Sunday, March 7, 2010


I once went to a party in college where the centerpiece of the evening (for everyone but myself and one of my suitemates) was a group ecstasy drop.  I sat there (slightly drunk, thank goodness) for two hours watching people rub up against the television set and lick their lips, and then went home and called my then-boyfriend and told him, "People were doing ecstasy!  Yes, ecstasy - just like in the health books!"  I've been offered some form of drug - coke, pot, whathaveyou - probably 50 times in my life, and each time I have turned it down out of just plain uncoolness.  I don't get recreational drugs, and they don't get me.

On the flipside, for each amount of aversion that drugs and I have to one another, I have a doubly strong bits of affection for fairy tales.  I have read them all, from Grimm to MacDonald.  So, if you compare paragraphs one and two of this review, you can safely assume I 1) read Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and 2) didn't enjoy either of them.  I have been told that they would blow my mind on mushrooms.  I'm sure.

Unlike ecstasy, I have given Alice a number of tries.  I have seen every movie and television version made, and I didn't like a-one (including the Disney version, although it pains me to type that).  I had finally thrown in the towel on Alice and was going to skip this most recent version (entitled Alice in Wonderland) until I found out it was a sequel and not another dancing oysters rendition.  And so I decided to give it one last go, partially because of Johnny Depp, partially because of Tim Burton, and partially because what the hell, maybe this time I would finally get it.

Here's the concept:
Alice is now a 20ish-year old girl who is supposed to become engaged to a pompus, gastric lord in order to secure her future.  Thanks to her now-deceased creative, understanding father, she has an unusual imagination.  Thanks to her age, she can't make any decisions for herself.  She runs away from her very public proposal in order to chase a white rabbit carrying a pocketwatch and falls down a mineshaft and dies the end a rabbit hole.

Wonderland (called "Underland") is now in an overlord situation, with the Red Queen controlling all after taking the crown from her loving and good sister, the White Queen.  The rabbit and his comrades (who are made up of all of the most recognizable characters from the original story) have consulted the annuls of time and have determined that only Alice can save them by killing the Jabberwocky in an epic battle on Frabjous Day.  They bring her back (acknowledging that she had been there as a child) to do so.  And so the story begins.

Here is what I liked:
1.  The casting made the movie.  Mia Wasikowska was a sweet and innocent Alice.  Alan Rickman was the sly, know-it-all caterpillar.  Johnny Depp was Johnny Depp.  Helena Bonham Carter was Helena Bonham Carter.  Good, good, good.  Plus, the costuming was insane.  Alice changes four or five times, and each outfit is better than the last.

2.  The setting was amazing.  Only Tim Burton could have created such a fantastic Wonderland.  On that same vein, the computer animations were excellent - you had a hard time telling who was real and who was fake.

3.  I'm sure the Alice lovers won't like this, but the story was written like an actual, albeit commercialized, fairy tale and not like an opium-hazed magic carpet ride.  There is a very distinct good vs. evil storyline that is made more interesting thanks to the mad cast of characters instead of the usual princesses and fairies (and I loved the tea party scene - the March Hare steals the show).

Here's what I didn't like:
1.  Why are all movies now made in 3D?  I like the 3D business as much as anyone, but if you're not going to make the movie to be specifically watched every time in 3D, then skip it.  I find the glasses too dark and distracting to make up for the fake tree branches that intermittently pop out of the screen.

2.  Alice spends the entire movie telling herself that she's in a dream, but she was quite lucid when she fell down the hole to begin with.  If they wanted it to be dreamlike, they should have bopped her on the head ala Wizard of Oz.  Instead, time is wasted on pinches and pokes in order to "wake" herself up, and the constant dream referrals don't further the story.

3.  The end (after she leaves Wonderland) is ridiculous.  I can't tell you about it without giving it away, but they really should have just cut it off after she stepped out of the hole.  All of the fantastic elements were lost after a too-long "real" ending.  Why do people need to have a reason or a lesson to learn in order to have an imagination?  Why couldn't she just have chased the rabbit because it looked interesting and unusual?  Why must reality always get in the way?

4.  And lastly, soapbox time.  I have a problem with sequels and prequels that aren't written by the original author and here's why: All stories, including real life stories, are basically just big character sketches.  What happens (ie - the plot line) is determined by a person's personality characteristics.  Given the same situation, I'm sure each one of us would have reacted very differently had we fallen down the rabbit hole instead of Alice.  Lewis Carroll invented Alice, and the Mad Hatter, and the Red Queen, and the Cheshire Cat, meaning that only he knows the entire extent of their personalities and how they would behave (like the Mad Hatter's Scottish accent, if you will).  Writers need to create their own characters, not try and guess what someone else's would do.  Soapbox done.

In the end, I really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland.  It was the post-drug rehab, oversimplified version of the original story - which translated into pure entertainment for nerdy, undrug-fueled me.  I would recommend seeing it, but if you can skip the 3D, do so.

PS - Could the Cheshire Cat fly in the book?  Because he flew in the movie.  Very confusing.

PPS - I liked it, Kyle didn't.  Kyle, you should tell people what you didn't dig about the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Well played. I happened to see it last night as well and didn't care for it all that much.

    My favourite part was Anne Hathaway. Hilarious! Though I can't quite tell if she is hot-or-not?