The 2010 rendition of Alice in Wonderland reeks of Tim Burton’s directorial style. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but don’t expect to be surprised by casting choices and the style of the wonderland Alice discovers (or, more precisely, rediscovers).
You’ll find both Burton favourites here, Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter (who has lost his head) and Burton’s wife Helena Bonham Carter playing the Red Queen (who has quite a sizeable head).
A whole host of Birtish favourites are recognisable in the film, keep an ear out for Alan ‘Snape’ Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar, Stephen ‘QI’ Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Matt ‘Little Britain’ Lucas as Tweedles Dum and Dee and Barbara ‘Peggy’ Windsor as the Dormouse. The world created by Burton is visually stunning but for those approaching Alice in Wonderland expecting a live action version of the Disney film they grew up with (or a big screen adaptation of what is, quite frankly, a vivid but fairly disturbing book) there may be disappointment.
The fact that the key focus throughout the film is whether Alice (played here by Mia Wasikowska) is in fact Alice are pertinent; this is not the Alice story people know. Descriptions of her being ‘almost Alice’ are apt and is a tag that can easily be applied to the film as a whole. Perhaps, more precisely, viewers should approach the film with the understanding that is is instead ‘after Alice’. Wasikowska’s Alice is noticeably older than the Alice of Carroll’s book and Disney’s animated film and thus has to deal with proposals and family expectations.
The film’s content is visually intricate but its story-telling can sometimes sit uncomfortably with the notions people have about the story and Depp, for once, fails to provide the winning performance of the film. His Hatter is noticeably strange, but his apparent schizophrenia is sometimes confusing and bombards the film with unnecessary layers. The strange relationship that teeters between Alice and the Hatter can sometimes be unsettling. Anne Hathaway’s White Queen lacks screen time and it is instead Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen who steals the show.
Alice’s listing of impossible things she could believe before breakfast is misplaced, being reeled out amidst a fight with the Jabberwocky and the film’s momentum seems to be regularly stalled by the imposition of new material. With the quirky content of the story it is amazing that Burton has picked up the Alice story sooner, but it is a shame that the story was revamped; a live-action adaptation of the book would have been a spectacle in itself but Burton’s active decision to revitalise the story by setting the story some time in Alice’s future and implanting several flashbacks in order to give Alice a framework cost him some rave reviews, instead creating a film that is made mediocre by its handling of a well-loved story.
Best line: ‘Off with their heads!’
Best performance: Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen.
Dwayne Johnson was considered to play the part of the Mad Hatter!