If you are a fan of the delightfully macabre work of director Tim Burton, the excitement will be almost tangible as the release of ‘Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland’ draws closer. I was lucky enough to have the luxury to watch it in 3D but it is definitely not crucial as the visuals are extraordinary, with originally portrayed and detailed characters wonderfully set against the stunning and captivating scenery. This is a ‘re-imagining’ of Lewis Carroll’s popular tale, and Burton has taken significant license to roam. His wonderland is thoughtful and inciting, as it follows Alice years later and provides a new context for Alice as she has been sent for to slay the Jabberwocky (a creature who holds the world at ransom).
The film opens in Aristocratic England in late 19th Century. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, is making the transition to adulthood and is confronted with the dull, uninspiring reality of the experience. Fortunately, an old friend with a pocket watch reappears and prompts her to follow his lead down a rabbit hole. Mia is well cast as Alice, with her doe eyes and golden locks she certainly looks the conventional part. She gives a great performance, but the all-star cast of quirky wonderland characters outshines her. Helena Boham Carter, the Red Queen, is exceptional as the over sized head of the underworld and delivers her venomous quips perfectly. The Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, was of course barking mad but also endearing. Depp portrayed him with charm and some disarming dialogue. There are probably many people who are looking forward to the tea party and I assure you will not be disappointed; a particular highlight with the surprising addition of Scottish accents and introduction to the Cheshire cat, voiced by Stephen Fry, is visually enthralling with the traditional eerie grin and floating head.
There are so many delightful, well cast characters, but the film is perhaps a little over crowded as not every one gets enough screen time. Matt Lucas, both Tweedledee and Tweedledum, is very amusing as one of the many smaller appearances. Anne Hathaway plays the White Queen, an interesting airy type who personifies goodness. However, it feels a bit weak and delicate next to the others strong performances, and the vibrancy of Wonderland. Hathaway’s performance is not entirely convincing. The red and white queens are sisters and are separated into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ personas. They come with their own armies, the red queen has her playing cards and the white queen has her chess pieces. This is really a classic morality tale of good versus evil, where the clash is symbolized by the fight between the classically virtuous chess and the vice of gambling. The soundtrack is classic Danny Elfman, large-scale string magic that compliments the pace of the film perfectly. However, an Avril Lavigne song, played as the credits roll. I know I wasn’t the only person thinking how out of place it was. Plus it was awful. Burton knows his style and does it well; all of his hallmarks are there. If you love the Burton approach, and his fantastically rich worlds, you will love Alice’s return to Wonderland.