Remember when Tim Burton hadn’t worn his welcome out at cinemas? When you could appreciate his creative hand at work, even if there sometimes wasn’t anything else impressive about the movies he directed? Because I don’t think that version of the guy is coming back.
Alice in Wonderland has “high production values”, as long as you don’t mean the production of the 3D presentation, but — although many reviewers seem to at leasthave a kind word for the visual design — I can’t say much else nice about it. This movie is boring, stupid at every level from skin to core, and I don’t even think it looks nice. Let’s tackle these from first to last.
Burton managed to come up with the least-memorable version of the Cheshire Cat’s appearance in history. His Mad Hatter is striking, at least, but completely bizarre for no apparent reason (Last I checked, “being mad” doesn’t account for trying to look like Batman‘s Joker, nor for having huge bug eyes and a kilt). His Red Queen is a success, make no mistake, but there’s still the long list of dozens and dozens of other characters… which all look completely uninspired. In the cases of the all-CGI characters, they don’t even look real enough to inspire the suspension of disbelief. There are too many characters and too many reasons for me to easily go deeper into this subject, sadly.
Moving on, why is this movie as stupid as the day is long? Why is Alice an amnesiac, and forced to retread the steps that we’ve seen in every other adaptation (While the film’s other denizens mutter at her because of how annoying they realize this is)? Why are all of the characters bastardized versions of themselves (And, sometimes, of OTHER characters from the two book sources that they’ve been spliced into)? The end result is that the Dormouse is a Reepicheep (You know, from Narnia. You might recognize him better as Puss in Boots from Shrek?) clone, while the Red Queen’s (Whose sole motif is the hearts from cards) opposite number is the White Queen (Whose motif is… the white side from chess), the Hatter is a really annoying William Wallace, the March Hare exists simply to throw things at the screen every few minutes (IN 3D WOW), and the Cheshire Cat is a team player who levels with everyone. Also, every character seems to have a “real” name (Which all sound like elven names from Lord of the Rings) in addition to the titles that we would otherwise know them by. Oh, and the Red Queen REALLY kills people, and every enjoyable tidbit of nonsense Carol ever came up with is turned into something disappointingly boring. Alice straps on a suit of Narnia armor (And never displays any curiosity, despite being issued the trademark line), vorpal blades look and act like pretty ordinary swords, and I cannot adequately relate just how insufferable, self-righteously overbearing, and pompously stupid the last ten minutes are. Everybody spouts the right, familiar lines (Which are frequently interspersed with Burton’s new, mind-numbing dialog), but nobody is the right character for those lines.
What the fuck? Why is this even based on Alice in Wonderland? Burton could have called it “Shirley in Undercountry”, and thus avoided having to stuff otherwise-recognizable characters into iron maiden-like molds to get them into the shapes he really wanted to work with.
And it’s as boring as all hell. Despite all of the fantastical contortions Burton puts the familiar skewed material through (Unaware of why you shouldn’t un-skew previously-skewed material, I suppose), the end result is a blend of “new, but too stupid” and “seen it before, and done better besides” that I was only too glad to wake up from by the time the credits rolled.
Maybe it was all one big metaphysical statement about how escaping into fantasy is, ultimately, a uncontrollable disappointment when compared to the dull predictability of real life.