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Through the Looking Glass March 2, 2010

Posted by Paula in Cinematics, Lit.
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Make and Deux were lucky enough to get preview tickets to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D last week. Sadly, Patrick arrived too late to actually attend the screening, and was left stranded and extremely hungover on O’Connell St. But that is another story. I was there and lived to tell the tale. And what a tale it is.

Even before we reach Wonderland (or Underland, which we learn is the correct name for the land that lies down the rabbit hole), Burton indulges his delight in all things skewed and technicolor, and creates a whole host of mad and maddening friends, neighbours and relations. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has aged 13 years since her first trip to Wonderland, and is now in danger of being married off to a snooty Lord of the Manor with a “delicate digestive system”. That is, of course, before she starts to chase after a certain white rabbit at her own engagement party.

The completely satirical version of a stiff-upper-lip English society in which Alice lives probably the closest Burton gets to staying faithful to Lewis Carroll’s original book and the inspriration behind it. The entire Wonderland story has been completely revamped, Burton-ised and loaded with CGI.

Alice has been drafted back to Wonderland for a second time by the White Rabbit and co, who believe it is her destiny to slay the mighty Jabberwocky and restore peace. It might be a different story, but this is Wonderland at its finest. The moment Alice takes her plunge down the rabbit hole, you can almost hear Burton screaming with glee. From the insects (Horseflies? No. Tiny rocking horses with wings? Yes) to the Red Queen’s palace (manned by frog footmen), every scene is crammed with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is just as haphazard as in previous incarnations of the story, but the whole scene is darker and a bit more unnerving than what Disney presented us with last time. The whole thing looks like a Salvador Dali painting that has been slightly washed out to make everything a bit more muted. At the head of the table is Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter, who is the true star of the film. Depp has created a character who shifts from mad to caring to tragic and then right back to mad again, just to confuse us.

Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the Red Queen. Even with a hideously swollen forehead and a pwoblem pwonouncing her aw’s, she is a steely and terrifying ruler who has the whole of Wonderland at her beck and call. Her servants (the ones who aren’t frogs, that is) all secretly attach oversized prosthetic addendums onto various body parts so that the Red Queen’s huge cranium does not look out of place. There’s a lot to be said for loyalty.

Though the CGI throughout the film doesn’t quite reach the standard set by Avatar, Burton’s Wonderland was not intended to look anything like real life, and so the jarring colours and the crudeness of some of the animation work perfectly. Burton is in his element in this film, and has clearly relished the chance to create a land where abnormality is the order of the day. Yes, I felt like I may have unknowingly ingested some hallucinogens before commencing viewing, but is that such a bad thing?

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1. Patrick - March 3, 2010

Having now seen it, I must wholeheartedly agree with much of what Paula says here. Especially that bit about Salvador Dali. Paula’s so worldly.


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