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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Alice in Wonderland

There's a long-standing Hollywood tradition where big name directors make one film for themselves then one film for their corporate masters. And for a long time Tim Burton's been the director to avoid when he's doing it for the money (remember Planet of the Apes? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). But because he's still seen as the master of "dark whimsy", even the knowledge that his version of Alice in Wonderland was a Disney production (they own the trademarks), and not something from the heart wasn't enough to dampen interest. The news that the story wasn't a direct adaptation of either of the original books but instead a all-new Hollywood-style follow-up featuring Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as a young woman might have worried a few people but hey, it's Tim Burton. And it's in 3D! With Johnny Depp!

In a result that will disappoint many but surprise no-one, this is yet another film where Burton 's vast visual skill is coupled with not much else to create an experience that looks amazing but is best enjoyed in the background while conversing with your friends about something else entirely. The story is pretty much the result of a Hollywood sausage factory, throwing various "greatest hits" characters and situations from the original books into a half-hearted but visually impressive story where various rebels battle to overthrow the evil rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter with a massive CGI head).

Having a film version of Alice in Wonderland that ends with a giant battle while Alice - in armour and wielding a sword - battles the Jabberwok is pretty much an insult to everything the original stood for, and the moral of the film makes no sense whatsoever: in the real world it's all girl-power that Alice avoids her destiny (to marry a Lord), yet in Wonderland it's presented as a good thing that she can't avoid her destiny (to battle the Jabberwok). Huh? Meanwhile, Depp's Mad Hatter gets annoying long before he performs perhaps the most gratuitous, painful dance number ever seen on film - seriously, it's literally unwatchable. If there's one of those big glossy "making-of" books with loads of images from the film available, read that instead of enduring this.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #475)

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