Like Calamari and escargot, Tim Burton’s style can be described as an acquired taste. He’s been making fantasy films like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, and Big Fish for about twenty-five years now. He’s also known for making the only respectable Batman films, before Christopher Nolan came along and rebooted the franchise. You would never think of someone like Johnny Depp needing a benefactor, but if he had one, Burton would be it. The two strange, but well liked kings of Hollywood have teamed together on projects on at least seven different occasions.
Alice is a natural, modest, nineteen year old girl, who experiences vividly colorful dreams. Some of those dreams are so realistic, that she can’t tell what is her dreamland versus what is reality. When she arrives at her party surrounded by hundreds of people, someone fills her in that an English nobleman is about to ask her hand in marriage. Little did she know she just walked into her own engagement party. Just then, she spots an unusual rabbit, dressed in a waist coat, hiding amongst the crowd. It takes off into the woods, leading Alice on a journey she never believed could happen. Running away to avoid the pressure of her family and friends, Alice follows the strange rabbit, only to fall down a large hole, taking her to a “wonderland” that she’d only previously experienced in her nightmares. Once there she finds herself talking with different animals, dealing with evil queens and knights, and large beastly “bandersnatches.” After several close calls, and escaping her demise more than once, Alice finally figures out the real reason why she’s there. She’s been summoned there to conquer the evil Jabberwocky, and restore the rightful queen to her throne. In order to put the “White Queen” back in power, Alice will have to stop the crooked ways of the “Red Queen,” and her army of evil henchmen.
I’ve seen at least seven of the ten successful Tim Burton films thus far. Saying his style is incomparable to anyone else in Hollywood would be a major understatement. Even his looks remind me of someone off their rocker, similar to Albert Einstein. Burton is not my favorite director, or even anywhere close, but he is truly a genius at his craft. He has artistically structured a unique style from the ground floor up. You can’t watch any of his films, and say he stole his idea from someone else. His films all have a dark, almost gothic feel to them, setting the perfect tone for the story he’s telling. Just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland takes a childhood classic and gives it a facelift, literally. Casting Johnny Depp as the “Mad Hatter” was a great choice, and no surprise to Burton followers. Let’s forget that he resembles the creepy Elijah Wood, and just appreciate how the Depp/Burton one-two punch hit’s the spot. Wasikowska, who played Alice, only had three prior years experience in acting. It wasn’t easy to see that however. She struck me as a Gwyneth Paltrow in practice. The film as a whole was a visual masterpiece. Sure it was mostly a CGI production, but how it was blended together with real actors and actresses was almost seamless. Alice’s posse who helped her through “wonderland” were all highly entertaining in their own right. Alice in Wonderland is a great family watch, and a great next chapter in Burton’s psychopathic book of work. Look for him to be remaking Frankenweenie next year, a movie he had made once before in 1984. It will mark one of the first times in cinema history that a director has remade his own movie. You can definitely call Burton strange, just don’t call him late to the premiere.
If you’re going to pick this one up, pick it up on Blu-ray. It’s visually stunning and comes with a ton of special features. Check out featurettes on the making of the timeless dance called the Futterwacken, the creation of the Red Queen from start to finish, an interview with Anne Hathaway, the creation of the music for the film, highlights of the biggest stunts, and so many more.
Review By: Charlie Giltenboth
Check out the official site for Alice in Wonderland!