Monday, 8 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

This year's Academy Awards held few surprises, certainly not in the acting categories anyhow, with Waltz, Mo'Nique, Bridges, and Bullock all predicted winners. The biggest surprise, although that too was on the cards, was The Hurt Locker's relative success over Avatar. Not that I have seen either film yet. I tend to avoid war films -- however worthy -- on principle (the principle being that they depress me) and I have been dragging my heels to go and watch a movie about ten-foot blue-skinned people. However I know that Avatar is a film that should be seen on the big screen in 3-D and I shall be sitting through all 161 minutes of it tomorrow.

I did not however need any such coaxing to go to see Tim Burton's new 3-D movie early on in its run. I knew upfront that this version would bear slight resemblance to previous ones, but that Burton would take many of the familiar elements and reinterpret them through his own gothic sensibilities. Visually the film is a treat. His 3-D treatment is effective without being in-your-face, although there are perhaps rather too many tableaux which resemble children's pop-up picture books. However the colourful landscapes are an artistic triumph and move one along with the action.

Helena Bonham Carter is something of a hoot as the big-headed (literally) Red Queen. Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter, looking like a cross between Madonna and Vivienne Westwood, has had his role in the proceedings beefed up to make the movie more of a vehicle for his star-power. It is always a pleasure seeing Crispin Glover, here as the queen's cowardly Knave of Hearts. Matt Lucas (not the easiest actor to admire) is absolutely fine as the digitally-altered Tweedledum and Tweedledee -- "I just love my fat boys" says Bonham Carter. The mainly British voice cast for the creatures are all excellent, even the often-annoying Stephen Fry, whose Cheshire Cat is one of the best-conceived bits of digital tinkering. On the less positive side, I don't quite know how the film's make-up artists managed to turn the normally gorgeous Anne Hathaway (playing the White Queen) into such an unattractive bimbo. Finally I was a little disappointed with the Australian ingenue Mia Wasikowska as the 19-year old and comparatively wishy-washy Alice.
Having an older Alice on her second visit to 'Underland' is one of the main differences between this film and the traditional ones, ending up with her in full body-armour a la Joan of Arc to do battle with the Jabberwocky -- or as the amusing Bonham Carter would have it 'my jabber-baby-wocky'. At least Burton is faithful to the vision of the original Tenniel illustrations in turning the story into a sword and quest film.

Twice during the film a character states 'All the best people are a little mad'. So thank goodness for Burton, Bonham Carter, Depp, and most of all Lewis Carroll.
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