Film: Alice in Wonderland


Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

In cinemas: 5th March


Wonders never cease in Wonderland! Oh. Wait. Yes they will. This week Tim Burton’s 3D adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland receives its first audiences.

Unfortunately, the creepy director has very few, if any, twists left in him. The film itself is relatively bereft of the lofty oddities that make Alice’s Wonderland so inviting in the first place. Moreover, in adapting this particular story, one must be sure to root said oddities in a vicarious form of normality. Burton, however, drags his merry band of usual suspects through the paces, once again repeating themselves as Depp adopts the role of the Mad Hatter (surprise, surprise) and Bonham Carter squeezes into the ample cranial space of the Queen of Hearts.

With this tiresome predictability letting itself seep through the seams of the very screen it plays on, it is hard to take the plot seriously, let alone empathise or sympathise with any of the characters. Their characteristics remind a viewer of a failed pastiche of CG animation and half-hearted personalities, while the backdrop for most of their antics is yet another failed dialectic in the form of The Lord of the Rings meets Sleepy Hollow.

Alice is 19, her father is dead; she is to be married to a ginger haired fuddy-duddy, and doesn’t want to be. At a crucial moment she takes off after a rabbit in a waistcoat, falls down the hole where she engages in a pick-and-mix of Carroll’s stories and dialogue, coming to a climax where she is the only one who can save the day. Phew.

Thus, we come to another problem. This plot is utterly transparent when set against the original text or many of the other adaptations, simply because Burton has placed the narrative so far out of context. The story is supposed to be about cunning metaphors and scathing political satire, set in a location mirroring the chaos of our own reality while appealing to the more ambitious caverns of our imaginations.

Instead, Burton has gone off the wall altogether. Mad with power and drunk on cash, he has sold his potential for a spot under the archways of the Disney castle. Make it in 3D while you’re at it – it’s not like it’s only useful for one scene where your protagonist falls down a hole full of pianos…

In a Nutshell: A failed contribution to filler season between the Oscars and the summer blockbusters

Jake O’Brien