Directed by Tim Burton
Alice in Wonderland
Just so you know, “Alice in Wonderland” was not filmed in 3-D, but in glorious old two-dimensions, then converted to 3-D in the optical editing. And you don’t need to see it in 3-D because very little on screen is enhanced at all by the addition of another D, other than the very final shot of Absolem the Caterpillar, now a butterfly, of course, as he flutters from the plane of the screen out toward the audience in the beam of the projector – a nice touch, but definitely not worth the extra money.
Having said that, “Alice in Wonderland” turns out to be a wonderfully tasty Tim Burton film. It’s not Lewis Carroll’s story, though it uses many of his characters, and up until a studio-crafted violent ending (Alice cuts off the Jabberwocky’s head, on screen) the film is astonishingly sweet and witty. It begins with the19-year-old Alice being brought out to her aunt’s lawn for her engagement party to an utter dunce. But Alice sees a rabbit in a waistcoat and follows it down the hole into Underland, where she is in immediate danger from the Red Queen (“Off with their heads,” screams Helena Bonham Carter) and must use her allies – Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Stephen Fry as a disappearing Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as Absolem the Caterpillar, and a few others, all of them just delicious in their roles – to escape the Red Queen and find her sister the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Alice is nicely played by Mia Wasikowska as a mix of innocence and daring.
Burton’s scriptwriter is Linda Woolverton, and she and Burton have made a wise decision by moving Alice from her traditional age as an 8-year-old into the 19-year-old who can look back on her first encounter with all the characters of the stories – bits are taken both from “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” – and react this time more as an adult. There’s no writing down or any kind of insistence on looking at events through a child’s eyes, and the film’s bookends of the engagement party and the marriage proposal are entirely appropriate.
And Burton has done a wonderfully bizarre thing: almost all the Underland characters except for Depp as the Mad Hatter have been digitally reshaped into great exaggerations of themselves – the Red Queen has a huge head, the Cheshire Cat has a great smile, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are round, fat little men – and Depp has that beautiful, mobile face and with his makeup he needs no digital work at all. I was enchanted with “Alice,” and I think you will be too.