Saturday, March 13, 2010

Alice in Wonderland.

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland rides high on the success of the recent 3D release that was James Cameron's Avatar. After looking at the trailers it is no wonder that it has already smashed a couple of box-office records, including the biggest Imax opening ever. A smashing combination of live action and animation, Burton, in his own Burtonesque way creates a whole new kind of Wonderland.

By now, it is safe to say that Tim Burton has had his fair share of success with his techniques of putting a veil over most of the stories he tells. The pale and heartwarming Edward Scissorhands, the sleek and heavy Ed Wood, the unpredictable Batman, the brilliant Sleepy Hollow, the charming Corpse Bride, and the equally strange Big Fish to name a few. His latest ventures with Charlie and Sweeney Todd have met with equal success. To no surprise, he incorporates the exact same elements in his Alice. The film marks his umpteenth collaboration with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Several others are hidden behind the faces of cats and caterpillars, mice and bloodhounds, and at last, the Jabberowcky.

From the very start, one finds something missing in Alice, the film and the character itself. Mia Wasikowska's Alice is lacklustre. She seems to be misplaced everywhere, whether it is in the presence of her peers or in the presence of strange talking creatures. Perhaps Burton's advice to her is to not fit in to her surroundings? Perhaps his Alice is just that, a misfit wherever she goes. We shall never know. The opening 10minutes put the 19 year old Alice in a series of situations where she tries to show us that she is indeed different from the others around her. Much like her father who thought of 'six impossible things everyday before breakfast', Alice wonders what its like to fly or why someone cant paint the white roses red, only to be chided as silly. She is told off as if she is not to speak of such fantastical things lest the royalty around her yell 'Off with her head'. And then there is that preposterous awkward moment between her and her brother-in-law (Spoiler) when she walks in on him kissing another woman followed by the most outrageous exchange of dialogue and acting. Then again, much like Alice and Burton's other films, maybe she doesn't want to fit in. There are numerous exchanges of dialogue that go quite a distance in showing us that there are things that happen undercover. Whether it is the brother-in-law's kissing another woman or the head-to toe clad English ladies skinny-dipping, Burton for some reason, tries to fit in certain behind the scenes actions of the English royalty.

The first bit of glee comes when one sees the rabbit scampering through the bushes. Alice, abandoning all things, follows it. And then down the rabbit hole. Burton's Alice in Wonderland has some marvelous set design. Its often difficult to decipher between what is complete graphics and what is actually a set. The teapot and the room with the doors and quite a few others. Indeed, the first thing one will notice about Wonderland is its complete lack of anything looking happy. The colors, once again Burtonesque, echo Sleepy Hollow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All around is grave. Danger lurks.

The broadest smile comes in the form of Chessur, the Chesire Cat voiced marvelously by Stephen Fry. It is his and Alan Rickman's Caterpillar, Absolem, who seem most pronounced in spite of the absence of their physical self. Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter seems to be a display of a wild array of accents and nothing more. Honestly, he is too decked up with make up to give us a performance. Bonham Carter seems to have tried her best at being the Red Queen. It was perhaps her rendition that was most looked forward to given the size of her head.

Alice in Wonderland is a tale of gorgeous sets and technology. There isn't much performance to see here. Its plain popping-out-of-the-screen visuals. Burton seems to have done his best to show us an older Alice. She treads on the many severed heads as she crosses the moat to the Red Queen's palace, she fights the dreaded Jabberwocky, befriends the Bandersnatch etc etc. All the above, things only Tim Burton can execute. A mark of Alice's ageing perhaps. But, as a visual experience Alice in Wonderland doesn't disappoint. The animated characters are far more watchable than the human ones in Alice. Linda Woolverton's script is weak. The dialogue gets repetitive.

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is quite bland. It lacks that fine tuning that is often there in a Burton movie. Its almost as if he didn't really want to make it entirely his own. One can only take so much of Bonham Carter yelling 'Off with her/his head'. Somehow certain characteristics are better left to be read in books. It suffers from a few sorry scenes and dialogues post-conclusion. It would have been better called Malice in Underland. Watch it in 3D for the additional thrill which isn't really present in it at all. The trailers are really far better than the film itself.