Over a decade after her first visit to Wonderland, a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns with absolutely no recollection of ever being there before. During her travels she meets up with an extremely Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) whoís pleased as tea to see her again, a bobble-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) with a nasty temper and a White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) in a waistcoat constantly complaining about being perpetually late.
Thinking this is all nothing more than a dream Alice is perplexed that the inhabitants of Wonderland expect her to pick up the Vorpal Sword and slay the Jabberwocky. All she knows is that sheís made friends with some of the kookier residents of this odd world, and not even the directives of the ethereal White Queen (Anne Hathaway) can stop her from making up her own mind as to the best course of action.
It isnít a dream, of course, but it takes the heroine ages to realize that in Tim Burtonís (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) mechanical and not very appealing reworking of Lewis Carrollís Alice in Wonderland. Linda Woolvertonís (The Lion King) rather pedestrian screenplay feels as if it were constructed in committee, the whole thing having a paint-by-numbers feel to it that grew increasingly tiresome as the film progressed.
Not that it was all a total waste. There are certainly plenty of moments of enjoyment to be found, not the least of which is Bonham Carterís supercilious Red Queen whose tantrums and idiosyncrasies couldnít help but make me smile. The actress taps right into the Loony Tunes-inspired lunacy of all of this and then some so that even a scene of her trying on a never-ending series of increasingly silly hats couldnít help but make me giggle, every move she made one I quite liked keeping track of.
I also think newcomer Wasikowska, who first made an impression on me in last yearís That Evening Sun, is just divine in the title role. While thereís little to nothing of Carroll to be found in events happening onscreen the young actress still made me believe the spirit of the acclaimed author was still, if only slightly, hovering over the proceedings. Sheís definitely the real-deal and I canít wait to see what the youngster is going to do next, her Alice a delightful mixture of youth and maturity deserving of a better film to surround it.
Really, though, thatís about it as far as my superlatives go. Sure Depp is fine as the Mad Hatter, and yes the vocal work by the all-star cast, most noticeably Alan Rickmanís hookah-addicted Caterpillar and Stephen Fryís ghostly Cheshire Cat, is relatively outstanding, but none of it connected on any more than a purely superficial level. This is Carroll re-imagined as a Lord of the Rings-style action movie, everything building to a checkerboard face-off with the Jabberwocky thatís more perfunctory than it is thrilling.
Whatís really odd is that, like Burtonís Charlie and the Chocolate Factory there is no heart and soul in any of this. The directorís most personal works like Pee-weeís Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Big Fish wear their emotions as if they were overcoats, and while each has his trademark gothically inspired visual signature they also connect on a human level most of his other films do not. This is the director going through the motions, and while sometimes his doing this can be more than enough to satisfy (think Sleepy Hollow) sadly this time around that frustratingly isnít the case.
Iím not sure what I would have wanted instead of this. All I do know is that this version of Alice and Wonderland, for all its razzle and its dazzle, left me feeling decidedly unmoved. The film moved its pieces around the board as if by remote control, and just as events were supposed to go from curious to curiouser I found myself almost wishing I could curl up and take a catnap instead of see how they would play themselves out. For me Burtonís version brought no wonder to this strange land of tweedles Dee and Dum, and as the frumious Bandersnatch rampaged and Jujub Bird soared all I wanted to do was return to slithy toves to mimsy with the borogoves and watch the mome raths outgrabe.
Synopsis and Film Critique written by Sara Michelle Fetters during the theatrical run.
Disney presents Alice in Wonderland in a 1.78:1/1080p transfer encoded with AVC onto a 50GB disc. If youíre expecting an all-colorful Wonderland youíre sort of out of luck, because the color palette is all over the place; there are instances of vibrant colors making their way on the screen, and when they do they really pop, but then some drab colors appear and things get kind of murky. It seems an aesthetic choice on Burtonís part, the entire film shot on digital video and enhanced with vast amounts of visual effects, but maybe itís just my personal preference. The level of detail is absolutely flawless, black levels are strong, the image is crisp and dimensional, and the transfer suffers no technical issues. All things considered, this high-definition presentation looks great.
Alice in Wonderland comes equipped with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48KHz/24-bit) track. The sound design here is very good, as dialogue is sharp and very clear, and the surrounds are active throughout; sound effects are effectively placed throughout the sound field and Danny Elfmanís themes underscore Burtonís imaginative visuals. Foreign language tracks in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround are available. Optional English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are offered for the main film, as well as bonus material.
No commentary, no deleted scenes, not even the filmís theatrical trailer, but hereís what you do get.
Wonderland Characters (28 minutes total)
Finding Alice (5:25, HD) briefly discusses casting the role and Mia Wasikowska going on about getting in character and shape for the film.
The Mad Hatter (6:04, HD) is mostly Depp on Hatter, and what he envisioned the character to be like, including his take on the performance.
The Futterwacken Dance (3:21, HD) reveals the origin and execution of the terrible, out-of-place, and off-tone dance number from the Mad Hatter at the end of the movie. The story itself is kind of interesting. Burton had originally wanted Depp to dance, but then the production tracked down a YouTube viral video dancer to come in and perform. The dancing looks cool in any other setting, just not in Wonderland (and the way they did it).
The Red Queen (5:57, HD) is Carter on the Red Queen, and what she brought to the character, with others chiming in as well.
Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen (2:40, HD) is brief, but decent look at Bonham-Carter sitting in a chair for two and a half hours as two make-up artists apply, well, make-up.
The White Queen (4:27, HD) is Anne Hathaway on the Queen, with others chiming here and there.
Making Wonderland (19 minutes total)
Scoring Wonderland (3:10, HD) finds composer Danny Elfman discussing the Alice theme and working with Burton again. A good look, but a bit short.
Effecting Wonderland (6:53, HD) is all about the green screen work during filming. There is interesting footage here, but itís all too brief. For a movie that relied so heavily on visual effects, itís a real shame that this is all we get to see about that particular aspect of making of the movie.
Stunts of Wonderland (2:32, HD) features the filmís stunt coordinator and shows footage of wire work and actors sword fighting. Again, way too brief.
Making the Proper Size (2:13, HD) is, again, an extremely brief look at how the filmmakers achieved the look of characters moving around Wonderland in various sizes. Aspects considered during filming included putting actors on elevated sets and getting eye lines of the actors accurate.
Cakes of Wonderland (2:34, HD) looks at the creation of the cakes for the tea party scene. Wow, cakes.
Tea Party Props (2:04, HD) is about dressing the tea party table. What about the rest of the props, or costumes, or make-up for that matter? Not very comprehensive.
Also, available for a limited time, is a Digital Copy of the movie on a second disc, as well as the DVD of the movie, with only three featurettes as extras, on a third disc.
Yes, the bonus material is a clear disappointment because of how hastily put-together it feels, surely because the home video release window only gave the producers and editors three months (or less) to put it together.
Perhaps the studio is saving more material for the eventual 3-D Blu-ray re-release. I mean, Fox did it with Avataróa trend is a trend.
Alice in Wonderland is something to marvel at, but letís give that some context; if you suffer from insomnia but donít want to take any pills to help you fall asleep, put this in your Blu-ray player and watch. Having seen Alice in 3-D with those dark glasses, watching a dark movie in a dark theater sets the mood, but itís what happens on screen that makes it possibleóI almost fell asleep three times during the screening. Yes, the movie is that boring. Instead, go back to the original animated movie for a better telling of the story. The Blu-ray video/audio presentation is exemplar, it being the only reason you may want to rent this disc.