At this point Tim Burton has come to a point in his career where he clearly is running on an automatic pilot. Having perfected his gothic style over the years every movie he makes just seems to be the same as the last one only with a different story. At this point his career seems to mirror that of Kevin Smith; Smith started out with a group of individuals around him that popped up in every movie and has slowly started using other casts and even scripts written by somebody else, while Burton was original but with every movie makes the same phone calls: to Johnny Depp for the lead role, to Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee and Alan Rickman for supporting characters. To Danny Elfman for the music and his regular production designers who transfer his gothic look to the screen. Even though he does try something new from time to time, like Sweeney Todd, the outcome is rather predictable, always beautiful to the eye but lacking a soul more and more. That in a nutshell could be said about this remake/sequel to the animated Alice In Wonderland.
Presented as a live action remake due to the title use but actually a continuation of the story told in the original 1951 Disney movie. Knowledge of that movie isn’t necessarily required as Alice has no memories of her previous trip to Wonderland and thus everything is made clear to the unknowing audience as well but it does let you get some in-jokes people otherwise wouldn’t pick up.
Unlike the animated film which seemed to consist of segments which could be placed in any random order this live action film has a coherent storyline with characters who have been given a lot more depth. Especially the Red Queen has gone from a tyrant simply yelling “off with its head” all the time to a tyrant who has a feeling of loneliness behind her attitude. In terms of storytelling and character development this movie does a great job compared to the original.
As you would expect from a movie by Tim Burton the designs of the sets and characters are absolutely astonishing. Wonderland is portrayed as a colorful place with a gray layer over it reflecting the iron fist of the Red Queen with which she reigns. Grim and colorful at the same tame. A lot of energy has been put into recreating the characters for this new installment and it shows. The Chessire Cat vaporizes neatly while the Blue Caterpillar is very convincing. Every character in Wonderland jumps of the screen, whether it’s completely CGI in the form of a talking dog or mouse or rather the Twins Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum or the Red Queen who have been made out of CGI in combination with real life. The only character that didn’t impress me was the only one who, at first glance, has only been created using old fashioned make-up; The Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp. At this point on we know he can bring freaks to live with convincing realism, yet his Mad Hatter is even less impressive than his Willie Wonka was. Just like Tim Burton Depp is now at a point in his career when he must do something different again like make a movie in which he plays a realistic person like Donnie Brasco. But Pirates 4 is coming up so he won’t be doing that for some time to come. He doesn’t deliver a bad performance, but he turns out an uninspired performance.
As beautiful as the entire movie looks for some reason the scenes in which Cripsin Glover’s interacts with his horse were obviously computer generated, and not very convincing. I wonder why they did that? Is he affraid of horses or something like that, and is that the reason why they just couldn’t shoot him mounting a horse?
As beautiful as the movie looks it really seems to be a bit shallow despite the attention that has been brought into giving some characters an extra dimension. As cooky as some of these creatures and characters might be there’s nothing more beyond that. Wasted is the creature called Jabberwocky, whose character is mentioned multiple times and who is set up to be the obstacle Alice will have to beat. When he appears he is voiced by the legendary Christopher Lee, but only has3 sentences before he enters a battle. Alice herself is not the captivating lead-actress one would expecting a movie like this and the beautiful Anne Hathaway is wasted as the White Queen who walks over-the-top royally.
Beautiful to look at and thus a treat to watch Alice In Wonderland sadly isn’t as memorable as it could have been.