Monday, March 15, 2010

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

First and foremost, allow me to thank the management at the Empire Studio 16 Country Hills Theatre for finally installing some comfortable seating! Empire 16 is notoriously known in the city for having the most terrible theatre seating. The seats are angled so oddly, almost as if the seat backs were < 90 degrees. The cushioning was thin and they were poorly maintained and often stained with substances which should remain unknown. The new seating is amazing and blows away the chairs at Sunridge Spectrum. They rock as the Spectrum ones, but the geometry is orientated in such a way that you feel as you are reclining. The padding is cush and above all, they are new and clean (for now)! I’m not sure if all 16 theatres have been outfitted with the new seating, but make sure you catch a show in one of the 4 big theatres there so you can see what I’m saying. Kudos Empire 16, and it’s about time! Now, on to the review.

Upon reading initial reviews on Alice in Wonderland, I gathered that the film was a mediocre visual orgasm. The film opened to poor reviews, barely garnering a fresh rating of about 52%. The streets were also talking, and the reviews were mixed to say the least. Some said that the film was terrible, that it was a waste of 3D technology and that the story was butchered. Others said that the film was great, that the 3D was great and that the story plays well to the original. After all was said and done, I simply remembered that opinions are like assholes; everyone has one. I had to see the film for myself to form an opinion about it, so I humbly present to you my asshole (no homo) on Alice in Wonderland.

The plot of the film follows the classic Lewis Carroll story, taking from his novels Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Alice is a 19th century girl with her head in the clouds, questioning the norms and values of the aristocratic society from which she grew up in. Distracted Alice spots a white rabbit in the garden and follows it into the woods where she eventually falls down the proverbial rabbit hole. She soon finds that she has landed into a mysterious world of oddball characters where the impossible is possible. Immediately she is thrown into a whirlwind of events to achieve a sort of destiny as savior to the Underland by dethroning the unruly Red Queen.

Alice is a visual masterpiece, which should not come as any surprise to anyone considering Tim Burton directed this film. I couldn’t think of a better fit for this film then Burton, as he masterfully built a Wonderland that played more to the Jefferson Airplane anthem, “White Rabbit” then the original animated film. Burton is a contemporary surrealist that would make Salvador Dali proud; the wild settings and characters look as though they are something out of a Dali painting, greatly excessive and intensely bizarre. These are two themes that are synonymous with Alice in Wonderland.

As with most Tim Burton films, the costume designs and makeup are highly original and exaggerated. The Red Queen, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is a fantastic example of how important the costume and makeup is to the character design. The fantastic red heart shaped “afro” a top of the Red Queen’s bulbous and enlarged head is a great example of how to effectively create a memorable character through the use of makeup, hair and costume design. The fiery orange hair, eerie yellow eyes and embellished cheekbones of the Mad Hatter or the milky white skin, dark lips and flowing white dress of the White Queen are other examples of how Burton effectively conveys his vision through make up and costume design and displays how important it is to the entire feel and memory of a film.

The use of 3D was understated but I found it to be fairly effective and somewhat worthwhile. One complaint is that the 3D was lame and that it wasn’t as in your face as it has been in other films. I on the other hand liked that the film makers weren’t trying to surprise the audience with things seeming like they are flying off the screen into their faces (that’s what she said). The 3D created great depth to the characters making for contrast from the characters and the scenes. The only discrepancy this created for me is that I was unsure about whether or not the fantastic set pieces were actually sets at all or CGI as the characters popped so much that the sets sometimes seemed flat and lacked depth. I would be curious enough to see the movie again without the 3D just to see/admire the set pieces for this film, because as anyone who has been to Disneyland knows, Disney does not hold back when it comes to creating set pieces. I would be deeply disappointed if I were to find out that the sets were in fact CGI. My favorite parts were the enlarged set pieces for mini Alice.

The acting was stellar, although Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice, was rather flat and tired. Sadly, the original animated Alice had more depth then the real life Alice. Good thing she was surrounded by the likes of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. Depp and Carter are the usual Burton fare, Carter being Burton’s domestic partner and Burton being Depp’s biggest fan. Hathaway, the newcomer, actually stole the show in my opinion. Yes, I have a bit of a crush on Anne Hathaway! I think she is smokin’ hot and a talented actress. She was elegance defined; the way she looked, dressed and moved was completely captivating.

Overall, I found the film to be pretty good. It is a fair adaptation of the original animated film, however, lacks in its ability to challenge reality and logic as the Carroll novels do. It is a visual smorgasbord complete with gorgeous costume, hair and makeup designs, enchanting sets and seamless CGI. The movie is not without the usual Burton morbidity that fans have come to love and expect. It is a film for all ages that should be appreciated in its own right. Burton made up for his adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with this adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Being a visionary, I enjoyed this film and recommend it.



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