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Alice in Wonderland
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, (better known as Lewis Carroll), an Anglican deacon and mathematician. It was first published in 1865 and was the first of two novels that featured Alice, a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole and enters a magical world full of talking animals and strange people. The second novel was Through the Looking Glass. These were nonsensical tales that appealed to both children and adults. Among their many enthusiastic readers were Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has never been out of print.
The first film adaptation of the story was in 1903. It was a British silent film directed by Cecil Hepworth, with May Clark as Alice. There were almost a dozen more adaptations before 1981, and after 145 years the story continues to appeal to audiences.
The most recent film is Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland which features many of the classic characters from both of the original novels (Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Cheshire Cat, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar) while adding plenty of gothy Tim Burton-esque darkness. It deals with Alice’s involuntary return to Wonderland after a 13-year absence, and her struggle to liberate Wonderland from the clutches of the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
This film, like so many other blockbusters, is jam-packed with computer generated images, but the people behind it have made certain that the special effects don’t overwhelm the story. The acting is excellent. Mia Wasikowska plays a believable role as a 19-year-old Alice depressed by her marriage prospects in England and overwhelmed by all that is happening to her in Wonderland. Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Public Enemies, Ed Wood) does a suitably crazy turn as the undoubtedly unhinged Mad Hatter. Helena Bonham Carter (Margaret’s Museum, Big Fish, Harry Potter The Half Blood Prince, Terminator Salvation) also does a good job as the movie’s short-tempered villain. Crispin Glover, best remembered for his role as George McFly in Back to the Future, plays her oily, eye-patch-wearing Consort. Anne Hathaway (Brokeback
Mountain, Get Smart) doesn’t have much to work with but is still reasonably good as the White Queen. Most of the other characters are computer generated, but it is still fun to hear Stephen Fry voice the Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar.
The large number of people responsible for creating the wondrous digital world in which Alice finds herself deserve medals for the marvellous spectacle that they have created in this film. Geeks, in this case at least, really do rule.
Tim Burton, who has been making off-beat, horror-themed films (Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman, Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow), for more then 20 years, takes Wonderland and turns it on its head. This isn’t the technicolour world of Walt Disney’s 1951 animated feature. Unfortunately, Burton seems incapable of making movies that are completely kid-friendly. He has definitely grafted his own twisted cinematic sensibility onto this film, as he did with PeeWee’s Big Adventure (1985). Adults are probably able to appreciate the content of his movies much more than young children, who could very well find this work rather frightening. Parents, use your discretion.
I liked this movie very much. If I had one complaint however, it would be that it was too short. I can’t help but feel, although many would doubtless disagree, that the story was epic and deserved the Lord of the Rings treatment. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to show a three hour film to small children and keep them engaged. Anyway, two thumbs up.