Harry is fascinated with Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND!
You know... it's funny. When I thought this was an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND... I was less interested, but once the trailers told this was a story following Alice as a young lady returning to a Wonderland ruled entirely by the Queen of Hearts... my interest began picking up.
Then those early screenings in LA took place and my friends that were seeing the film began calling the film garbage. Just flat out garbage. Then I began to get scared. I was drunk in love with the visual scheme that Burton was teasing us with in trailers, posters and whatnot... and I'll admit it, I'm a Burton junkie. I love that he has fully embraced his auteur status complete with a gallery of co-conspirators. I like that. It is something retro, something held over from the classic studio days where directors often times developed a stable of performers that they leaned on. You begin to see the filmmaker experimenting and tweaking the types of performances that they got out of various folks. It also calls a lot of attention upon the new elements of the cast. All of a sudden you wonder... what will Anne Hathaway be in a Tim Burton controlled version of the Wonderland universe?
My film geek brethren bemoan the action/adventure genre being applied to the lyrical satiric universe of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, I celebrate it. Now, don't get me wrong, Linda Wolverton's script is little more than an adaptation of the NARNIA films as applied to Alice and Wonderland... minus the Christian allegory. So there's no Jesus Lion, but there is a Cheshire Cat and Hooka huffing Catepillar and a wild eyed Johnn Depp as a Mad Hatter that dares to pick up weapons to fight for freedom. And I suppose I should be offended.
But I'm not. No where near it.
A funny thing happened when Tim Burton took this rather plain script - I will always long for the dialogue to be the match of the visuals, but Linda just seems to have little to no ability for inventing new lunacy to actually fit the new situations. So the Mad Hatter repeats a riddle from the original story, nothing new. BUT... I was heading to tell you the rather profound notion that hit me while watching this film.
You see, it has been about a decade since Alice's last visit to Wonderland. In her absence, the Queen started exerting her beheading rule across Wonderland. There's a prophecy upon a parchment that promises the lunatics of Wonderland freedom in the form of a grown armored Alice slaying the Jabberwocky... thus freeing the citizenry to revel in their uniqueness. That even the MAD yearn to be free... well, I love that. I love that characters that ordinarily would have little to nothing to do with each other, that upon Fascist rule, they would line up behind the sanest mad person they could find and take arms as to not lose their head.
And I believe that many of them do not even realize what the actions they are taking means. For proof, I offer up the Mad Hatter's Reaction upon the beheading of the Jabberwocky... He is about to slay someone of his own, when he sees Alice chop the enormous head of the Jabberwocky off... and through the madness, the Mad Hatter looks upon his own blade and drops it in disgust as if realizing for the very first time what a sword actually does... and he refuses it.
That's beautiful to me. It's the payoff to the insanity of handing the Mad Hatter a sword. Besides, he does much better with Hatpins.
For me, Disney's original animated ALICE IN WONDERLAND represents my favorite telling of this tale. This isn't that story, never set out to really be that story. In reality, this is THE CHRONICLES OF WONDERLAND - and as such - it is VASTLY superior to the Narnia films thus far... and I realize that's slight praise at best, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
At the IMAX, I was shocked at just how much of the screen this release actually made use of. It is stunning on the IMAX - but I do feel the actual 3D is superior via RealD - mainly because their glasses have a superior quality to those warped scratched frames we must wear at the IMAX.
Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic at playing warped crazy bitches and there are very few warped crazy bitches at the level of the Queen of Hearts. Sure, the big head on a little body was done brilliantly in MARS ATTACKS! but watching the Queen of Hearts looking down into a moat filled with the heads of those that annoyed her, threatened her and well... just were in the wrong place at the wrong time... You really get a feeling about her neurotic nature. She is threatened by anything and everything. If you stroke her ego a bit, you'll be in her good graces... but if you don't play up to her, your head will help fill the moat of muck.
The majority of everyone that I talked to after both screenings just really really liked it at a level they weren't prepared for. With the graphics and the control of 3D that is in the hands of filmmakers like Burton and Cameron - there's a very real sensation of TOURING A UNIVERSE.
Outside of Linda's inadequate script, that Burton's visual inventiveness rescues, this is a trip to WONDERLAND unlike any other we've seen... And I don't know about you, but I've been to WONDERLAND so many times, via so many wildly different forms. I've seen the 70's Musical Porn version, which is pretty goddamn good, especially the music and the lead. The scariest will always be that one from 1933, mainly due to the nightmarish quality it has. I'm quite fond of the Hallmark version with Martin Short.
But there is something about pulling the look of Wonderland... sending it into a dire dreary state and mounting up a battle between the denizens that hits all the right goofy FAN FIC geekery that I was wanting from this version. That they took ALICE IN WONDERLAND, made a sequel that was all about living your dreams, bucking conformity and dancing like a Lucas character... well... I loved it.
This is far more successful than his work at the Chocolate Factory or his jaunt with the Apes. DEFINITELY see at the IMAX 3D. It is incredible in that format. Is it too scary for small kids? Absolutely not. My 9 year old nephew loved it. But he's a weirdo, whose favorite film of 2010 is THE CRAZIES... But several smaller kids in the sub-Kindergarten range came up to me after the screening to thank me because they loved the movie. So it works.
The film works as an action adventure within the realm of Wonderland. It works as a travelogue of Wonderland and I found it works very well as an adventure story and elements that I was very iffy on with that first screening, I found myself loving upon second viewing. Like what? Like Crispin Glover. I hated him on the first screening. But the second time, I stopped looking at the oddness of his unreal body - and concentrated on his performance, which just tickled me non-stop.
That first screening I was really expecting to hate it. I came out really liking it in a stunned kind of way. On second viewing, I went in thinking that I had to be crazy, because I read Drew's thrashing of the film - and I went in armed with his criticism - and ultimately found it discarded like unpopped popcorn kernals upon the theater floor.
The last thing you should ever be upon an escarpment to Wonderland is be SERIOUS. Wonderland is a trippy place and once you see this, I really did find myself judging the Queen as the ruiner of Wonderland, and I wanted the White Queen back in charge. And that reminds me... How is Anne Hathaway in a Tim Burton film?
Awesome. You might ask yourself why she should lead Wonderland, as she's so neurotically self-involved in a world of her own... how could she govern? Well, that's kind of the point. The Queen of Hearts is neurotically self-involved, but in a way that takes your ability to be self-involved away. The White Queen is dancing about like a fairy godmother whose basic insanity is to be sweet, to be a Disney Royal. Stuck in a series of about 7 different gestures and poses which denote kindness, sweetness and loveliness... I was enraptured. It is foolish and odd - but it works for the universe. And with her kindly rule, I'm betting that if Alice were to return to Wonderland in her 30s - this world will be a bit back to its absurdly frighteningly weird ways.
This is truly a case of one man's garbage being another man's treasure. I can't even conceive of this being called garbage. The artistry alone elevates it, but the beauty of the mad rising to a state of lucidity for the sake of freedom... well, I love it. And a whole hell of lot of others seem to as well.
Nothing ever looks entirely real, but then nothing should. It is all a bit warped, but really... what were you expecting from Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND? This is exactly what I had hoped.