Alice Kinsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is an intelligent nineteen year-old who is soon to be married to a fat head of an English nobleman, all in the name of wealth and position for her family. She barely knows him and doesn’t want to be married to him. During their engagement party, she escapes the crowd to ponder in her thoughts on whether she wants to marry him. During her thinking-session, she loses her footing and falls down a hole in the garden after spotting an unusual White Rabbit (Martin Sheen). She arrives in this unknown and strange environment that calls itself Underland. This weird place is something that she created. Her nightmares have become a reality. The characters and things she encounters are stuff of her nightmares as a child riddled with anthropomorphic animals, evil queens, heavily armed knights and a spotty bandersnatch. Alice realises that she was sent to Underland for a purpose. She must fulfill her destiny by defeating the horrifying Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne.
Alice In Wonderland feels like a Brothers Grimm story but in fact it is not. It was written by Lewis Carroll and it shows that you can’t see things by just looking. Sometimes, you have to not be looking and things will find you. Lewis Carroll’s book is creepy, the Disney animated movie is creepy and Tim Burton embellishes on the already established creepy auras for the first two art forms. Alice is subject to horrifying nightmares. These nightmares are thrust into her lap when she is transported to the world that she created. Her experiences with the different figments of her imagination are truly quite mad, sadistic or outright weird. There’s not a sane character there. They are there to torment her. Wonderland is like George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, few would want to go there, and even fewer people would want to stay.
For children’s movie, and especially for a Disney movie, it is rather dark much alike the latest live-action rendition of The Jungle Book. Tim Burton’s version of Alice In Wonderland is truly haunting. In Carroll’s original book, there’s a fair bit of sadism. The darkness of it reminds me of paranormal superstitions like saying “Bloody Mary” in front of mirror three times. This movie plays better as a psychological thriller than a family friendly Disney movie. In my opinion, it’s not family friendly at all. It’s dark, twisted and has the ability to scare your wits right out of you. Small children won’t stand a chance. Alice is nineteen years old so this acts as a young woman’s hallucinations and this story interprets each one of her feelings in each character, some grimmer than others; thanks to director Tim Burton and his screenwriter, Linda Woolverton (Lion King, Beauty & The Beast).
Tim Burton (Corpse Bride) is a stunning visual artist. He really knows how to use CGI and green screening technology without making it look tacky. Alice In Wonderland is a CGI feast of delights. He has developed each character’s appearance as unique and as original as the artwork from the animated movie as well as the descriptions from Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. They aren’t rehashes of the cartoon. They’re as grim, dark and sadistic as they should be, from the football-sized forehead of The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) to the short and fat Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) with the permanent alluring smiling mouth of the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) as well as the The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) which is pretty self-explanatory. It’s something really quite wonderful, and scary at the same time.
This is a Wonderland that holds great danger at every door for young Alice. The Red Queen wants to take her head while the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) wants to preserve it. But then again, The White Queen doesn’t go out of her way to find Alice. She makes Alice come to her. The cast is riddled with some great British talent including: the late Alan Rickman (Harry Potter) as The Blue Catipillar, Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), the late Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky), March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), Timothy Spall (Bayard) and the Queen of the East End, Barbara Windsor (Eastenders) as the petit Dormouse.
The film is doing well with its story and characters until we reach the last phase of the movie. It ends with a battle scene. It’s not necessary to end with a battle scene. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it didn’t seem to be going to infinity and beyond. I felt as if it wouldn’t end. It’s just endless violence, the slaying of the Jabberwocky and duels that seem to never finish. I don’t think the movie needed to end with an action sequence. I think it’s insulting to the characters and the story. It’s basically saying the story isn’t good enough, I sense studio interference here. It’s Disney not giving 100% creative control to…wait for it…the artists. It’s basically adding in an action conclusion to keep viewers interested. Is it really too much to ask for a film with great characters, an interesting storyline and without the need to end with an unnecessary battle scene?
In conclusion, this was an excellent feature despite the predictable and cliché ending. Stand out performances are from Johnny Depp (Black Mass) and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter). Depp is one of the most versatile actors of his generation and he continues to live up to the name. Helena Bonham Carter is also great in this as the evil Red Queen as well as using the classic Bellatrix Lestrange laugh too. Mia Wasikowska in the lead role is also very good. What made this movie great isn’t just the story and the characters, it’s the aesthetics of Wonderland. It’s beautiful to look at; in a weird roundabout sort of way. It’s like a dark, twisted fantasy.