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A few thoughts on Alice in Wonderland

March 12, 2010

I saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D last Friday – what fun! I went with a bunch of English majors – twice as fun! (and then we got beer… thrice as fun). Your average movie-goer probably isn’t interested in discussing disability theory after the show (did you notice how much eye-stabbing there was? geez).

The reviews were mixed, but I enjoyed it. Some reviewers seemed to forget that the movie isn’t a straight adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There – yes, there are scenes/elements from both – but it’s really a new story using the old characters, themes, tone, and world. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now 19 years old, about to be engaged to a buffoonish lord she should marry, when she follows a curious-looking rabbit, and falls down a hole. That last part probably sounds familiar.

As we watch Alice shrink and grow, trying to get to the small garden door, we overhear voices asking themselves if she is the real Alice. It is the real Alice who has been to Wonderland before, but only remembers that trip as a bad dream and is continually pinching herself to wake up. She soon reunites with the dodo, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, doormouse, Mad Hare and Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, as if you didn’t know), the blue caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman – perfect), and the bandersnatch (in the movie, a ferocious dog-like animal). Alice appears to be destined to slay the Red Queen’s pet jabberwocky, but she resists her fate, believing she can make herself wake up again.

The absurdity of the adult world parodied in Wonderland certainly comes through in the movie’s first frames: Alice is expected to wed a man she clearly doesn’t love (and who doesn’t understand or appreciate her personality), her older sister’s marriage is a sham, the old aunt who never married is not only an outcast but has gone mad. One of the first things we learn about teen-aged Alice is her resistance to Victorian ideas of proper dress.

Though Alice is the heroine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (with her enormous head, infantile behavior, and famous beheading commands) and Johnny Depp drive the movie. The Mad Hatter is just as mad as ever. Only this time, he actually cares for Alice.

I was afraid the Mad Hatter would come across as a second Willy Wonka, but he was different enough that I could believe in him as a Wonderlandian and not as a conglomeration of Johnny Depp’s eccentric roles. His neon green, computerized eyes didn’t hurt. We did catch a couple glimpses of Captain Jack Sparrow, but I suppose we can forgive the Hatter. He is mad, after all.

One of my favorite things about the movie was the way Alice would move through costumes as she shrank and grew – like the time when the Mad Hatter crafts a beautiful dress from a scarf for a teapot-sized Alice in about 2 seconds. The costumes themselves were gorgeous:


I was happy with the ending, despite its historical unlikelihood, and while the movie wasn’t epic, is was entertaining. Worth the $12 or so you’ll pay for the 3D version — though I wouldn’t say the 3D is a must. As a 3D viewer you’re under assault from things thrown or flying at you and are dragged through thorn fields… while this perhaps gives us more empathy for what the characters are experiencing, 3D should really place you completely inside a new world, not deliver cheap thrills by making you think you’re going to get hit in the face.

Check out this Legend of the Guardians trailer, which played before Alice — now here is what 3D should be. Look at those feathers! Those raindrops! Oops, you can’t. Well, take it from me, they look incredible.

Have you seen Alice yet? What did you think?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 3:39 pm

    I will immediately grab your rss feed to keep up-to-date with any updates.

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