Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010) [Gallery]

Alice in Wonderland is a fun and exciting movie, and it was excellent in IMAX 3D. If you are expecting the original Disney animated feature, there are a few very well done nods to it, but overall, this is a grown-up adventure fitting a grown-up Alice. There is lots of eye candy (and I mean that in a good way) for both adults and children, but many of the scenes are too intense, disturbing, or scary for younger viewers—especially without adult supervision.

Aside from several “gloomy” sets, and two disturbing ones (involving beheadings and decapitated heads), Tim Burton seems to have finally left his juvenile fascination with the grotesque, heavy Gothic influences, and dark humor. Perhaps it was a positive influence from Disney, but the movie had an overall uplifting feel to it, despite many side trips through dark places. I hope that Burton will continue to “lighten up” in his future works, while maintaining his wonderful sense of style, surprise, and hyper-reality.

Mia Wasikowska was a brilliant casting choice. Her character development from a dazed and confused innocent (almost annoyingly so) to her final state of mind was very well performed. She is a beautiful actress, and does a fantastic job—very believable.

Johnny Depp was terrific—as always. His accents and mannerisms were zany, but avoided the creepiness of his Willy Wonka performance.Bear in mind that mercury poisoning was an occupational hazard of hatters in that period, and that tended to drive many of them quite insane. Depp’s Hatter shifts between reality and altered reality masterfully, and the character is quite cunning and intelligent despite his madness.

I finally liked Helena Bonham Carter in a role. Often, I feel her performances go over the top (in a bad way), but here she portrayed a different form of madness from the Hatter—a madness any powerful and wealthy person could find themselves in. Surrounded by sycophants and toadies, the Red Queen came across nearly as much of a victim as she did the primary villain. I almost felt sorry for her at the end. Almost.

Anne Hathaway did a wonderful job (as always) in a role that was pretty, yet mildly disturbing. It reminded me a bit of the ugly side of high fashion crossed with the beauty of a dark winter’s night. The contrast between light and dark, etherealness, and beauty and blandness were very well captured in both the scenery and costuming, but especially in Hathaway’s performance. Her performance was very different from the other characters I’ve seen her portray, especially Mia in the Princess Diaries.

Crispin Glover was creepy and came off a bit as a fetishist. In other words, his performance was typical of others I’ve seen him give. In a way, he was a straight man to Carter’s outlandishness, or the canvas that gives the painting its form. For that, he did a good job, despite being creepy.

I did not even know that Alan Rickman was cast in the movie, but as soon as the Caterpillar started speaking, I recognized the actor’s very distinctive voice. I think Rickman did well in the role, but I kept picturing Professor Snape from Harry Potter talking and sneering. The Caterpillar’s final speaking scene in the movie was the best. Rickman stretched his voice in different ways, and I finally heard the Caterpillar as himself.

The Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry, was probably my favorite non-human character, but all the animals and creatures were quite well done. The White Rabbit, voiced by Michael Sheen, was terrific as well.

This was my first time seeing a movie in IMAX 3-D. Frankly, 3-D movies in the past never have impressed me much, and usually gave me headaches. However, I think this movie actually was improved by the 3-D environment. Instead of being strung-together in-my-face effects for the sake of effects, this movie used the environment (including the huge IMAX screen) to fully engulf and involve me in the movie. Things all around the screen moved in very realistic ways. The story really came to life. No headache, either.

In summary, if you are looking for an entertaining movie that the tweens, teens, and adults will enjoy, this is probably it. If you are looking for blood and gore, this really isn’t it. If you are enamored with Tim Burton’s old, darker stuff, then you might be disappointed, but if you like his newer works, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you will probably like this one even more. If you enjoyed the classic animated film as a kid, you will probably appreciate this movie now as an adult.

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