Friday, April 2, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

This is a delayed post. Better late than never.

Alice in Wonderland is a big and glaring part of my childhood. Every weekend that stretches as far as college, I would find the time and the mood to watch the 1951 Disney cartoon version over and over again and the wonder and amusement never fail. Along with Fern Gully, Never ending story and The Last Unicorn, the story of Alice in Wonderland is etched in my mind. Every song, every absurd situation or every complex character is enjoyed whether I understood what they all meant for.

First of all, the story in itself is nonsense. Alice represents us, trapped in a dream world, where dreams might hold deep meaning, but seldom understood. This accounts for morphed characters where animals and flowers could talk and feel mighty. Beliefs and principles counter reality and the whole landscape is far different than ours. It is a dream after all, a wonderland where everything we are taught of not to believe, exists. Probably the non-sense and fantasy version of Alice’s Wonderland attracts children. I’m afraid they love and understand it more than adults do. But toss Tim Burton in that equation and it’s bound to get more psychedelic.

Tim Burton is known for directing movies which plots are essentially off-based from reality. He does his brand of tweaking and interpretation that makes the already twisted material into an eerie adult alternative of a fairytale that might be too gothic to someone’s taste. He is known to transform stories and exploit its twisted side which is evident in all the film’s aspects from make-up, lights and sounds. For example, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are films that I’ve also watched when I was a child. I would invite friends over every summer and rent out Laser Discs of Gene Wilder playing as Willy Wonka. Tim Burton’s take with Johnny Depp at the helm is a bit eerie, but something to be expected. Barber on Fleet Street, Big Fish and even clay-fairy tales of the Corpse’s Bride and Nightmare before Christmas holds the same experience. And of course, who could ever forget Edward Scissorhands? An odd character in a suburban setting could be as complicated and strange as it could ever be, but Tim Burton takes comfort in showing his directorial styles and interpretation in stories that no other director might hold imagination and courage for. It’s no surprise that Alice in Wonderland, a material veering towards an adult dream like fantasy, is expected to be added to his directorial feats with no less than Johnny Depp as one of the main characters. And with their tandem, it’s bound to be entertaining.

Watching Alice in Wonderland is a visual treat. Colors, CGI, visual effects and make-up complement and enhance the characters and settings. Other scenes cast a colour of gloom and pale, a signature Tim Burton’s known for. The music is hauntingly naughty, the type of music you’ve already heard in Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka.

The choice of characters is familiar and expected. Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter, a type of role he is esteemed to play along with the list of off-beat and crazy characters he brought to life. Though strange and expected as he might be, there are certain times wherein I see Captain Jack impersonating Carrot top. Probably I just needed to see him in jeans and shirt in a movie soon, while Helena Bonham Carter made me laugh. A regular in Tim Burton’s films, she still delivers a genuine performance. She could play a caring mother, a scorned and deranged lover or a bratty queen with a mind of a 5 year old. In Alice in Wonderland, she interpreted the Red Queen to be an adult brat who holds no moral obligation to make the world a happy and safe place. She interpreted the Red Queen as a bratty toddler or a grade school queen bee, trapped in a woman’s body and an enormously big head. I appreciate her version, but I was more inkling to see a nastier version, someone who is big, whose power reeks in scorned look, someone who would bring you to your knees by just a look like the principal in Matilda. The King of Spades, played by Crispin Glover, is fantastically eerie. He sits alongside Johnny Depp in playing off-beat characters effectively from time to time. But he' s mostly the villain. Actually, he could be the next Riddler. Anne Hathaway’s White Queen is forgettable, but provides an annoying contrast to the Red Queen’s aggressive personality. Alice, played by Australian Mia Wasikowska, portrays extreme awkwardness and stubbornness for an adolescent Alice trapped in both worlds. Sometimes her acting for me falls short, but her magnificent dresses and rawness somehow make up for it.

This movie is a visual treat than a cerebral one. When the movie ended, people in the theatres were just stunned and caught off guard not knowing what to do. They can’t exactly pinpoint if they like dthe movie or not. Mitch just enjoyed the visuals and as he gave up on finding the plot’s meaning. I wouldn’t recommend it for those who expect the plot served on a plate. They may be at lost. For multimedia enthusiasts, this is a movie worth watching in the big screen. For Tim Burton and Johnny Depp enthusiasts, this adds up to the collection. For those who are looking for entertainment without too much of reality in the equation, this might prove useful.

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