Richard’s Year of Movies — Alice in Wonderland
March 10, 2010 2 Comments
Congratulations, Tim Burton. You’ve become the Steven Spielberg of your generation.
You’ve made your Hook.
Because Burton’s Alice in Wonderland spectacularly buries any magic its story might have under overbearing production design just like Spielberg’s misguided Peter Pan story did.
And it doesn’t help that Burton seems to have been making the same film for the last ten years or so. Oh look, it’s twisty trees. Oh look, it’s Johnny Depp being eccentric. Oh look, he managed to get his wife in the film.
There’s definitely an interesting story in the idea of Alice going back to Wonderland on the verge of adulthood as opposed to going there as a child, and how the characters there change — either for real or in her perception — as she has changed. But this isn’t it. You know how the story is going to play out the moment you see Alice being railroaded into marriage at the beginning of the film, and you’re offered no real surprises along the way.
The film seems to rely too much on our preconceived notions of the Wonderland characters investing them with life instead of creating them itself. It’s as if you’re being told, “Hey, remember how much you liked the Disney cartoon? Well, here’s those same characters you liked!” Alice just stumbles across all of them, and no effort is made to make us care about them beyond beating us over the head with how Burton has re-imagined them.
And of course, that re-imagining is the obvious, tired Hot Topic look Burton’s been trotting out forever. I know they were going for a Wonderland in decline, but everything looks so dreary and not rather wondrous at all. There are a few moments of visual magic, particularly when Alice is flung high above the Jabberwock during their battle and the sun glistens off her armor. But that’s near the end of the film, and by then. you’ve been beaten down by the lifeless look of the film.
Burton seriously needs to step outside of his comfort zone. He needs a story that will challenge him to look at his style in a different way. Right now he’s a great batting practice hitter who’s terrified he might get in the game and see a curveball.
Oh, a pet peeve: “Jabberwocky” is the name of the poem. Jabberwock is the name of the monster. Got it? Good.