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NOT: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland poster NOT: Alice in WonderlandTim Burton is a director with a very distinct view of things. He tends to show the beauty in some of the most unlikely characters, embrace the dark and review a new good within it. Some might say he is the Mad Hatter of the world of cinema.

However, his latest film Alice in Wonderland is a disappointing experience. It is slow, boring, conventional and so not Burton. It seems Disney has pulled on the reins.

The story is loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s famous work. I say loosely because the screenplay written by Linda Woolverton imagines Alice’s return to Wonderland/Underland, where pretty much only the characters remain intact. Alice is now a young woman trying to define her individuality. So, at the most opportune moment, the White Rabbit pulls her down the hole once again in an adventure where she will determine not only the destiny of Wonderland/Underland but also her own

The Wonderland/Underland she returns to has been ravaged by war and left rotting. She’s given the treatment of the savior, but she must first acknowledge it herself. Pretty standard fare, isn’t it? Good work, Woolverton.

The story goes in starts and stops. At points, the action picks up but is not fueled enough to propel the viewer throughout the entire film. I felt a bit like Alice growing and shrinking again and again; it felt tiring. The dialogue also isn’t very polished, as some of the most memorable characters of the story never get a good line. The focus is obviously on the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen, who have the best lines and scenes. On that note, both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter live and breathe these characters. I cannot imagine someone else doing a better job.
On the other side of the fence though, Anne Hathaway feels awkward and fake as the White Queen. She wants to be over the top for Burton but ends up out of place. Nicole Kidman would have made a better White Queen, especially since she’s used to quirky stories from working with Baz Luhrmann.

Leaving the story and the acting aside, the set and costume design are fantastic. This is the one place where Burton seals the deal and delivers. The fantastical land is brought back as a gothic forest complete with intriguing animals and insects. From the Red Queen’s digitally-enlarged head to the Mad Hatter’s green eyes, from Alice’s pale skin to the creature animation, the visuals are wonderful.

The visual kudos cannot save this film though from what it is: a boring, conventional aimed-at-children’s story. I especially cannot forgive how the Mad Hatter’s charisma, built so meticulously by Depp, is completely destroyed towards the end with what might seem a harmless act. I cannot spill the beans completely here as there might be some of you still wanting to see the film even after reading this.

All in all, if I were the Red Queen, I would have said “Off with his head!”
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