1 ) Visually, Burton’s film is an aesthetic treat although I saw it first in 3D and wasted $14 on special effects that would have worked just fine in boring ol’ 2D. Thematically, there seemed to be some sort of message attempting to burst through the orgy of CG animation and peculiar plot points, but if the “reboot” or re-imagining was purposefully feminist I didn’t find much in Mia Wasikowska’s acting or Tim Burton’s interpretation of the classic character to be very inspiring, from the point of a female viewer. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter was off-kilter but not delightfully so, and giving the dormouse (and many other characters) strange names and new personalities made for a very jarring story if the audience was at all familiar with the original story. Anne Hathaway was endearing because she is Anne Hathaway, and the screenwriter afforded her some of the film’s very few humorous moments – in contrast, Helena Bonham Carter was her usual lisping, bizarre self and completely lacked any of the original Red Queen’s harmless and often humorous ire.
2) Alice and her adventures in Wonderland are divided into two stories often published in the same volume, so various other adaptations of the novel usually combine elements and characters from both – for me, I can find no fault with either of the Alice stories because as a child I never tried to see them as anything but the fantastical, satisfyingly absurd accounts that they were. I personally don’t believe that Lewis Carroll meant to impart any deeper meaning than Jim Davis did in creating Garfield – sometimes stories can simply be stories, and I never found any moral or warning in Alice’s adventures as are meant to be gleaned from Grimm’s fairy tales or Aesop’s fables. The Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit” is one of the many interpretations of the Alice stories as thinly-veiled allusions to hallucinogenic drugs, and “down the rabbit hole” has become a euphemism for willingly jumping head-first into the unknown, but I would rather embrace Wonderland as the silly, nonsensical place that I hope it was meant to be. This was probably a very poor literary analysis, I apologize.
3) http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-03-02/film/tim-burton-s-alice-in-wonderland/ (Largely negative review of the film)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bryan-young/review-tim-burtons-emalic_b_484160.html (Mixed review of the film, in my opinion entirely too laudatory)
http://thephoenix.com/boston/movies/98106-alice-in-wonderland/ (Humorously but also justifiably negative review of the film)
I found the third link to be the most helpful in better understanding why I didn’t enjoy Burton’s adaptation because it compares Alice to his earlier works and points out the elements from Burton’s (in the reviewer’s opinion) better films that are missing in this ridiculously successful blockbuster. The reviewer is not openly slandering Burton’s filmmaking or bemoaning the fact that Alice fails to meet his expectations, but instead he is raising thoughtful issues about why, in his view, the film doesn’t work. The wonder is gone, replaced by commercial hype and the money-making staples of contemporary cinema : special effects, enormous CG landscapes, and the unnecessary element of the third dimension.
4) In Burton’s Alice, the character Alice is an adult, compared to the original book, in which Alice is a child. How does this change the story? What themes are present in the film that are not present in the book?
Alice as a young adult sets a more serious tone for the film that moves away from the curiosity and the childhood paradigm of the original book’s Alice – child-Alice reacts to the absurdity of Wonderland with the parameters that have been set for her as a young girl with a nurse and an older sister who are attempting to teach her her lessons and the ways of the world, which child-Alice often misinterprets or simply misunderstands, as is the case when she is falling down the rabbit hole and wonders if she will come out on the other side of the world where the people “walk with their heads downwards”, about 4000 miles through the center of the Earth. Child-Alice is endearing in her naivete and her belief that she must behave properly even when the creatures around her are acting quite oddly. In contrast, Burton’s adult-Alice is neither charming nor particularly likeable in that she refuses to believe that her experiences are anything but a dream – if she really believed she was dreaming, one might expect her to have a bit more fun with this colorful dreamscape, but instead she is bullied by a dormouse and argues with just about every character she meets until Alan Rickman’s severely un-funny and un-interesting Caterpillar somehow convinces her to don her armor and just slay the damn Jabberwocky already since apparently her entire fate has already been decided courtesy of the Oraculum, a prophetic scroll that is never satisfyingly explained to the poor audience. Adult-Alice must deal with a heroic element that is lacking in the book, fulfilling her destiny and colorlessly acting her way through this theme of the quest and the triumph of good over evil with which Lewis Carroll never bothered burdening his curious and self-lecturing child-Alice.