March 9, 2010

Burtonified Alice: This rabbit hole is not as wondrous as Lewis Carroll’s!

Yet another random explosion of comments on the movie I saw yesterday! However, before my ricocheting mind lets go of all the thoughts, I have a confession to make. As a little girl, I was in love with Alice. There is certain timelessness in the story of a girl lost far away from home, trying to survive in a world full of quirky creatures and in the process finding her own self. Lost in the book, I would often feel like Alice and my imaginations flew faster than Carroll’s heroine fantasizing all the creatures of Wonderland to be as mysterious and magical as can be. When you go in to watch a movie with those kinds of humongous expectations, it is no surprise that you end up feeling disappointed. After all, it is not your childhood conjured up vision of Alice that you are going to be viewing, it is Tim Burton’s!

This movie represents another one in the long line of movies which is derived from rummaging through classic children’s literature and re-interpreted as a Gothic version by the director and shot through a grimmer, darker prism. Having said that, please don’t get the wrong impression here! It’s not a bad movie by any stretch of imagination. It is actually quite decent compared to 90% of the stuff churned out by Hollywood, but in the final analysis, it’s not the breath-taking, awe-inspiring, curl-your-toes film I wanted and expected from the Oscar-winning Director!

I think it is pointless to analyze the movie in terms of the adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic as it actually proceeds as a sequel of the tale we all know and love. Burton’s Alice is not a confused Victorian child of Carroll’s tale but a grown up 19 year old (played outstandingly with amazing grace and gravitas by Mia Wasikowska) who is more independent and sure of herself. She withstands the pressure to marry an aristocratic prig who doesn’t share her creative imagination and chooses to follow her Rabbit (voice of Michael Sheen) into a hole and into the Underland of her childhood dreams. It is here that the CG effects start coming at you thick and fast in quick succession and you barely find the time to assimilate, let alone like any of the quirky characters of the Underland. Among the famous array of characters Alice meets are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas), Dormouse Mallymkun (voice of Barbara Windsor), Cheshire cat (voice of Stephen Fry), and a smoking Caterpiller (voice of Alan Rickman).

Alice eventually meets the crazy Mad Hatter who becomes her ally in the fight against the Red Queen so as to enable the White Queen to return to power in Underland. Mad Hatter has been played superbly by Johnny Depp, although he occasionally gives you a feeling of déjà vu with his character. I think it is time for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to divorce each other so we as viewers can see a spark of freshness in their characters and films. Helena Bonham Carter was brilliant as the Queen of Hearts and stole the show from right under Depp’s nose. Her character’s Valentine lollipop look with a huge bulbous head was visually stunning and the cantankerous voice she used to terrorize her subjects was pitch perfect! Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was fairly competent.

The narrative of the movie is fairly linear and Burton has attempted to weave the disjointed events of the tale into some sort of a coherent sequential story. However, the more the plot line digressed from the original tale, the more flawed the movie appeared with the climax being the weakest and looking straight out of a Tolkien book. Although, to be fairly honest the final act of Alice fighting the Jabberwocky (voice by Christopher Lee) had quite a few kids at the edge of their seats.

Ultimately, I was disappointed. I expected Underland to be as-awesome-as and more-imaginative-than Pandora, but unfortunately all I got was gimmicky sequences of things flying onto my screen one after the other. It gave me a headache watching some of those scenes. This movie was originally shot for 2D and up-converted to 3D later, which resulted in the end product being more distracting than spectacular. Avatar really set the standard for filming movies in 3D with 3D cameras and is light years ahead of the curve!

However, I think at the end of the day, we need to remember who this massively hyped Disney movie is ultimately made for. If the barely concealed excitement and the chortled glees of a little princess sitting next to me were any indication, Tim Burton has once again hit the mark with this one!


Pardesi said...

Thank you minnie for your wonderful review. Now I have suitably lowered my expectations, but wild horses could not keep me away from this one. Only question is, 2D or 3D?

The Illusionist said...

Minnie - Thanks a lot for the wonderfully written review. I am sure i will NOT be watching this movie, so no promise of watching the movie, and then commenting.

This is the second movie review of yours i have read, and i have loved each one of them. Even explosion of your random comments (thoughts) have such a narrative flow. Please do more movie reviews, as and when time permits.

Minnie said...

Thanks so much Pardesi and Illusionist. You guys are way too generous in your praise :-)
If someone told me a few months back, I would ever be writing a movie review, it would sound as imaginary to me as Alice's Wonderland :-)

@Pardesi: I honestly can't answer the 2D vs 3D question for you, as it is so much of an individual preference. Speaking for me personally, I probably would have preferred the 2D version, but the opinion in my home is divided on that one !!

Minnie said...

'Alice' becomes a box office wonderland
By Nicole Sperling,
March 8, 2010 8:08 a.m. EST

(Entertainment Weekly) -- Just when we thought no other records would be broken following the culmination of "Avatar's" lengthy reign, we face another round of box office firsts.
And this time, the records belong to Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland."
The 3-D spectacle starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter earned an estimated $116.3 million, the highest grossing weekend ever for a spring release. Not only that, but IMAX -- which pulled "Avatar" from all its screens in exchange for "Alice" -- was rewarded handsomely with its highest weekend gross ever, $11.9 million in only 188 theaters. (IMAX's 9 additional theaters plus "Alice's" shorter run time gave the company the added boost over its "Avatar" numbers.)
If there was even a question as to whether or not 3-D was here to stay, it's now officially been answered. "Avatar" was not an anomaly. In fact, what it did was expand the marketplace to all those moviegoers that were nonbelievers in the 3-D technology. They tested it out with "Avatar," were convinced of the stunning visuals, and they are now back for more.
In fact, IMAX alone sold out every seat they had for the entire weekend. And Disney counts 65 percent of its weekend gross on "Alice" from 3-D screenings. Kinda amazing, really.

Read the rest here

TaggartQuin said...

Yes I like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp but this review has ensured I will not see that film.

Pardesi said...

Alice in Wonderland's box-office triumph masks a grim portent

After its lacklustre reviews, few would have expected Alice in Wonderland to break box-office records. Yet in spite of the bounty it's appeared to bestow, this film has cast a shadow over the picture-house. It's shown cinemas to be threatened by a tide of change whose origins run deep.

To hear the Iliad or a Beethoven symphony, you used to have to turn up. Gradually, successive inventions fed cultural sustenance into our homes. Digitisation, the internet and hardware advances have accelerated this process and extended it to personal gadgetry. Now, most of our amusements come to us; if we venture into the cold, it's usually to seek relief from print and electronic entertainment in an occasional fix of the physical.

Music venues, festivals and theatres tempt us with flesh-and-blood action. Cinemas, however, have no live bait to offer. To get us out of the house, they have to rely instead largely on the box-freshness of the films they show. To sustain this, DVDs, downloads, pay-TV, free-to-air, in-flight and the rest are all required to wait in line. Yet the big screen enjoys no divine right to that first bite, and its claim on it is weakening.

These days, box-office is buoyant, but distributors and exhibitors have high costs and therefore have to collar most of the take. For the studios, DVDs are more profitable, but their sales are falling. So why waste the thrill of novelty on the theatrical release? Why not unleash films on electronic platforms before, or at least as soon as possible after, the cinemas get their turn?

Understandably, the big screen is now being squeezed. Five years ago, the gap between theatrical and video release was cut from six months to four. Since then, studios have tried to reduce this window further for particular films; cinemas have responded by threatening not to take them. Sadly, the outcome of the showdown over Alice in Wonderland suggests that cinemas now need films more than films need cinemas.

When Disney told them it was tightening their window, Britain's three biggest exhibitors threatened a boycott. Then, one by one they crumbled. New arrangements were agreed, reportedly permitting further breaches of the four-month rule. In future it seems, cinemas can expect to enjoy less and less of a head-start. Their pitch may therefore have to depend rather more on the experience that they offer.

Once, this might not have seemed too challenging a prospect. The combination of a big screen, 35mm picture quality, comfy seats and the Kia-Ora lady used to be hard to beat. Now though, home cinema provides ever bigger screens and even surround sound. Resolution keeps improving, and Blu-ray ensures that the movies get the benefit.

Of course, cinemas retain one unique selling proposition: it's the fabled communality that they alone can provide. Only in their immersive and darkly comforting embrace can we be emotionally as one with a like-minded multitude. Only there can we share our titters, gasps and groans, locked in joyous communion with our fellow human beings. Or so they say. Unfortunately, it doesn't always seem like that.
There are those who see 3D as the cinemas's trump card. Tim Burton's use of it in Alice, however, perhaps shows that it may not always add very much. Anyway, even this thrill is on its way to your home.

Alice basked in plenty of advance buzz. It cost a huge amount to generate, but it seems to have paid its way by over-riding those tepid reviews. Suppose, however, that the DVD had been due to appear while that expensive buzz was still fresh. Fewer tickets would doubtless have been sold, but perhaps many more DVDs.

If this is to be the shape of things to come, cinema may benefit; but not cinemas. Sooner or later, the back row seems set to find itself having to take a back seat.

Pardesi said...

Alice review in VERSE

Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham-Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry
Quick Take: Wonderful

Yay, it’s Lewis Caroll’s Alice In Wonderland, so to the preview theatre I fly
Depp, Bonham-Carter, Hathaway, Rickman and Burton, Oh my
What a wonderful collective of talent and wit so wry
The film is magical, the three dimensions so real, you could just die

Burton’s visual treat of ‘Underland’ is a masterful infestation
Of cuddly Tweedles and magical creations
Mad hatters and hares and chimps for chairs
Imagination’s at its best, though the dialogue is written without a care

Wasikowska’s a find, so like Gwyneth Paltrow in manifestation
Depp is satisfactory, Bonham-Carter delightful damnation
Hathaway is charming, Glover painfully dreary
But Rickman and Fry, oh my, so very cheery

It could have been better, but I’m not complaining
The 3-D is magnificent, though a bit eye straining
Burton is a genius, this you cannot deny
If you do, I’ll prick out your eye!

Sailesh Ghelani

Minnie said...

Masand's Verdict: Alice In Wonderland is underwhelming
It's worth a one-time visit

Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska

Director: Tim Burton

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is a shockingly underwhelming film that won't please fans of Lewis Carroll's beloved 19th century book, or fans of the filmmaker either. Although its seamless blend of live action and computer animation is predictably impressive, the film has the misfortune of being the first major 3D release to arrive after the Avatar revolution and -- given that the film was shot in 2D and its footage subsequently converted -- ends up looking cartoonish and flat, and not particularly improved by the 3D technology.
The original story was about a young Alice and her adventure in Wonderland, but Burton's film focuses on her as a relatively grown-up 19-year-old (played by Mia Wasikowska), who dumps her aristocratic suitor and follows a white rabbit into the magical land of her childhood, of which she has no memory, only a few sketchy dreams.
When Alice arrives in Underland, as the residents call it, she is joined by all the usual suspects for a joyless tea party -- Cheshire Cat, March Hare, and of course, the Mad Hatter himself (played by Johnny Depp in clownish ginger hair). They inform Alice of her destiny -- she must slay the dragon Jabberwocky and overthrow the evil Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter sporting a giant bulbous head), making way for the kind-but-kooky White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) to ascend the throne.
As die-hard fans of the original book and its sequel, 'Through The Looking Glass', will tell you, the chief problem with Burton's film -- and the script in fact from which it's derived -- is that it makes perfect sense. The charm of Lewis Carroll's story lies in the fact that it's whimsical, ridiculous and nonsensical, and yet it's so much fun. The film, unfortunately, turns it into a sensible, linear and conventional narrative, which to be fair is a crime against the source material.
Visually the film is a confused cross between candy-colored treat and Burtonesque goth, although there is some fun to be had in this world of wonders where animals talk and even flowers speak their mind. The mystical, grinning Cheshire Cat, and the wise blue caterpillar Absolum are the film's more memorable CGI inventions. But the characters you're most likely to remember are the dimwitted egg-shaped twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee (both voiced by Little Britain's Matt Lucas), and Bonham Carter's lunatic, shrill-voiced Red Queen.
In the end, if you can forgive the video-game climax and the film's overcrowded feel, perhaps you won't be too disappointed. Johnny Depp, playing Edward Scissorhands but with orange hair, is always a watchable actor, and to some degree he saves this film.
I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five and a strictly average rating for Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland; it's worth a one-time visit, but it's unlikely that you'll want to come back again!

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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