Oh, Wonderland! Where everything that is nonsense makes sense, and everything that is sensible is non-existent. The story of “Alice in Wonderland” is a story that far surpasses just plain fantasy, entering into the realm of the whimsically bizarre. Who better to create a whimsically bizarre place than that of visionary director Tim Burton?
This updated version of Wonderland and its strange inhabitants is a tad darker, a much more sinister than previous versions of the Alice tale. Menacing monsters and dragons inhabit Wonderland now. The famous Cheshire Cat looks equal parts cuddly and menacing. Everything has that Burton-esque touch that only Tim can provide.
Continuing on from the first time Alice visited Wonderland, this new version from Disney starts out with a full grown Alice about to be married off to a wealthy aristocrat in Victorian era England. Always the independent soul, Alice doesn’t want to marry the man. She has dreams, strange ones. They always involve a white rabbit wearing a coat, and a cat that never stops smiling.
After following the White Rabbit to a tree, Alice falls down the rabbit hole and is sucked into Wonderland. Tim Burton’s Wonderland is treacherous. Alice is met by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. She’s instructed that she must slay the Jabberwocky, it is her destiny as it is foretold by the all-knowing scroll. Lost yet? No matter, because nothing matters here.
It’s all about the visuals, the hidden jokes, and the oddball characters. Johnny Depp, as the Mad Hatter, is what acting perfection looks like. He was born to inhabit a role such as this. Helena Bonham Carter, plays the big-headed, Red Queen who has taken over Wonderland ruling with an iron fist. Cruel, and happy to chop of anyone’s head she likes, the Red Queen rules by fear. Her counterpart and sister, the White Queen, rules gently. Anne Hathaway, is prissy enough to pull off the wispy whimsy that is the White Queen.
The White and Red Queens are at an impasse, and must duel each other for supremacy over Wonderland. The Jabberwocky is the Red Queen’s tool for destruction, Alice must stop it.
Even though we know exactly how the movie will end, it’s still amazingly fun to see it all play out. Tim Burton’s Wonderland is a sight to behold. It’s characters and creatures are created with such imagination and care that you’ll find yourself lost in a truly magnificent world of shapes and colors. Last year’s animated movie called “9,” was another movie with a standard plot, accompanied by stunning visuals. Sometimes movies are just fun to look at. Leave it to Burton to make his CG work appear less like CG work, and more like traditional animation. The 3D isn’t overly nauseating either, adding a nice depth to the film, which doesn’t stoop to any 3D gimmicks that remind us that we’re watching 3D.
In the case of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” it’s definitely an example of style over substance, but here that’s a good thing.