Disney often brings fantasy adventures to life with a kind of finesse that makes audiences and critics alike take notice. Couple with this their brand, and families can be assured Disney works their magic no matter what they show at the box office. Alice in Wonderland is a whole lot of steampunk, and not much Victorian, but it still entertains.
Alice in Wonderland (2010) Film Review
Nightmares plague young Alice, intricate ones which involve white rabbits in waistcoats. Her father is the one person who comforts her, and “pinches” the bad dreams away. Now ten years later, her beloved father is gone and her mother drags a reluctant Alice (Mia Wasikowska) to social functions. It’s here she learns that her future is set without her approval. Just as her beau proposes marriage, Alice spots a white rabbit, and she promptly dashes after it. When the sneaky creature disappears down a hole, Alice peers down the dark opening only to fall headlong into a place that leads straight to Wonderland, and strangely, her dreams.
Under the tyrannical reign of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), Wonderland is not what it once was. She seized the kingdom from her peaceful sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) who remains in seclusion. Escorted by a pair of disputing twins, a harried rabbit and a tiny, but fearless mouse, Alice learns she is here to fulfill a prophecy. All goes well until the small band comes under attack; and everyone save Alice is captured! This sends her to seek the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in the hope she can set things right.
Any major blockbuster should have multiple things one thing going for it, not unlike a skilled juggler. Things that help include an impressive budget and filming, and an all-star cast to carry it. Add in the Disney name and you have a recipe of magical brilliance. Alice in Wonderland is a story generations love. As a result, it was only a matter of time before it made a mart on the big-screen in a live-action experience. With the title of highest grossing movie to date (in 2010), one can see just why it garners such admiration. It’s a fantastical adventure overflowing with all kinds of mishaps, danger and an epic battle, but above all is a lovely little Victorian costume drama that maybe suffers its greatest fault in trying to be a “proper” Victorian piece.
TV MINISERIES REVIEW | Alice (2009) Review – A Colorful Steampunk Adventure
When it comes to the costume design’s theme, I’m not fond of anything. The filming doesn’t compliment the style of a refined pastime, which might have transported us into the midst of a garden party with its simple beauty. The first frames leave something to be desired, and never quite accomplishes the confidence of its representation. The director instead depicts cloudier settings where Alice stands out overmuch during this sequence. Granted she should being the heroine, still it’s almost painfully apparent in comparison to the other party goers. Neither her dress nor hairstyle appropriately match her surroundings, nor does her pale appearance help things.
Having said that the costume design is unique. One of the prettiest is Alice’s “red dress” when she attends the Red Queen. The White Queen’s wardrobe is always angelic, while the Mad Hatters’ is bright and quirky. Costume designers pull together what compliments everyone. (Perhaps the most important wardrobe piece was the Hatters’ hat, he isn’t quite right without it, you know.) The special effects are incredible, even those filmed with a green screen are impressive. Intricate and imaginative backgrounds add personality as one expects of director Tim Burton. Though everything eventually hits a stride (after a rough beginning), once we set foot in the mythical land, nothing is quite the same again. Unlike the classic cartoon, this is more of a “grown-up” story of a beloved heroine who takes a self-examination journey. She discovers who she is, and who she wants to be.
As per usual of anything of this caliber, acting is first-rate. This said, I do experience some unease where newcomer Mia Wasikowska is concerned; she plays Alice with a sense of disorientation in the first ten to twenty minutes, perhaps explained away by her unhappy character. As usual, Johnny Depp is fabulous (these “wacky” roles always suit him), while Anne Hathaway gives her usual lovely performance. Even Helena Bonham Carter is an outstanding villain; there is just something about her shouting “off with his head!” or “I need a pig here” that is spot-on for her character. (Talented actor, Alan Rickman also lends his voice in a distinct manner.)
If anyone asks if this is something I’d recommend, I do without question. But it’s also the “right person” recommendation, because no matter what, one can’t argue, this is different. It’s the kind you don’t forget, and a journey, we wish to experience all over again. It’s like a grand portrait that comes to life with beautiful nuances that burst with color and we see everything in a whole new way.
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CONTENT: There are some “terrifying” creatures that might frighten youngsters. The film is PG.