Tim Burton has done it again, and no, that is not a good thing.
The worst part about this movie is that it has a plot, a plot that is easy to follow and, worst of all, predictable. Summed up in a single sentence: A full grown Alice returns to wonderland to obtain the vorple sword and kill the Jabberwocky.
Yes that’s right, the Jabberwocky, the made up creature in a poem in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.” Director Tim Burton decided to make up a plot based around the famed nonsensical poem. Also the fact that the Jabberwocky slayer is a boy does not mean anything to Burton, as this plot hole is filled by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) calling Alice (Mia Wasikowska) a boy.
Wasikowska’s performance was lukewarm. Her sense of wonder was missing and instead replaced with a sort of stoned ignorance. Alice thought her adventure was just a dream even after being stabbed in the foot and crying out in pain. This movie was not “Alice in Wonderland,” but Alice in Denial.
Her character was weak, despite the feminist overtones (refusing to wear a corset and stockings, not sure if she wants to marry) of her character. Her character was also annoying, whining about everything that happened to her. This allows her to wonder around with as little agency in what happens to her as a piece of paper on the wind.
Depp gave a good performance as the Mad Hatter, but one particular fact annoyed me about his character: His back story. Instead of keeping the Mad Hatter an unknown and mysterious character, the audience is shown a flashback of his life before madness and turmoil. This back story did nothing to enhance his character, but in fact ruined his character, along with too much unnecessary and pointless focus on him throughout the movie. It was obvious Burton wanted the audience to sympathize with the Hatter, but it just felt cheap.
The next problem with this movie is the action. Instead of a mind trip back into Wonderland, the audience is met with an action scene early in the movie. There are many action scenes throughout, and the climax of the movie revolves around a large action scene. This is “Alice in Wonderland” right? The action scenes were uninspired and formulaic. Nothing special here at all, and they end predictably as well.
A major flaw with this movie is the excessive use of the literary device deus ex machina. Deus ex machina translates as “god the machine,” and the device acts as a failsafe for every writer who writes their characters into a corner and has no other way of bailing them out. This happens several times to Alice. In the beginning, she is chased by a Bandersnatch (another beast from the Jabberwocky poem). However, she is about the size of a human hand, and should easily be caught by the Bandersnatch, yet she escapes it somehow.
Another use of deus ex machina is when Alice is being hunted by the Knave (Crispin Glover) and escapes near capture twice. However, the Knave was close enough to where Alice was that he should have seen her himself, and this left me very confused and annoyed.
One may remember watching the original Disney “Alice in Wonderland” movie, and recall the talented voice acting. Some of these talented originals include Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter), Richard Haydn (Caterpillar), and Sterling Holloway (Cheshire Cat). Their voices were very unique and they brought that quality to the original movie.
In this movie, however, the voice talent, including Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Alan Rickman (Caterpillar), and Michael Sheen (the White Rabbit), lacked uniqueness and character that made those characters so beloved by many. The voice talent for most of the characters was stale and boring, which frustrated me even further with this movie.
The movie was not all bad, not with the intense visual imagination that Burton exudes in his movies. The look of Wonderland was like a look into Burton’s head, with the unique renditions of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the White Queen (a stark white Anne Hathaway with very dark make-up), the colorful features of the Mad Hatter, and the distorted features of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her court.
The visuals and special effects certainly helped the movie, but they were like putting a fresh coat of paint over a wall full of cracks. The movie disappointed me and has me seriously questioning Burton as a director.