Monday, March 8, 2010

Alice In Wonderland [2010]
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Tim Burton


19-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this, i've been hearing mixed reviews all week since it came out. People seem to either love it or think it's average. I suppose that's a good thing, because i didn't have any over the top expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by the final result, but the movie was a little uneven in parts.

The story itself was serviceable enough, i'm not sure how DEEP people expected this thing to be, the story was written while someone was on drugs, it's hardly going to be anything other than a paper thin wacked out kooky fantasy adventure. No other adaptations of the book have been all that brilliant either, imo, in fact, i've often found the Alice story kind of boring since all she does is walk, talk to someone, float, walk, talk to someone, walk, ect. Expecting the story to be some sort of layered masterpiece is just strange. The story was perfectly fine, and did the job.
I do think once Alice gets over the initial shock of returning to Wonderland, the movie gets a little slow. But i've always felt Burton has a few pacing issues with his films, so that's more if a personal gripe. Once she finds herself in the Red Queen's garden, it all picks up nicely though.

Where the movie needed to get a bit of it's balls from was the cast. Thankfully, i enjoyed the performances by everyone involved. I agree that Johnny Depp continuously playing "wacky" is getting a tad overdone, but, it's his thing, and he's good at it, so i'm not going to bother ripping him a new one. As for the Mad Hatter character, the first meeting of him wasn't all that spectacular really, and at times i had trouble trying to understand what the hell he was saying. Still, i liked the friendship between him and Alice and as the film went along he grew on me more and more.
The voice work for all the CGI characters was all done nicely, Chesire Cat was probably the best out of the bunch and the only one that REALLY stood out. Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit seemed fairly wasted, and that tiny mouse character with the sword seemed pointless and rather annoying to listen to. My favourite from the side characters though was the overly anxious Hair Rabbit that was friends with the Mad Hatter, he was funny.
The girl playing Alice was good enough, but the role itself didn't require much, so i can't say she blew me away or anything, she was fine though.
Out of everyone involved, the one person who really stood out the most for me was Helena as the Red Queen. Say what you will about how many times she's played "wacky", but she's SO good at it, and i thought her character was done really well. She had some great lines and some funny scenes. Really enjoyed watching her in this, the giant head obsession was a great joke starter for many scenes in the movie.

The look of the movie is beautiful, that's expected though, visuals have always been Tim's strongest asset. Alice's fall through the rabbit hole looked good, and the "eat me, drink me" scene that followed was also fun to watch. There were some nice costume and set design, the Red Queen's castle looked pretty cool, and i loved that Alice had to step on floating heads to reach the Queen's garden. A lot of nice minor touches were added to some of the scenes, which helped bring the whole world to life. Tim's style may be recycled a lot of the time, but i've always found his way of putting visuals together very "magical", so i had no issues with how the movie looked.

As great as some of the cast were, and as pretty as it all was to look at, i still felt i wanted more out of the story. There was a sense of "adventure" that would come in and out of the movie as it went along, it didn't feel even. At points the story builds up to a nice climax, and then other times it just plodded along and felt enjoyable, but not spectacular.

Other than that, the only other issue i had was with the final battle. I liked it, but it all felt a bit anti climatic to me. There was a lot of scope missing from that section of the movie. They build up the battle between Alice and the dragon SO much throughout the story, and when you actually SEE the dragon, it isn't all that big or scary. There wasn't a strong enough sense of danger when it came to the final battle, it all felt a little wishy washy and you knew Alice would come out of it perfectly fine. I would have liked to have seen them go a little more nuts with that scene, and really given Alice something scary and monstrous to fight. Instead we got a very easily killed, baby dragon. Meh.

There's A LOT to like about this movie, and i enjoyed it. There seems to be a bit of a Burton backlash with this film, everyone has their pitchforks out ready to stab him over and over, same with his fellow regular cast mates, Depp and Helena. All 3 of them may be getting a tad "over done", but as i said earlier, they all do what they do well, even if they do it repeatedly. I have no interest in joining the bashing brigade and some of the DRAMATIC criticism of this movie have been a little ridiculous.

Does the movie live up to the hype? in places, yes, there are some really great moments in the movie, and as an overall package it was nicely put together. It wasn't perfect though, and it certainly didn't blow my mind. As a final product, it may not live up to the hype as MUCH as i wanted, but i still found it to be an entertaining watch.
If the ending had been put together better, i would have easily given the movie a 4/5, but with a fun, yet weak finale, and a God awful dance by The Mad Hatter, i'll drop it down to a 3.5.

Definitely see it, you're bound to get something out of it. Just don't expect the next Edward Scissohands.

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