The Taking of Alice

In the past month I have viewed the hotly anticipated Disney’s latest rendition of Alice in Wonderland twice;  firstly in 3D and then again in plain old 2D.

we’d like the story to be spelt out further for us – as in completely spelt out in a clichéd, ‘girl power’ sort of way

Allow me to summarise by saying that nothing adds to the demise of a movie more than expectation or a second viewing.  Well, ignorant people co-viewing the film with their endless natter and commentary tends to have a similar effect…

The problem, I believe, is that I placed expectation upon the movie.  Tim Burton, Johnny Depp…  previews of immaculate costuming.  All signs to build my expectation.  Alas, I should have tempered it better with the fact that it was a Disney production.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the plot, in a nutshell, has Alice at almost 20 years old and faced with a decision of marrying a Lord, and all that comes with it.  In her confusion and deliberation, she ends up falling down the rabbit hole and back into Wonderland.  All in Wonderland are heralding her as their saviour – one who shall defeat the Red Queen.

The theme of self belief is strong.  Sickeningly so.  It’s almost as though Disney used Alice to offset some of their other trite ‘damsel in distress’, teenage love epics they so fondly dish out annually.

It’s also hard to ignore the ‘love’ theme running through the film.  From the Red Queen commenting that it’s better to be feared than loved, to the odd love interest that the Hatter seems to show for Alice.  Well, at least this is how I saw it.

The acting was, well, adequate.  Clearly no Oscar performances, nor a script that even gave scope for that.  To their credit, the actors embraced the caricature nature of the characters, though their make-up and airbrushing tended to remove much of the acting potential for my liking, especially for the Hatter.    This said,  Anne Hathaway’s White Queen-iness made me giggle.

Even the Tim Burton attraction was lost in the final production.  The scenery, the cinematography, all clearly Burton-esque.  Yet I can’t help but feel he was too tied into delivering the “Disney” dream to be able to have the creative direction this movie needed to shift it from being “meh” to “wow”.   This is most true with the ending where, without being a spoiler, it is clear that the movie was shown to test audiences who replied ‘we’d like the story to be spelt out further for us – as in completely spelt out in a clichéd, ‘girl power’ sort of way”.   Had Burton been paid too much to protest to this or did he realise upon signing that there would be no way around an all-American Disney ending?

So for me, the final outcome was one of a watchable, if not a little disappointing, movie.  It was OK.  There are no scenes that will remain with me forever, or even a fortnight.  Even Avatar with its mind numbingly insulting script at least achieved that!

I am left wondering… Why Disney made this production?  There is limited merchandise associated with it, the box office, although good, was it great?  More to the point, why did Burton agree to this production with Disney?   Was there really supposed to be sub-theme of the Hatter being in love with Alice, or was Depp aiming for ‘paternal’ which resulted on screen as ‘sexy?  If we were supposed to walk away thinking that the Hatter loves Alice and has been waiting for her, then isn’t that creepy?…  And why not just take the ending to a whole “Disney” ending and have a ‘Hatter’ appear on the boat?

With such questions, I cannot see how Alice In Wonderland will become either a Burton or a Disney classic, nor the role that Depp dies being renown for.   The 3D added so very little to the production that if you miss it at the cinemas, never fear – the dvd will suffice!.  It was a watchable 2 stars.

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