Tim Burton’s 3D vision of the Lewis Carroll classic opened this weekend. How does it hold up? Can Burton still deliver in the new visual format?

Cast and Crew Information

Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh
Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter
Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen
Anne Hathaway as the White Queen
Crispin Glover as Stayne, the Knave of Hearts
Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat
Alan Rickman as Absolom, the Blue Caterpillar
Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare
Michael Gough as the Dodo Bird
Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky

Screenplay by Linda Woolverton, inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll.
Directed by Tim Burton.

Availability Information

Although I haven’t heard the exact date, it is known that this will hit home markets in late May.

Premise

More of a sequel than an adaptation, borrowing some (but not all) elements from Carroll’s own sequel, we see a much more grown up Alice return to a place that she thought she had only dreamt about. The world has changed, and is less about Wonder than it is about the Red Queen’s devastating rule. Alice is forced to confront a dilemma that was likely common with Victorian era women: does she do what society expects, or does she choose her own path and her own future?

High Point

“I often believe in six impossible things before breakfast.”

Low Point

The evaporating was established, but where did the transmogrification come from?

The Review

This gets originality credit for developing itself more as an original sequel than an outright adaptation. Burton’s german expressionist influences are also well suited to forming the fantasy world that Alice finds herself in. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were plentiful. Not only is Wonderland itself filled with digital characters and environments, but the movie is in 3D. In some cases, it’s blatantly obvious that the characters are CGI creations and never quite fit in with the rest of the characters. In others, such as the Red Queen’s oversized head or the Mad Hatter’s eyes, we are treated to seamless effects with forced perspectives that work well. My primary complaints actually come from the real world sequences. The digital environments of Wonderland are almost entirely 3D and they work well. However, the real world often has the main characters in 3D at the forefront of the screen with the background presented as a 2D backdrop, giving the appearance of a bad blue screen process. Thankfully, very little of the movie is spent in the real world, but it makes it hard to suspend disbelief in the early portions of the film. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story works quite well at the surface level. The low point is the only apparant logical inconsistency. We get some snappy, Carroll-ish dialogue, an introduction to the characters that works whether you are familiar with the source material or not, and a final sequence that plays out well in 3D. It’s when you think about the morals and character development in terms of the “control of destiny vs. societal expectations” theme that we get a disconnect. The expansion of that comment needs to be under spoiler guard, so highlight to read: Alice learns to take control of her destiny in the real world and abandon societal expectations to make her own way. She reaches this point in her development by abandoning her personal plans and doing exactly what society expects of her in Wonderland. Yes, she wants that destiny at that point, but I would have thought things would be more consistent from the “morals and lessons” perspective if she had still accomplished the same goals, but did so in a way that was inconsistent with societal expectations and foretold destinies. End spoilers. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting is surprisingly good, especially considering how many times these actors must have been playing off of tennis balls on sticks. Depp has delivered in every role I’ve seen him in, and this is no exception. Wasikowska works well as Alice, Carter plays her role with amazing restraint considering how corny it could so easily get, and many of the voice actors were well chosen in fulfilling their roles. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is undeniably Tim Burton. The set design and construction is definitely done with heavy german expressionist influences. The camera work is less active than usual in the real world scenes, but that’s likely because moving shots in 3D don’t come cheap. (The camera is most active when the entirety of the on screen image is a digital creation.) The editing is solid, and frequent Burton collaborator Danny Elfman does his usual excellent job in scoring the production. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is good. I was quite pleased with the sequel approach, as we’ve all seen this story a number of times. The general goofiness of the Carroll construction carries through, for an entertainly offbeat set of performances. In fact, my only real disappointment was that this didn’t carry through anywhere close to the number of mathematical allegories that Carroll put in his original works, but the majority of the audience probably wouldn’t notice that, let alone be bothered by it. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a strong movie, and one of the most family friendly Burton productions. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, receives 34 out of 42.