Caught Alice in Wonderland during my flight back to India. This is the new movie from Tim Burton starring Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Mia Wasikowska (Alice), and numerous other familar Hollywood faces.
I was pleasantly surprised to see such a new movie already available for airplane viewing, and watched with a lot of pleasure the world of Wonderland come to life.
Before I go any further, I must say the movie (and this review) will make absolutely no sense for anyone who has never read the books on which it is based (Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass written by Lewis Carroll). So, if you haven’t read the books, please first do so and then watch the movie.
There is absolutely no introduction to the books/characters at all; the movie just dives headlong into the plot, which is really like a sequel to the Alice books and not a retelling of their stories.
In this movie, Alice is a young girl all set to be betrothed to a man who doesn’t particularly interest her. During his very public proposal to her at a party, she spots a white rabbit wearing coattails and hurrying somewhere. She immediately gathers up her skirts and follows him right down the rabbit hole and straight into Wonderland (or rather Underland as it is called in this movie).
Here she comes across all her old friends (who she doesn’t remember because she thinks her previous adventures in Wonderland were all a dream) – Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the dormouse, the caterpillar and so on.
However, there is a dark pall across Underland. The Red Queen has taken control of the entire land and together with her lieutenant is terrorizing the local population. Her weapon of choice – the infamous Jabberwocky, a truly fearsome looking creature.
However, a prophecy comes to light that states that Alice will slay the Jabberwocky on Frabjous day and free Underland from her evil reign. The rest of the story then goes into familiar territory with somewhat Lord of the Rings overtones till Alice slays the Jabberwocky and all is well in Underland again.
Like I mentioned earlier, this movie is only for hard-core Alice buffs. You really need to have read both the books in order to follow and appreciate what is going on in the movie. Because I love Alice, this was an easy sell for me, but I can understand why this movie has generally gotten only average reviews. However, I simply loved this movie.
The first thing I must appreciate about the movie is its entire look and feel. I loved seeing Wonderland/Underland come to life, and I loved the way the various characters have been depicted. Here are a few still photos to show you what I mean.
So, yeah…the movie definitely looks good (at least in 2-D). I am not sure how the 3-D version of the movie is.
Next up is the acting. There has been a lot of hype about Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter; he was almost the selling point of the movie. Well, he’s good, no doubt; he looks suitably mad, and his costumes are excellent. But the real scene stealer (at least to me) is Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. She is suitably evil, but she adds a little something to her personality that makes her oddly endearing making Anne Hathaway (somewhat miscast, I feel) as the White Queen seem completely lacklustre. Although, Alice wages battle on behalf of the White Queen, somehow I was never convinced that she is the right person to lead Underland. She is just a non-evil alternative to the Red Queen; but there is nothing overtly positive about her. In fact, she is one of the weakest characters in the story.
Mia Wasikowska as Alice nobly underplays her part letting the wacky characters of Underland take center stage.
The special effects were terrific. The CGI characters of the caterpillar, the dormouse, the white rabbit, and others were all excellent.
I also liked the underlying theme of the movie – Alice being freed of ties that held her down. Although Underland is the backdrop, this is really the story of a young girl learning to make her own way in the world, and not living life to please others. After her adventures in Underland, Alice returns back to her own world, and is now strong enough to say “no” to her suitor, and make her decisions on what she wants to do with her life. A message I really appreciated – this is a movie that a lot of young, impressionable girls see, and it is nice for them to come out of the movie theatre feeling a little bit more empowered.
In short, I enjoyed this movie. If you like Alice, don’t let the bad reviews stop you from watching this movie. It is pretty good. If you haven’t read the Alice books, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and buy them. These books are childhood classics that everyone can read and enjoy.