Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Alice

So, tonight I went to see Alice in Wonderland. I've just about come to terms with calling it that when I'm talking about the film, as I suppose it's the proper title, but when we're discussing the book, make sure you say Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ok? Right. Glad we've cleared that up.

Tim Burton - who is the only director who could possibly do Alice - sets his version of the book when Alice is 19, paying a return visit to Wonderland. So all the same characters are there (from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There as well) but he can throw in a Hollywoody Quest Plot where Alice has to slay the Jabberwocky. In a nice touch, they refer to this foretold event as The Frabjous Day.

Burton never seems to quite decide whether he's adapting the book or creating a sequel - everything is new to Alice, who has forgotten most of what happened (Tweedledee - or is it Tweedledum? - voiced my thoughts at one point when he said "Surely she should remember all this from the first time?) but that's a small matter when it comes to his realisation of Wonderland, which is rather wonderful. Very Tim Burton. Even better than the setting are the characters - Helena Bonham Carter is, visually and character-wise, perfect as the Red Queen; Johnny Depp is delightfully mad as the Mad Hatter; Stephen Fry was born to be a Chesire Cat. And so it goes on - some great decisions with make-up and special effects make the characters dazzling. The only dubious member of the cast was Mia Wasikowska as Alice, who wasn't brilliant... but once she got to Wonderland she didn't have much to do but look surprised and/or determined, and she managed that with aplomb.

My real problems with the film were mostly about the plot - I know that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland doesn't have a very linear plot, but it does have a brilliant rhythm and warped internal logic, which could perhaps have been carried across to the film. Instead, the plot led to the inevitable battle scene... why do all big budget films have to have a battle scene now? I blame Lord of the Rings... they're always so long and dull and nothing happens except we see just how much money they had to throw at CGI axes.

Also - perhaps I should have expected this with Tim Burton - the film was rather more sinister than the book. I'm mostly thinking about the hedgehogs... (what a sentence to write!) who enjoyed being croquet balls in the book, but were terrified in the film. Everyone seems contentedly mad in the book, and rather more scared in the film - but I don't think Burton will ever make a cheery film.

Still, worth seeing - doesn't match up to the book, but it is one of my favourites so that comes as no surprise - and I got all excited about it being in 3D (you just know in five years time that our 3D film technology is going to look wildly dated). Let me know if you're going to see it, and what you think... (and make sure you read the books)

My previous experience with getting videos across from YouTube haven't always been successful, but hopefully above this post is the 1903 version of Alice which I've seen linked to in a few places... look out for some wonderful 'surprise-acting' and quite impressive effects for over a hundred years ago.

14 comments:

  1. As I just commented on the video post, my five year old and I have just finished reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for the first time and will be going to see the film soon. I will definitely come back and report after we have seen it! We both love Tim Burton *and* Alice so I hope we can find the best of both and enjoy the film.

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  2. I really liked your review. And although I really wanted to see it, then was talked out of it, now reading your version I think I'm gonna risk it. I just watched that 1903 version this weekend too!

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  3. I'm going to see it this weekend and am madly excited. I love the Alice books, I love Tim Burton's films (well, mostly), and I get to see my imaginary boyfriend Alan Rickman as a caterpillar.

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  4. I've heard very good and very bad reviews of Alice, but I think I'm going to go see it just for the 3D. When they first started doing films in 3D, I thought I was going to be unimpressed, but actually 3D films are kind of magic. :P

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  5. I'm still not sure I want to see it. I'm often so disappointed in films and I get so bored with battle scenes!

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  6. thanks for posting this interesting and candid review Simon - I have not yet seen it but would like to as I like Alice and Burton and agree with you that i cannot think of another director who could really tackle her....

    thanks for sharing

    Hannah

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  7. I want to go and see this, particularly as Antony, the National Trust property where some of it was filmed, is a favourite and somewhere I intend to visit on my holidays next month. I don't want to see it in 3D though and I think I may have missed the 2D showing - I just can't afford £11.35 to wear a pair of glasses and get special effects.

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  8. Simon, do you not think that Kurosawa or Bergman might have made an interesting version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

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  9. I saw the film at the weekend and it was a fun adaptation, not brilliant but fun. There was so inspired casting and some lovely changes to the original narrative along with allusions to it and blending with the plot of Alice Through the Looking Glass. All in all, it was a Burton-esque adaptation and meets those expectations.

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  10. I'm sorry to say that I am not a great fan of Tim Burton and so don't think I'd like this. I tend to find his films rather irritating. What a shame as you sound so enthusiastic -- I think I must be in a minority of one here.

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  11. I also saw it at the weekend (in 2D) can't be bothered with the 3D. I really enjoyed it (review on my blog), but wasn't keen on Depp in Scottish mode.

    I loved both the Queens and thought more could have been made of their feud, also Burton had combined the Q of Hearts with the Red Queen - they could have been twins ... stop me before I get carried away suggesting plot ideas.

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  12. Great review of the film its one that I am umming and ahhing about. I think if I do see it it will have to be in 3D or I may simply wait for the DVD otherwise.

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  13. Burton the "only" director who could do Alice? What about Terry Gilliam?

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  14. Can't wait to see the film and reread the book. It's been a long time! Thanks for the review.

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