PLOT: Alice (Wasikowska) is now 19, and on the verge of an arranged marriage. She falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in a strange land with many mysterious characters. Many of them believe she's the Alice, who is part of a legend.
WHO'S IT FOR? The film is heavy on effects. If you believe Burton and Depp are perfect, and can do no wrong, then this review can't stop you.
EXPECTATIONS: I only caught pictures of this world that Tim Burton was re-creating. It looked great and seemed like a perfect fit. So did Depp as the Mad Hatter. Also, I didn't realize I was seeing a sequel. I don't watch previews. Plus, with the way the film presents itself, it's not a true sequel since we do technically start with a young Alice having strange dreams.
Mia Wasikowska as Alice: Alice is a bit of a loon, but her father says all the best people are ... before he disappears. The film has a basic set up, involving her dad's business and then a forced engagement. It's all well and fine, but we're just waiting to get to Wonderland. Once there, it seems Alice is stuck being small for a very long time indeed. Plus, there's all this talk about her being the "right Alice." I don't know why Burton decided on this being a sequel. But more troublesome than that is Alice's journey. It's not kooky, crazy, whimsical fun. It's a matter of deciding whether she's "the chosen one" or not. It's a story that feels more like it should take place in Narnia or Lord of the Rings, not here. Score: 7
Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter: The character of the Mad Hatter isn't full of joy. Or the whimsical fun I just wrote about moments ago. That's a pretty big shock. I was really expecting the film to take off once Depp showed up. I just kept waiting. Mad has a lisp, then he doesn't, his mood changes a bit, but there's very little excitement involved. I didn't need his backstory either. It felt just like the backstory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Plus, don't give me a tinge of potential love with Mad and Alice. Score: 5
Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen: She's into it. Carter snaps you awake with her bulbous head and shrills of "Off with his head." At least she does for the 15 times she screams it. Then it gets a little repetitive. Also, she's got a big head, and seems to like anyone with any abnormalities in their physique, right? So, where does the constant killing come from? Who is she truly upset with? Score: 6
Anne Hathaway as White Queen: I think the make-up (white hair, dark eyes) and weird dialogue is more at fault than Hathaway's effort. There's not much to grasp onto, and it seems the White Queen should have taken care of business on her own, instead of expecting Alice to do it. My favorite part was the loose, high held hands. She captured the perfect dainty Queen with just that. Score: 5
Rest of Cast: Why elongate Crispin Glover's body as the Knave of Hearts? Because Burton can, that's why. I liked Tweedledum and Tweedledee, along with Cheshire Cat and the blue caterpillar, but then again, they weren't around that much. Score: 7
TALKING: Muchness ... That was my favorite word. It's used when the Mad Hatter says Alice has lost much of her muchness. I could have used much more muchness. And where are the riddles? Perhaps I am remembering the original source incorrectly, but I thought there were things/problems/riddles Alice needed to solve. I didn't get that at all in this version. The line "pimple of a head" will stick with me for a while as well. Again, I just need more. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Once we get to Underland, the set design is absolutely gorgeous. We might have to wait a year, but the costumes, especially the Mad Hatter, will be recognized during the awards season. The live-action integration with the CG is very seamless as well. I do have one complaint before this gets out of control: we need to make some sort of rule. If there's no reason to have 3D, then don't make it 3D. The beginning of the film (much like the beginning of Avatar) doesn't benefit by being in 3D. There's a time and place. Plus, I heard the 3D came post-production. This has me thinking that I'm going to avoid Clash of the Titans in 3D. Score: 9
SOUNDS: It's Danny Elfman and it's really good. It's weird, but that's all that really needs to be said about that. There is the incredibly odd, uncomfortable moment where Mad Hatter breaks out in some sort of techno-dance freak moment. It completely feels like a sell-out. I don't exactly know how to describe it besides that. I wrote down "sell-out" during that moment and I'm sticking to it. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: Actually, it's just this moment where I loved looking at the screen. It's right when Alice enters this forest full of tangled trees, just before she encounters the Cheshire Cat. It reminded me of being at Disney World as a little kid, scared out of my mind on the Snow White ride. It was so good to look at.
ENDING: Once this is all said and done, and Alice returns to the real world (because she supposedly has important, unfinished business) ... There's actually talk about business. Oh. OK. So the movie bookends, that doesn't necessarily mean the bookend works.
QUESTIONS: Why is there a big battle between the white and red armies? Because the Mad Hatter broke the rules of engagement. Seems kind of lame to get the big battle going. Also, I don't see the parallels in Alice's real world, and Underland. In the real world, she's told to take a specific path (getting engaged to someone she doesn't care for). In Underland, she's told she's the chosen one and must take a specific path. She embraces being forced to slay a Jabberwocky, and that somehow gives her the strength to face everyone in the real world. But do you get the problem here? She's being forced in the Underland, but doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
REWATCHABILITY: This is the main problem of the film ... I don't really want to sit through it again. I can't think of one scene I'm dying to rewatch. That's really not what I expected out of Alice and more importantly Wonderland.
What other wonderful fantastic thing shall we see next? That's the big question I had on my mind when sitting down for Alice in Wonderland. The reasons to make a sequel/retelling/remake are because you have something new to say, or you want to update the look, or you want to make money. Two out of three ain't bad. Unfortunately, that feeling of magical wonderment eventually gives way to a very ordinary story. The greys and blacks that Tim Burton loves to dress up in also interfere with any true joy we could have reached in this film. First of all, call it Alice in Underland. This is an odd sequel, and the fact that it takes Alice almost the whole film to remember it's a sequel seems like a waste. Even more perplexing is that all of the characters we already know just repeat what we already know about them, but without the energy. In a quick flashback, we get a young Alice, and the colors used are bright and brilliant. That's the "Wonderland" I want to live in. Not the one where too many characters seem to get their eyes poked out, and Alice is the Chosen One. The only riddle this story cares to present is "Why is a raven like a writer's desk?" I don't know. And after seeing this movie, I just don't care. This is unfortunate, and I say to everyone, "Lower your expectations!", because Burton created a great canvass, just not a great film.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10