Revisiting the rabbit hole
“We’re all mad here.”
The Cheshire Cat’s haunting words to Alice upon their first meeting aptly describe the incredible and insane world she has fallen into. However, though tea parties and amazing visuals were plentiful, madness seemed rather scarce in director Tim Burton’s version of the nonsensical classic.
The film opened on March 5, and like some other recent productions such as Avatar, it was shown in 3-D. If you haven’t seen a recent movie in 3-D, it’s worth the $10.50 plus popcorn. Gone are the pink-tinted blurs of earlier films, and in its place are incredibly detailed graphics.
Burton as the director of a goldmine of insanity such as Alice in Wonderland sounds like a recipe for a wonderful, crazy story. However, contrary to the hopes of many Lewis Caroll and Burton fans, the plot was neither enthralling nor unique.
The premise of the plot is interesting in itself. The film combines two of author Caroll’s best-known works — Alice in Wonderland, and the poem The Jabberwocky — to create a coming-of-age quest in which an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland, referred to as Underland in the movie, to find that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) has taken over. In order to restore Underland to its usual barmy self, she must defeat the Queen’s horrible monster, the Jabberwocky.
There was a conspicuous lack of the madness that makes Underland Wonderland, and not just another magical world Alice could have fallen into. Wonderland is full of creatures and things so illogical that they seem to make sense in a roundabout way, a land of insanity with hidden wisdom and an appreciation for creativity. But although the visual effects and character designs gave the impression of a mad Wonderland, the plot did not.
In Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice was the “chosen one,” who ancient legend predicted would return to Underland to complete a quest and save the day. On her way, she is helped by the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and other fantastic characters who are magical and entertaining, but seem to be more like magical helpers of other quest sagas. Because of this, Underland seems like just another magical world and Alice just another “chosen one” — as oxymoronic as that sounds.
Throughout the movie, the Mad Hatter reminds Alice of the importance of imagining the impossible and appreciating madness, though he does not portray either of these qualities himself.
The special effects and the artistic care put into the Underland landscapes, as well as the costumes and the characters themselves, made this film visually inspiring and stunning to watch. Computer-generated characters such as the March Hare and the Jabberwocky were creatively designed, and human actors such as Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen looked like true citizens of Wonderland — the Queen was stark white with heavily darkened features, and the Mad Hatter was, well, mad-looking.
Burton’s famed dark, almost-gothic style was evident in the style of the characters and Wonderland itself. However, though it was easy to identify his influence, this influence was not overpowering: Underand was not turned into a gothic cemetery.
Although darker details and themes did seep into the crazy countryside, it made the movie distinctly Burton-esque; but thankfully, it did not turn Underland into Halloween Town. Burton, however, did not transform it into Wonderland, either. Instead, it seemed to be a magical world, full of visual wonders and impressive characters, but without the madness that made it a unique world of its own.