice”. This song is a little less frightening and several times in the song there will be a lightly chanting chorus of “Alice, Alice, Alice!” The chorus is almost unnoticeable until someone points it out.


Four: The costumes. They were all phenomenal. Alice’s dress changed as she grew and shrank. At the beginning it was her traditional, more Victorian looking frock and then she shrank and it became a longer halter, frilly dress, only to change once again when she went to a slightly larger size. Another impressive scene contained the Mad Hatter creating dozens of hats for the Red Queen. One would have feathers all around it and the next would be shaped like a heart. Each one was very distinct.


Five: The visual effects. Every creature that appears on the screen looks stunningly realistic, as if you had actually stepped into Underland. From Absolem, the smoking caterpillar, to the Jabberwocky, a ferocious dragon-like creature, there isn’t a monster that doesn’t make you a bit thankful that you live in such a sane world. Instead of shying away from each new monster, your eyes become glued to the screen. It even took me a second to get up once the credits were projected into the theater.


Six: The script. Even though this Alice in Wonderland is a completely new film created about Alice when she turns nineteen, Burton finds a way to bring back everyone’s favorite lines and characters. It makes everything “Curiouser and curiouser!”


So the only question left is: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” If you don’t know, then you are missing a very important date with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

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    miossi artsApr 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I always enjoy reading such insightful posts by a person who is so obviously well-informed on their chosen subject. I’ll be following this blog with much interest. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing this site go from strength to strength!

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