DIR: Tim Burton • WRI: Linda Woolverton• PRO: Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Richard D. Zanuck • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Chris Lebenzon • DES: Robert Stromberg • CAST: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
For many, the idea of Tim Burton not only getting his hands on the wherewithal to finally add 3-D to his dreamscape pictures, but also to inject Alice with some 21st century pizzazz, was a match made in Wonderland. Happily, cohorts Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp soon joined the bandwagon, and the movie was deemed all but perfect before a single scene had been viewed.
Whilst it doesn’t quite live up to these illustrious beginnings – and what could! – it nevertheless brings to screen one of the liveliest, most mesmerising and downright entertaining re-imaginings of Alice ever…well…imagined. Burton is the perfect mix of darkness and light to capture the literary nonsense of Lewis Carroll’s fragmented tale of stunted growth and avoided adolescence. What Burton has done, (to some purists’ eternal chagrin), has combined both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and joined the fragments of both to create a more linear narrative. Whilst this might nullify some of the more nonsensical elements of the original tales, what it does do is make for an easier-to-follow storyline, and a more satisfying denouement. It’s worth remembering, though, that even when a tale is linear in the world of Tim Burton, it does not necessarily make for a straightforward movie!
Depp, of course, is mesmerising as the Mad Hatter – as he mentioned himself, what he wanted to bring to his character was fear at his own madness. It’s all very well being mad when you don’t realise it – a lot of people can get on quite happily like that – but if you know that you are crazy, and can’t always control it, then it becomes a fearful thing. His menacing Glaswegian accent highlights the intensity, as does his post-enhanced massive eyes, but beneath it all, Depp is as at home in this wonderful world as in all of his Burton escapades. Bonham Carter’s Red Queenie is a comic mix of foolishness, conceit and globular head – her impeccable skills keeping it from farce, and Anne Hathaway’s good queen is regal and charming, and just a little bit nuts herself. Not to forget the surprisingly-older titular Alice, all confusion and gumption, brought together winningly by Mia Wasikowska. Add to this the anthropomorphic array of delightful creatures that cross her path – from Stephen Fry’s Chesire Cat, through Alan Rickman’s Caterpillar, and Christopher Lee’s terrifying Jabberwock – and the Wonderland is complete.
The 3-D may have been added after shooting, and certainly contains some cheap ‘throw-things-at-the-audience’ shots, but Burton’s dreamlike mindscape is exactly what 3-D has been waiting for. Fantasy, adventure, a wonderland below our earth, a cast of colourful characters, and logic out the window: these things make for a movie event that begs to be experienced in big screen. What Burton does better than any other director – perhaps with the exception of Wes Anderson – is use the cinema screen as his own personal canvas, painting scenes of such obvious delight that you can’t help but be carried away with his enthusiasm. So what if Avril Lavigne maligns your ears with a rendition of Alice? So what if the Hatter’s dance seems totally out of place and meant for toddlers? So what if he takes liberties with an acknowledged hotchpotch of literary ideas? The fact remains that when Tim Burton makes a movie, anything goes, and everything works in its own way.
All in all, niggly doubts aside, Burton has brought Alice’s Wonderland to life as only he can: fantastical, beautiful, and a wonder to behold.
(See biog here)
Alice in Wonderland is released 5th Mar 2010