MARCH 2010

Alice in Wonderland, in essence, has always been a mental trip; a creative distraction – when executed correctly – should take you on a ride with mind-opening possibilities.

Given Tim Burton’s rollercoaster history of ups and downs throughout his films, I really had no preconceived idea of how I would feel about his take on Alice.

Would the film be a total plus like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure or only half right like Batman? Whatever the case, Burton has consistently delivered in one regard: His films are always visually interesting. When cast correctly, they really shine, and if there’s a decent script to work with, it’s all good.

And in terms of Alice, the journey down the rabbit hole is well worth the price of admission. Tim Burton and crew got it right.

Alice in Wonderland is tailor-made for Burton’s visionary wonderment. He doesn’t fair as well with the heavier action/adventure oriented material. Batman, Mars Attacks, and Planet of the Apes are all A+ blueprints to work from but they’re not nearly as good of a fit for Burton as the tales of classic fantasy.

Case in point: Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow worked much better in terms of actual storytelling than Burton’s science fiction work and it’s no mystery as to why. Reference from the original books help bring these projects to life.

With Batman, too many different versions exist and Burton didn’t capture any of them perfectly. (Although, the movie was a huge success). With Planet of the Apes, straying from Rod Serling’s script: bad idea. Mars Attacks, the original source came from the backs of trading cards …

Okay, back to Alice. Let’s double-check the list of things needed to make Alice’s experience a worthwhile trip:

Aesthetics: Alice in Wonderland is everything the ridiculous Avatar was not. Avatar, in my opinion, is a gigantic ugly blue mess that screams of wasted money. I hated almost everything about Avatar, with the exception of fleeting moments of “special effects,” which left me with much less “wow” than a Disneyland fireworks show.

Alice looks great, and at no point in the film did I get that “ugh, what a waste of money” feeling I get from most special effects films.

Cast: I had no problem with anyone cast in this film and that, for me, is a rarity.

Pacing: Burton has had some pacing problems in the past, most notably in Mars Attacks. Mars should have been action-packed from start to finish, but there’s a really out of place chase scene somewhere in the middle that just didn’t work. The aesthetics in Alice, and the perfect job Mia Wasikowska performs in capturing Alice on screen, keep the film moving in the right direction.

Script: Linda Woolverton did an excellent job with the script. Not an easy task, to interpret Lewis Carroll, and the dialog is well beyond what she did with Beauty and the Beast or Lion King.

Another very interesting aspect of this Alice is that it works as both a sequel and a remake (to any and all Alice films/books) as well as capturing the pop culture mythology of Alice’s trip in the 1960’s lysergic sense, without being inappropriate or making it a “drug culture” film.

Well done all around.

A+ for Alice.

Bradley Mason Hamlin
Mystery Island 2010

"Alice in Wonderland Review" by Bradley Mason Hamlin.
Edited by Lucy Hell. © 2010 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 03.14.10.
All rights reserved.