Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is not the whimsical, light-hearted, nonsensical tale of Lewis Carroll. The names, the characters and the dialogue from Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass are all there – but they hail from a CGI-bombed, darker, gothic which is aptly named “Underland” and not “Wonderland” as Alice mistakenly thinks.
In an effort to make Lewis Carroll’s tales more mainstream, Burton has twisted the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and almost every other character beyond recognition. Falling for the Hollywood fallacy, that every successful movie needs a villainous, a victim and a heroine, Burton makes the Red Queen the bad one, the White Queen – the damsel in distress awaiting rescue from the hero – in this case, Alice herself.
The movie-Alice (Mia Wasikowska) differs from the book-Alice in that she is 13 years older and suffers from too little imagination where the latter suffers from an over-dose of it. The star-studded movie starts with a young Alice dreaming of falling down a rabbit hole and relating the nightmare to her father, entrepreneur Charles Kingsleigh.
About 13 years later, societal pressure is forcing her to accept a marriage proposal from the rich, wealthy but rather gormless Lord Ascot. At their grand engagement party at a country mansion, Alice is saved from replying to Ascot when she spots the white rabbit of her dreams. She runs after the white rabbit in true Alice-fashion, falls down the rabbit hole and emerges in the world of Underland.
It is here that she learns that her mission in Underland would be to slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen, on Frabjous Day and restore the White Queen to power.
How Alice does slay the Jabberwocky with the help of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Cheshire Cat and the Bandersnatch forms the rest of this curious tale. For the book-lovers, what would be so non-Alicish, is seeing Alice donning mail armour and Vorpel sword and battling with the Jabberwocky in true 21st century feminist style in the climax.
With lots of action, high-fi DTS sound effects and the ever-encompassing charm of Alice’s world, this movie should prove engrossing, shouldn’t it? But that’s where it falls flat! In this curiously, grey-tinted film even the funniest of Lewis Carroll’s lines take a sombre and gothic hue. The storyline instead of taking off from the books is loosely based on the Jabberwocky nonsense poem from The Looking Glass.
But more than the uninspired storyline, the unimpressive 3-D, what really sticks in the throat and makes one gag, is seeing Alice, emerging at the end of the movie as a colonial trader off to conquer China. What is Disney trying to say? Are they trying to glorify colonialism? In an effort to portray Alice as feminist and capable, they manage to be dashed insensitive to the sufferings of China under colonial rule.
All in all, if people were to treat Alice in Wonderland as just another mindless action movie, they would be happier watching it, than if they tried to rediscover the world of Lewis Carroll in it.