Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tim Burton — a supposed match in cinema heaven. Lewis Carroll’s famous dreamscapes and eccentric characters mixed with Burton’s quirky direction made “Alice in Wonderland” a film to look out for, with Burton fans aching to see his so-called “magnum opus.” However, Burton’s revisiting to the iconic Wonderland only offers the visual beauty of using a looking glass and it severely disappoints in terms of substance — lacking the depth of any rabbit-hole.
A purported “sequel” to the original, “Alice in Wonderland” stars Mia Wasikowska as the 19-year-old Alice who runs away from an arranged marriage and mistakenly goes back to Wonderland. Alice quickly finds out her destiny is to defeat a fearsome creature named the Jabberwocky and thus end the reign of terror of the tyrannical Red Queen, who is played by Helena Bonham Carter.
But the story behind Alice’s adventures has always been overshadowed by the idiosyncratic characters that accompany the young heroine. Burton’s re-telling is no exception and the essence behind all the classic characters — including the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and, most famously, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) remains intact.
Undoubtedly, Depp and Burton make a dynamic duo. Depp, who starred in some of Burton’s best films, including “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Edward Scissorhands,” marks another collaboration with the acclaimed director — this one being subpar to his usual performances. As the Mad Hatter, Depp invokes a “jack of all trades, master of none” direction and though this mesh of personalities is what creates the aspect of the Mad Hatter, Depp’s performance is still tiresome and this is because of a paper-thin plot.
Though the supporting characters of “Alice in Wonderland” are the major focus, this doesn’t make the predictable story-line any more forgivable. The script doesn’t follow any sort of conventional pacing and jumps around without explanation until the disappointing and unsatisfying third act — a cliché-ridden action sequence that feels out of place from the awe-inspiring Wonderland.
Mia Wasikowska’s second departure into feature films following “Defiance” does little to showcase her acting chops. As Alice, Wasikowska is full of angst and sarcasm — something that Carrol’s original Alice would not be capable of. Though it seems plausible young Alice’s curiosity would subside as she became a young woman, this makes her character much less interesting and much less likable.
Burton, however, seems to embrace this dullness in his representation of Alice. It’s her dullness that magnifies the quirks and demons of her supporting cast but considering that Alice is supposed to be the heroine that saves the troubled Wonderland and leaves audience cheering, this miscalculation is terribly damning and weakens the grasp that the film holds on the audience’s interest.
“Alice in Wonderland” is the type of movie that you try to like but simply cannot. Sadly for Burton, even top-notch visuals cannot save the boredom inducing plot and poor pacing. Perhaps Wonderland is like New Jersey, you visit once and then stay far away.
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