Movie Title: Alice in Wonderland
Director: Tim Burton
Release Date: March 5th, 2010
Date Seen: Around when it first came out, again on July 14th, 2012
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
I’m very conflicted when it comes to this movie. It is Tim Burton, but it isn’t. It has great visuals, but sometimes it falls flat. Some characters are great; others make you want to gag. You have a good time with the plot, but overall it’s very one note. There isn’t a twist or turn in sight, you can see exactly what’s going to happen, and then it does. I feel like Disney tried to make Tim Burton change a lot, and thus the movie lost something that it would have had if they let his had his way. There’s an unnatural amount of CGI for a Tim Burton film, and while for the most part well done, it can be distracting.
The acting by some people, such as Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter was great. Helena Bonham Carter was good as the Red Queen, but it was a role she was made for. Mia Wasikowska was alright as Alice. She certainly looked the part, but at times was a little bit *too* timid for my tastes. Anne Hathaway was great as the White Queen – my only problem with her character was her makeup… the black lipstick? Yikes! But she was hilarious, always trying to be righteous and say the “polite” thing, and then sometimes just letting something slightly rude slip. Loved it. Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts was good, but he’s good in everything he does (I have a creepy crush on him…. But I mean have you seen him in real life?! Hot!). And Matt Lucas as Tweedledee/Tweedledum is great.
So, I do think this movie is worth a watch… if it’s on TV or something… it was great in the theater just for the visual effects, but now that it’s out… yeah, watch it once, and be done with it. It’s just so disappointing because it had so much potential!
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review/Synopsis
The movie is a framed story; beginning and ending with Alice at home in the real world. We first see her as a small girl recounting her strange dream about talking rabbits, blue caterpillars, etc. to her father, Charles Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas). She worries that she has gone mad, and he puts his hand on her forehand saying that yes, she has gone mad “but all the best people are.”
Fast forward 13 years, we see Alice and her mother in a carriage riding to a party. Alice is clearly uncomfortable and doesn’t want to go. She didn’t wear her corset or her stockings and her mother is freaking out about that and the fact that they are late. Alice isn’t sure why, saying she doubts they’d even notice if they didn’t arrive. When they do arrive, the host lady of the party, Lady Ascot (Geraldine James) and her husband, Lord Ascot (Tim Pigott-Smith) are waiting. Lord Ascot appears to have bought Alice’s fathers business after his death. Alice goes to dance with their son, Hamish (Leo Bill). While dancing, she is clearly distracted and thinking about “impossible things” and Hamish keeps shooting her down. They are obviously very different. Two girls at the party summon Alice over and spill the secret that this is really her engagement party and that Hamish is going to propose…. Then Lady Ascot walks over and takes Alice around the garden telling her “important” information about her son (about his weak stomach, etc.). Alice is again distracted because she sees a rabbit in the garden…. At one point she runs off after it. Then she happens to run into the gazebo, where Hamish is waiting for her and everyone is watching. He proposes to her and she is flustered, looks over, sees the rabbit again, and runs after it. The rabbit goes down a hole; she looks down it, and falls in. So now we switch to Underland (yes, Underland).
The fall down the rabbit hole was a satisfying scene. Alice’s blue dress contrasting against the orange, brown, and red hues of the hole, with stranger and stranger sights as she goes down the hole. When she lands, there is the “drink me” “eat me” scene. It’s reminiscent of every other movie with this scene in it, so no need to explain it. When Alice does finally shrink down and get the door open, we get the first look at Underland. It is definitely Tim Burton’s Underland – not entirely bright, but strange creatures and plants. It’s colorful while still being dark. In 3D on the big screen when I first saw this was great. At home, not as impressive.
Alice meets the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), the slightly bitchy yet loveable Doormouse (Barbara Windsor), the dodo bird (Michael Gough) and Tweedledee/Tweedledum (Matt Lucas). There is a debate between them about whether or not she is the “right” Alice. The White Rabbit thinks she is “the” Alice, the Doormouse thinks she isn’t, and even Alice says she must be the wrong one. They take her to Absolom, aka, the blue caterpillar (Alan Rickman). They look at the Oraculum, a scroll that shows the history, present, and future of Underland. It shows “the” Alice fighting the Jabberwocky, in a few days time, known as the Frabjous Day. Alice still thinks she can’t be “the” Alice and asks Absolom. He says she is “not hardly” Alice. Strange…. About that time, we see the Knave of Hearts, some red-card soldiers, and a big scary dog-looking creature called the Bandersnatch. The knave takes the scroll and the Dodo. Alice runs off, and the Bandersnatch follows her. Convinced she is dreaming, she faces it head on and tries to wake herself up. She can’t, and gets scratched by the Bandersnatch. Doormouse jumps up and stabs the Bandersnatch in the eye, and takes the eye with her. They get away, leaving the wounded Bandersnatch with the red-cards and the Knave of Hearts. I think I enjoyed typing “Bandersnatch” way too much. It’s fun, type it and say it over and over…. Anyways, back to the movie.
Alice finds Tweedledee and Tweedledum and walks with them for a little while. While debating over where to go and hide, a giant bird comes and swoops down and picks them up – and whisks them off the Red Queen’s castle. At the Castle, the Knave of Hearts is showing the Red Queen the Oraculum, and says that Alice is back. She orders Alice found. They use a bloodhound, named Bayard (Timothy Spall) to find her. They promise that if he does, they’ll give him, his wife, and pups their freedom. After he leaves, the Red Queen comments that she loves dogs for how gullible/stupid they are.
Back in the forest, Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat. He comments on her Bandersnatch wound, saying that he should heal it or else the flesh will rot. She says it won’t matter as she is “only dreaming”. The cat then leads her to the Mad Hatter, who is having tea with the Doormouse and the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse). Hatter is so excited to see Alice, saying that he’s been waiting so long for her to return and is so excited for her to slay the Jabberwocky in a few days. In these scenes, I love the Mad Hatter. If you notice, Hatter’s eyes are usually green with softer colorful makeup when he’s happy. He also speaks in his normal accented voice. Once he gets angry/aggravated/excited for battle, his eyes start changing color to yellow and is makeup appears more purple toned and sharper, and he all of a sudden has an Irish-sounding accent. I loved the makeup changes, the accent, meh, but the makeup changes were awesome.
All of a sudden we hear Bayard barking – and the Knave of Hearts and his crew are closing in. Hatter makes Alice drink some “drink me” potion really quick, and hides her in a teapot. Bayard sits to the side while the Knave sort-of interrogates them, but he thinks they’re all insane so it doesn’t really work. Doormouse, at the same time, scolds Bayard for bringing him there – because Bayard is on their side. He explains he just wants his family back, and then goes and tries to lead the Knave off in another direction.
Alice and Hatter walk through the forest and Hatter explains that the kingdom used to be wonderful. Hatter worked for the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) as her personal hatter, and then one day the Red Queen came, stole her crown, vorpal sword, and banished her to another part of Underland. As Hatter tells this story we see it happening in his mind, and then the camera zooms out to show we are in the burned remains of the city in his story. The Knave starts to close in on them again, so Hatter puts Alice on his hat and flings it away – and thus HE gets caught by the Knave. Bayard finds Alice to take her to the White Queen – but Alice wants to go rescue Hatter. Bayard says that that’s not in the “plan” (i.e. the Oraculum doesn’t say it), but she says she doesn’t care; she’s going to get Hatter.
Bayard takes her to the Red Queen’s castle – and she gets in, after crossing a lake of the heads of people the queen has beheaded. Since it’s a Disney movie, however, their faces appear to be stone. Alice gets into the garden and witnesses the typical Lewis-Carroll style croquet game. When the queen hits the “ball” (badger), it lands near Alice. As she is the same size as the badger at the moment, she unties him so he can get away. The White Rabbit has to come to look for the ball and sees Alice. She begs for some more of the cake that makes people big. She eats a bit too much and ends up like 12 feet tall. This interrupts the croquet game, obviously, as there is now a 12 foot naked girl in the middle of the garden. She says her name is “Um”, from “Umbridge”, and the Red Queen, not recognizing her as Alice (as the last time she saw her, she was a little girl), accepts her into her royal court for having such a big head. You notice that the others in her court have large features – a very large belly, extremely large boobs, a long nose, unnatural ears, etc.
Alice is hanging out with the Queen, and noticing what a horrible person she is. The Knave comes in and asks about Um, and he obviously suspects something, but lets it go. Tweedledee/Tweedledum are called in to entertain the Queen, and they both obviously recognize Alice and they are having a hard time keeping quiet. But luckily, they do. The Queen calls in the Hatter and is going to have him beheaded. He stalls by telling her how it would be his honor to hat such a head as big as hers, so she lets him live… for now. That night, there is an awkward moment of the Knave trying to hit on Alice, and she rejects him. The lady with the big ears overhears, and goes to tell the queen – who, since she loves the Knave, orders “Um” to be beheaded. While this is going on, the Doormouse has broken in and is trying to rescue the Hatter. Alice finds out that the vorpal sword is in the Bandersnatch’s cage/house/thing. She gets the Bandersnatch eye, that Doormouse was still carrying around, and gives it back to the Bandersnatch so he trusts her and allows her to get the sword. The Bandersnatch also licks Alice’s arm, which was indeed rotting and painful now, just like the Cheshire Cat said it would. Alice goes back upstairs to the Hatters room to get him out – right as the Knave comes in. The Doormouse and Hatter start fighting him and Doormouse accidentally yells “run Alice!” So the Knave now knows that Um=Alice.
She runs out to the courtyard, and is surrounded by red cards. But luckily, the Bandersnatch comes to her rescue and they ride off into the sunset…. I mean to the White Queen’s house. But the other sentence was just so much more satisfying. Once at the White Queen’s house (with Bayard, who had been waiting there), the White Queen shrinks Alice back down to her normal size, and they chat. Some of it is funny, with the White Queen asking if her head is still… ya know…. Huge. Some other funny things. She always tries to remain so sweet but you can tell there’s a fun girl in there somewhere.
At the Red Queen’s castle, the Hatter and the Doormouse have been ordered to be beheaded the next day. The Cheshire Cat comes the night before to ask Hatter if he can have his hat, since he won’t need it anymore. Oh, that cat. We also see poor Bayard’s family locked up.
The next day, at the beheading, Doormouse and the Hatter are led to the executioners table, with his heart shaped sword, and as he swings the blade down on Hatter’s head… he disappears and the hat starts floating… Surprise! It’s Cheshire Cat. The real Hatter appears behind the Queen and exposes all her friends with big body parts as being fakers. Then Hatter, Doormouse, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Bayard’s family all escape and head to the White Queen’s castle.
The next day is the Frabjous day. Oh yeah, forgot about it, didn’t you? Well, the way this works is each Queen presents their champion (White Queen = Alice, Red Queen = Jabberwocky), and the battle is over once one champion slays the other.
The scene had potential…. But it failed. Why? They meet on a giant checkerboard… and are completely surrounded by CGI…. Seriously. Other than Alice, the Queens, and the Knave, the whole scene is CGI down to the fights, the background, etc. This scene could have been so good! But I feel like Disney pushed the CGI on him. Tim Burton is known for having great REAL sets, and using CGI as necessary. But Disney on the other hand, loves their CGI. Ugh. But even with that, it should be a great fight, right? Wrong. Alice figures out how to slay the Jabberwocky in like two minutes, and we only get glimpses at the other fights going on. Tweedledee and Tweedledum versus some red-cards were the best. But yeah, it’s a very quick scene for being the supposed climax of the movie.
Once Alice slays the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen freaks out and says her typical, “off with her head!” but the red-cards refuse to follow her now that her champion lost. The White Queen banishes her to live alone far away for the rest of her life. She also banishes the Knave of Hearts to live with her. The Red Queen says “well at least we’ll have each other” and looks at him with loving eyes, while he begs the White Queen for anything other than that. So it looks like in the future, that’d be a good episode of “Jerry Springer: Underland Edition”.
The White Queen gives Alice the blood of the Jabberwocky as her prize – saying it will give her whatever she wants. She chooses to return to her real life, because she has unfinished business there. There’s a semi-awkward moment between her and the Hatter (is he fatherly, or does he want to do her?), and she drinks the blood (ew) and leaves.
So now, back at the hole, she climbs out and runs back to the gazebo where it seems only a bit of time has passed, as in maybe 10 – 20 minutes. She says that she can’t marry Hamish because she doesn’t like him, blah blah, and will make her own future. She leaves, and Lord Ascot follows her. He suggests that since she will not be his daughter in law, perhaps she’d be his apprentice at the business. She gives him great ideas, and the movie ends with Alice getting on a boat and going off to expand their business… and a blue butterfly flies by… omg it’s Absolom. The end.
I give this only a 6/10 because it is mildly disappointing. The plot was very one note in that Alice goes to Wonderland, finds out she must defeat the Jabberwocky, and she’s done. I knew the exactly what was going to happen the whole time. There was too much CGI and not enough Tim Burton. Disney needed a slap in the face for imposing their influence so much. They should have just let him run with it since they were so adamant that he direct it. So watch it, but know that if you expect too much, you will be disappointed.