Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton’s Version Starring Johnny Depp

In theory, the combination of Lewis Carroll’s widely popular novels, imagist Tim Burton as director, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and innovative 3D technology spells magic for Disney’s new version of “Alice in Wonderland,” and in individual sequences, the movie soars to Hollywood’s highest level of creativity. And yet something is missing to make this rendition a truly exciting and memorable artistic experience—call it heart and gravity.

Johnny Depp on the Film: www.emanuellevy.com/videos/view.cfm?id=178

Opening March 5, “Alice in Wonderland” will be presented in Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX-3D. I expect the movie will divide critics, but benefiting from mega-star power of Depp, heading a superlative cast, and a brilliant marketing campaign, Disney’s spring release should be a box-office hit, just as Burton-Depp’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was in 2005.
In moments, Burton’s movie captures the wonder of author Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865) and “Through the Looking-Glass” (1871), in ways unparalleled by previous versions, mixing stunning visuals with some of the most charismatic characters in literary history. 
As I’ll explain later, “Alice in Wonderland” brings the best out of Burton, one of Hollywood’s greatest fabulists-imagists, but it also underlines recurrent weaknesses in his work, manifest in almost every picture he has made, emotional involvement in the narrative and fragmented, fractured structures that prohibit dramatic continuity. Always a master of brilliant visual set-pieces, Burton, no matter who he collaborates with as a scribe, is not a narrative storyteller in the conventional sense of the term. (Neither are some of our other brilliant filmmakers, such as Scorsese).  There’s almost always a gap between the astounding visual and the dramatic level of his movies, as was clear in his first mega-successes, “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” 
There is another problem, by emphasizing the new inventive technology and the production values (top notch in every department), this “Alice in Wonderland” undercuts the more poignant philosophical issues of Carroll’s oeuvre. The aforementioned concerns, plus deviations from the source material, should explain why, for me, “Alice in Wonderland” is a good but not great film.
That said, there is so much to praise and get excited about that it’s definitely worth seeing the picture. For starters, as an epic 3D fantasy adventure “Alice in Wonderland,” offers an intermittently magical and imaginative twist on one of the most universally beloved stories.
The endlessly creative and versatile Johnny Depp (recently seen as gangster John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”) stars as the Mad Hatter. “Alice in Wonderland” marks the seventh collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp since they first worked together on “Edward Scissorhands,” back in 1990.
Mia Wasikowska plays a grown up (19-year-old) Alice, who returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Hatter. Alice embarks on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.
The all-star cast includes Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Crispin Glover (welcomed back in a major role) as Stayne-Knave of Hearts, and Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Providing the voices for Underland’s menagerie of inhabitants is an eclectic, but impressive mix of acting talent: Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, Stephen Frye as the Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as Absolem the caterpillar, Timothy Spall as Bayard, Barbara Windsor as the Dormouse, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky, Michael Gough as the Dodo, and Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare.
Alice in Wonderland,” which marks a return to Disney for director Burton (“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) is base on a screenplay written by Linda Woolverton, who previously had penned Diseny’s “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Originally published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” changed forever the course of children’s literature, and has inspired numerous stage, TV and film adaptations. There’s obviously inherent strengths the books’ images and characters, as they have entered into our collective consciousness, pop culture, mythology. Indeed,, whether you’ve read the story or not, you know certain images or creatures from the original books from other mass media.
Carroll (the pen name for Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a lecturer in mathematics at Christchurch University in Oxford) became the leading children’s author of his day, and he followed this book 6 years later with “Through the Looking-Glass, and “What Alice Found There,” which was even more popular than its predecessor. At present, both books are published together under the title “Alice in Wonderland,” and their continued influence is manifest not just in films, but also in music videos, comic books to computer games, opera, and art.
Having reread the books recently, I can testify that, In terms of literary achievement, they are as brilliant, fresh and touching today as they were was back then. Carroll transcended his time and place by constructing characters that are wildly eccentric and wittily funny.   Burton has certainly put his own spin on the timeless classics, known for their playful words and origianl concepts. Carroll’s characters work well in cinema because they’re imaginative, and there are different (various) ways to interpret them.
Burton benefits from that. Like other great stories, Burton holds that the books have stayed around because they tap into the subconscious, and perhaps even the unconscious, levels.  Incorporating characters and themes from Carroll’s books, and placing them against the film’s particular context, Burton’s “Aice in Wonderland” could also be read as a political allegory about a land populated by residents who are eccentric outcasts, who are also rebellious and revolutionaries.
Centering on a grown-up Alice as she returns to the place she had visited as a child, the script tries admirably but does not succeed in telling a coherent, shapely, and involving coming-of-age story. In this version, Alice Kingsleigh’s life is about to take a turn for the unexpected.  At 19, she is about to enter into a marriage she has many doubts about.  In the first sequence, Hamish, the worthy but dull son of Lord and Lady Ascot, proposes to her during a Victorian garden party thrown in their honor. She flees without giving an answer, heading off after a rabbit running across the lawn; the rabbit is wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch.
Following the white rabbit, Alice watches as he disappears into a hole. Falling down, she tumbles through a strange, dreamlike passage before landing in a round hall with many doors. Alice discovers a bottle labeled “Drink Me,” whose contents shrink her, and a cake with the words “Eat Me” iced on top, which makes her grow.  Eventually, she finds her way through a door into the fantastical world called Underland—the same place she visited as a young girl—although she has no memory of her previous adventures there–except in her dreams.
In Underland, which lies far beneath our world, Alice meets a menagerie of colorful characters, including a swashbuckling Dormouse, an off-his-rocker Mad Hatter, a grinning Cheshire Cat, a wise caterpillar called Absolem, a beautiful White Queen and her spiteful older sister the Red Queen, who happens to be the petulant ruler of Underland.Underland has come upon hard times since the malevolent Red Queen has taken over the throne. It is, however, a wonderful land, which might explain why the girl who mistook it for “Wonderland” has been called upon to help bring it back to its glory.  
Space doesn’t permit me to dwell on each of the dozen characters—and interpretation.  In another essay, I’ll elaborate how the acting styles of the talented thespians are varied but also incoherent; for example, Helena Bonham Carter, whho has the wittiest, nastiest lines, plays the Queen in a broad, campy manner.
I’d like to dwell on Johnny Depp, who renders the strongest, most emotionally touching, and consistent performance in the film. Depp plays the Mad Hatter as an outsider par excellence, a tragic victim of a past that weighs heavily on his present. Once the proud hat-maker for the White Queen, the Hatter is now been affected by poisoning, an unfortunate effect of the hat-making process. The Mad Hatter doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve—his ever-changing moods are reflected in his face and his attire–literally. Anxiously awaiting Alice’s return, he’s her one true friend, and he fearlessly goes to protect Alice at his own risk. 
End Note
RealD 3D is the new generation of entertainment, with bright, ultra-realistic images that add depth and put viewers in the thick of the action. RealD pioneered today’s digital 3D and is the world’s most widely used 3D cinema technology with over 9,500 screens under contract and 5,000 screens installed in 48 countries.
Cast:
Johnny Depp
Mia Wasikowska
Anne Hathaway
Helena Bonham Carter
Crispin Glover
Matt Lucas
Stephen Fry
Alan Rickman
Michael Sheen
Timothy Spall
Christopher Lee
Credits
Production: Roth Films, the Zanuck Co., Team Todd, Tim Burton Prods.
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Linda Woolverton
Executive producers: Peter Tobyansen, Chris Lebenzon
Producers: Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd
Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski
Production designer: Robert Stromberg
Music: Danny Elfman
Costume designer: Colleen Atwood
Editor: Chris Lebenzon
MPAA Rating:
Running time: 109 Minutes.bsite to check:
Reviewed: February 25, 2010.www.eaglenyc.com/events.html#codethursdays check out their website to check:
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