Alice in Wonderland 2010 Review: No Spoiler
Tim Burton's latest creation faithfully delivers the psychedelic adventures expected in the most recent interpretation of English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) instant 1865 novel classic, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The enduringly popular novel is still in print in numerous countries around the world, and has spawned a number of film and TV re-creations of it, along with providing a great deal of influence to the entire fantasy genre. Alice in Wonderland's powerful imaginative effect upon the popular consciousness is apparent in the 1999 film The Matrix, when Morpheus offers Neo two pills and completes his introduction of the Matrix with the following line: "You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." There are numerous allusions to Carroll's storyline in that scene and earlier in the movie, when Neo is instructed by Trinity to "follow the white rabbit." This turns out to be a tattoo on a woman's shoulder, but it was an intellectual choice by the Wachowski brothers to allude to one of the first stories about a constructed imaginary play world in creating their own construct.
There are about 25 film and TV adaptations of the story. The first silent film was shown in 1903, the first with sound in 1931, a Disney animated edition in 1951, and the most recent is in theaters now. All bear the title of Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly, there was also a 1976 pornographic film adaptation by the same title, and it appropriately became one of the most successful and highest-grossing pornographic films in history.
Burton's adaptation contains all the characters that world audiences have grown to love played by popular actors, including Alice (Mia Wasikowska), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover). The film's fast pace and constantly twisting plot line made character development a tough synthesis in all but Alice, whom the story is about. Burton does, however, succeed extremely well in providing depth of character for the Mad Hatter in particular (whose voice and costumes change with his emotions) and also for the White Queen, who appears in just a few moments of the movie. Events progress until the defining moment of the film, when the Red Queen and White Queen face off on a giant chessboard with entourages in tow.
Comic relief in the film is provided by the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) and Absolem (Alan Rickman). The March Hare provides entertaining dialogue at the Mad Tea Party, when he holds up various implements and calls them out by name, then collapses into uncontrollable giggling. Alan Rickman starred in another film depicting English folklore and literature, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991 film with Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman), in which he played a memorable role as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Absolem remains faithful to the original, and the hookah-smoking blue caterpillar remains high as a kite during the entirety of the movie. Each appearance of the caterpillar charts a waypoint in the character development and self-awareness of Alice. The final two scenes involving Absolem provide a foreshadowing of events in Alice's future. The appearance of Absolem as he is disappearing into a cocoon represents Alice's approaching test of character, and Absolem's final form and appearance represents the result of that test.
The latest version of Alice in Wonderland is another faithful re-creation of the original storyline with excellent performances by all characters. Computer animation also reveals some intriguing special effects, such as the Red Queen's head being blown up to about three times normal size, and the disturbing characters of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. This is a film worth the price of a ticket. The animated screenplay and fantastic action scenes will also provide a dramatic experience for 3D moviegoers.