The White Rabbit is sent on a desperate mission to locate Alice and return her to the realm of Wonderland to fight as the White Queenâ€™s champion and restore peace to the kingdom.
The Red Queen has taken over Wonderland by force. After over throwing her sister (The White Queen), Red now rules the land with an iron fist. The White Rabbit is sent to retrieve Alice so that she may fight as the White Queenâ€™s champion but Alice has problems of her own. Now 19 years of age, she finds herself in a marriage proposal, desperately misses her late father, is plagued with nightmares and discovers that the man that her sister is set to marry is cheating on her. Alice also appears to be afraid of growing up. Amidst the chaos of her personal life she is led to a rabbit hole by the mysterious White Rabbit and finds herself, once again in Wonderland. The only problem is, Alice doesnâ€™t remember her first visit and is convinced it is all a dream.
She encounters the White Rabbit, the Dormouse Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and the Dodo Bird. They take her to the Caterpillar to find out if she is the â€œrightâ€ Alice they have been looking for. The Caterpillar denounces her and they are soon attacked by the Bandersnatch beast that was sent by the Red Queen to destroy Alice and to stop the prophecy that she will slay the Jabberwock and dethrone the Queen.
Aliceâ€™s journey begins as she encounters the Mad Hatter and the March Hare who aid her on her quest. All the while the Red Queenâ€™s Knight, Stayne is hunting her down and the Mad Hatter is captured. During her adventures, Alice finds herself at the Red Queenâ€™s castle but no one recognizes her thanks to her increased height (courtesy of some cake) and how much she has aged since her last visit. The Queen makes her her â€œfavoriteâ€ and Alice sets to rescue the Hatter and steal the sword that rightfully belongs to the White Queen. Unfortunately her attempt to rescue the Hatter fails and itâ€™s up to the Cheshire Cat to save him from a beheading. Alice and the Hatter along with some other friends reunite at the White Queenâ€™s castle where Alice finally realizes that Wonderland is real and remembers her first visit. She agrees to fight for the White Queen and faces the Jabberwock. After defeating him in a fierce battle on the human chess board, she bids farewell to her companions and returns to the real world where she is ready to face her problems.
Visually the movie plays out like a glorious piece of art work come to life. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not the first to say that it looks like the Wonderland of my dreams. It is truly stunning to watch and very easy to get lost in the atmosphere. The CG revolving around such characters as the Cheshire Cat and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were beautifully done. Cleary the character designs for such characters as the twins and the Red Queen (who is actually the merging of two separate characters The Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen) were based on the bookâ€™s original illustrations. It was nice to see some accuracy there. Mia Wasikowska was a very convincing Alice and it was a pleasure to see how much the character grew (emotionally and mentally) by the end of the film. Helena Bonham Carter was a fantastic Queen, Crispin Glover an entertaining villain as Stayne and Anne Hathaway was the perfect fairy tale Queen. Every actor played their part with perfection. The casting was excellent in this film. Johnny Depp was charming and lovable as the Mad Hatter and his friendship with the teenage Alice was very touching and heart warming.
There were a few things about the script that rubbed me the wrong way, the first being that the writers chose to change the name of the realm of Wonderland. The true name is â€œUnderlandâ€. Apparently during her first visit several years earlier, Alice was given the wrong pronunciation (which is believable since the Red Queen sometimes pronounces words using the letter â€œWâ€). It could also be that the proper name of the land was simply lost inside her mind along with the rest of her forgotten memories. Whatever the reason, it left me scratching my head and wondering why on earth Tim Burton would change history like this. Thatâ€™s almost like changing the name of the Land of Oz Iâ€™m all for taking creative liberties when it comes to updating a property like Alice but what is Alice without Wonderland? When you change the name of the place that is known throughout the world and beloved to so many, it almost seems insulting. New names were also given to old familiar characters. The caterpillar is now called Absolom and the Dormouse was also given a name though I canâ€™t recall what it was. Again it was just odd to me as a fan of the original books to be making changes like this.
At some points the plot moved slowly and I found myself a bit bored. I was frustrated it took Alice almost until the end of the film to remember that she had been to Wonderland before. Although she argues that she is â€œnot the right Aliceâ€, clearly audience members know better and I yearned for her to stop denying who she was and to accept the truth. While I did enjoy seeing the flashback scenes of her first visit, I feel it may have been more interesting if she was having flashbacks through out her journey.
When I heard that Tim Burton was making this film I had very much hoped that he would give it the tone of â€œSleepy Hollowâ€. I thought that we would finally get the dark version of Alice so many of us have craved for years. More than likely he went for a softer tone because he was doing the film in partnership with Disney and they wanted a wholesome family film. In a way itâ€™s a good thing because clearly Lewis Carroll did intend for this fairytale to be for children without the gore (unlike most of the original fairy tales) so it is staying true to the literature. Alas it looks as if American McGeeâ€™s Alice PC video game is the darkest retelling of Wonderland we will ever get.
My final thought is that I liked the film but I didnâ€™t love it as I hoped I would. I expected more from Tim Burton and it did feel a bit underwhelming. I think the story telling could have picked up in certain places since it appeared to move slowly. Visually it was stunning and the cast was superb. The setting and costume designs were phenomenal. Part of me is yearning to see it again and return to Wonderland.
I give Alice in Wonderland three and a half stars.