Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Title: Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Tomatometer: 51%

MPAA: PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Crispin Glover, Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen

Synopsis:

Nineteen-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.

This is a very different Alice than I’ve reviewed for the past two weeks. Because Alice is grown up in this one rather than a child, the conflict is more serious. It’s not longer a whimsical place full of fun and whimsy; Underland is a place where the threat of death is very real. Danger lurks around every corner, and everyone is looking for Alice Kingsley, who believes the entire fiasco is a dream.

I know a lot of people who really dislike this version. It’s definitely not my favorite, but you have to admit, Tim Burton’s vision of Wonderland is visually stunning. The art direction is absolutely gorgeous, and so much fun to look at. Every time I watch it, I see something new that I’d never noticed before.

The conflict here is quite interesting; because it’s something of a sequel, it’s all about Alice stepping up and becoming a heroine, rather than simply an observer. The idea that she believed in dreams when she was little but has lost those beliefs as she’s grown up is a very relevant theme. Alice has to figure who and what she wants to be; this is the main crisis she is dealing with at home, having just been proposed to by someone she could never marry, though everyone expects her to accept.

Alice is played by Mia Wasikowska, and honestly, she’s probably one of my least favorite Alice’s. I loved her Jane Eyre, but she just doesn’t seem to work here. She has a look that is classic Tim Burton, so it’s no wonder why she was cast, but she’s quite robotic for most of the film. Johnny Depp is, of course, brilliant as the Mad Hatter, skipping between light-hearted and serene Hatter to a truly mad, intense and angry Hatter. Helena Bonham Carter is terrifying and odd as the Red Queen, while Anne Hathaway is possibly even more bizarre as her sister the White Queen.

The Jabberwock is not just a poem Alice recites; here he is a monstrous beast that Alice must defeat to save Underland. This scene alone is creepy and slightly nightmarish and knocks this movie up and out of the kids range (if other things about it hadn’t already). Tim Burton’s Alice is not one I would recommend showing your small children. Everything has an eerie and nefarious air to it, and it’s a much more grown up tale than what I imagine Lewis Carroll had in mind.

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