I rarely go to see movies in the theatre. It pains me to spend the kind of money it costs, and I rarely feel I've gotten my money's worth. I'd rather buy a book and get hours and hours of enjoyment (or a bottle of wine, for that matter!)
But I wanted to see Alice in Wonderland. I love Tim Burton. I love Johnny Depp. And Helena Bonham Carter. I knew the (first) story (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). For whatever reason, I didn't feel the same way about this film as I did about the Narnia pictures. I couldn't bring my self to see those because they were such well-loved books and my mental imagery was so fixed, that I didn't want to experience anyone else's portrayal of the children and their adventures. But, perhaps because I had seen various versions the Alice story before, I really wanted to see Tim Burton's take on it all.
Burton's Alice has the right feel. It's fantastical, magical, swooping, and dazzling. Dark and then light, funny and then sombre and then a riddle. It's a little darker than I expected, but it worked. The CGI work done to the “live” actors is incredible, on top of terrific performances. I was particularly taken by Anne Hathaway's White Queen, the subtle, airy, insubstantial feel she gave to her character, greatly supported by the pale colours and contrasting dark brows, lips, and nails. Her little finger wiggle-wave when she's thinking or stating something is perfect. Enough has been said about Depp. He's great. Not sure about his little scene near the end. Helena Bonham Carter is a stunning, big-headed, wasp-waisted Red Queen.
I”m not so sure about the story itself. I haven't read Through the Looking Glass, so I'm not sure how much is Carroll's and how much the screenwriter's. The ending was weak, and quite unbelievable (if I can even say that about such a film), but set as it was in the real world, it just didn't ring true. Whatever.
The weakest part of the experience was the 3D. I had read reviews suggesting it was better seen without this technology, but I didn't really believe it. The problem is that the 3D effects come in and out, changing the depth of field, and momentarily knocking you out of the film and reminding you that you are watching a movie in 3D. And this happens frequently. Now, I like the switch from black and white to colour (and back) in the Wizard of Oz. It made sense, and happens when it should. But in Alice, we are constantly being reminded that “ooh, cool, 3D” when the background suddenly goes fuzzy and something comes out at you. This review says it better (Alert: spoilers and a few bad words).
Bottom line: I would have been happier to spend my $15.50 (ack) on a set of Alice books and wait to rent the film to watch on Blu-Ray at home.