Alice in Wonderland

Movie Information

The Story: In this sequel to Alice in Wonderland, the young adult Alice is lured back to the land of her youthful adventures to help defeat the tyrannical Red Queen. The Lowdown: A visually striking, emotionally involving, highly Burtonized take on the Alice in Wonderland stories that sometimes soars without quite striking the gong, but is never less than entertaining.
Score:

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover
Rated: PG

I’m relieved to note that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is not the disaster I was afraid it might be, based on the trailers. I’m less delighted to note that I didn’t find it to be the masterpiece I’d hoped for. It’s good. It’s very good—and there are flashes of greatness within it. I’m certainly glad I saw it, and I’ll see it again, but I’m not champing at the bit to arrange for a repeat viewing. Compared to the press screening of Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), where I wanted to see the film again as soon as it ended, this is a letdown. Even more troublesome is the fact that for the first time in 20 years of Burton films (the 2001 Planet of the Apes to one side), I have not carried away a deep sense of the movie’s imagery. In fact, aspects of Alice have started evaporating like its own Cheshire Cat only a couple days later.

However, I’m giving the impression that I don’t like the film. I like it a lot, and I suspect I will grow to like it more. Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton have done a pretty incredible job of taking the two Lewis Carroll books (the movie combines Alice with Through the Looking Glass), retaining much of the essence, but giving the results a fresh, personal feeling. The film also offers things the books do not: an actual story line with a climax and some degree of emotional depth. On the second count, I’m perplexed by charges that Burton’s film has left out the books’ “heart” in favor of spectacle. What heart? What possible emotional resonance is to be gleaned from Carroll’s books? They’re fun, fantastic, funny and sharply satirical, but where is this “heart” of which the film’s detractors speak?

Rather than simply retell the original story, the film offers us a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska, Amelia), a young lady with a history of strange dreams that seem to have followed her into adulthood. Alice finds herself unwillingly attending a garden party where—as she finds out at the last moment—she’s expected to accept a financially desirable marriage proposal from the highly undesirable Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill, Me and Orson Welles). This changes, however, when she keeps catching sight of the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) from her dreams, and proceeds to follow the White Rabbit into the woods while pondering Hamish’s embarrassingly public proposal.

The inevitable fall down the rabbit hole comes next—and Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, which is here called Underland. It turns out that the Rabbit deliberately brought her to Underland in the hope that she is the Alice, the Alice who had been there before and who, it’s believed, can help the White Queen (Anne Hathway) defeat the Jabberwocky (voiced very briefly by Christopher Lee), a dragon-like monster used by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) to retain control of Underland. OK, this may not be the stuff of great drama, but it does provide a story arc with a climax, which the books lack. At worst, it’s serviceable. Yes, it has one particularly logic-defeating aspect in that telescoping the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen into one character presents us with a chessboard showdown between white chess pieces and red playing cards, but since no actual showdown occurs, it perhaps doesn’t matter.

More to the point, the film manages to craft characters in whom we have some emotional investment. This is especially true of Alice and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). Depp’s Hatter looks pretty tiresome in the trailers, but he’s something very different in the film—a kind of quirky, artistic freedom fighter, who is drifting into insanity and sadly realizes it. It’s actually a remarkable performance, even if his hopeless fixation on Alice has its roots in Edward Scissorhands (1990). At the same time, it touches lightly on the question of Lewis Carroll’s own fixation on the real-life Alice Liddel, which affords the film a subtext worth some degree of consideration. Other characters are also observed with more sympathy than the books afford—even the Red Queen, who is played by Helena Bonham Carter with a CGI-altered head that makes her resemble Bette Davis as Elizabeth I, re-envisioned as a monstrous infant. She may be perfidy incarnate, but the film is savvy enough to offer hints of the damaged child—rejected because of her looks—that spawned the monstrosity. Hey, it’s Burton.

Visually, Burton’s Alice is a stunner. Nevertheless, it oddly lacks the kind of single indelible images that I immediately knew I would always remember from most of Burton’s other movies. I grant only time will tell in this case. His use of 3-D is intelligent, but generally subdued, which is probably in the film’s favor. Though it raises the question (apart from the financial plus of those 3-D ticket surcharges) of why make it in 3-D at all. Ultimately, the movie is pure Burton—from its look that combines the fantastic with the fantastically decayed, to its inherent sympathy for the outsider. Perhaps the most interesting thing he brings to the story, however, is the sense of terror that creeps in around the edges of every sequence, starting with the fall down the rabbit hole. There is a sense of danger and of something deeply sinister clinging to the film—and that, I think, is just right. Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

44 thoughts on “Alice in Wonderland

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    I agree that there are no drop dead images in ALICE which I saw flat as that’s how the film was originally conceived (and it allowed me to enjoy a Braveheart pizza at Cinebarre), but after about 30 minutes I became aware of something deliberate going on which made the film immensely enjoyable.

    It seemed to me that Burton was referencing every major fantasy film he could think of from THE WIZARD OF OZ (Alice’s going home) to STAR WARS (The Caterpillar as Yoda) to HARRY POTTER (the calendar of events looks like the Marauder’s Map)to NARNIA (Anne Hathaway’s White Queen). The final generic battle scenes come form any number of films. And then there’s Burton quoting himself from EDWARD SCISSORHANDS to SLEEPY HOLLOW To CHARLIE not to mention Danny Elfman’s music and the use of Christopher Lee and Michael Gough’s voices.

    That may not have been his intention, but that’s certainly what I got out of it and what started as a chore in the beginning became a most enjoyable cinematic experience by the end. Love the fact that the castles the Queens live in look just like Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

  2. Dread P. Roberts

    I truly enjoyed this movie, but I can’t shake this feeling that the individual scenes worked better than the film as a whole. I don’t know why I feel this way, and I think it’s a little bit ironic, considering the plot seems to try to make the proceedings feel like more of a complete story than what the books do.

    There is a sense of danger and of something deeply sinister clinging to the film—and that, I think, is just right.

    I keep reading people say this, and somehow it just didn’t hit me that way. The movie felt very fun, fantastical and family friendly – but not sinister. Maybe it’s just because I went into this desperately wanting (and borderline expecting) a very dark take on Alice. I’d read that it would be, and it is Burton after all. But the sinister, menacing feeling just felt kind of (unfortunately) anticlimactic. I don’t know, maybe it was the playful nature of the villain(s). I loved the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter was spot on; maybe the best performance of her carer), but I was never scared of her, merely amused. She was just a really fun caricature to me.

    Funny thing is, there are elements of the 1951 Disney cartoon, that creeped me out as a kid, far more so than anything in this.

    Yes, it has one particularly logic-defeating aspect in that telescoping the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen into one character presents us with a chessboard showdown between white chess pieces and red playing cards, but since no actual showdown occurs, it perhaps doesn’t matter.

    Not to argue with you Ken, but I believe there was a brief showdown that occurs. It transpired right after the Mad Hatter interfered with the duel between Alice and the Jabberwocky. It didn’t really go anywhere – considering the attention went right back to Alice – but it was there nonetheless. Of course, that’s all rather trivial, and I can’t say that I really care either way.

  3. Beetlejuice

    Hello! This is my first time here!!! I’d like to greet everyone who enjoys this exchange of information and opinions that happen here. I’ve been a reader here for a long time, but never felt like writing. Since I’m a Burton fan, and have been waiting anxiously waiting for Alice in Wonderland to be released, I thought this might be the perfect time.
    I’m Brazilian (still living in Brazil) and Alice is not going to open here before April 24th, I think, which is a hell of a problem for us, who so desperately want to watch it. I need to say, though, that I have already seen it, don’t ask me how…
    Well, I totally agree with Hanke on his opinions, but I seem to have liked the film more than he has, although he seems to have liked it a lot.
    The main accusation, on the part of the critics, against this film has been this “lack of heart” that was present in the original stories, as told by Lewis Carroll, which, as Hanke said, is baffling! What heart?
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are so insane and nonsensical that even loving the books, which I do, I couldn’t really conect with them on an emotional level, something that happened to me when I watched Burton’s film.
    If we check Rotten Tomatoes, we’ll see that nearly half of the reviews there are negative ones (the film scored around 53% there), but if we check the IMDB, we’ll see that it scored 7 out of 10 there. The public seems to be more satisfied by it than the critics.
    I loved it, and what these critics are saying sounds wrong to me. Then again, we are all entitled to our own opinions. what do you people think?

  4. Ken Hanke

    I agree that there are no drop dead images in ALICE which I saw flat as that’s how the film was originally conceived

    Certainly it wasn’t shot — at least entirely — with 2D in mind? There are a few shots that are as 3D hokey as anything out of the 1950s in terms of “comin’ at you” and others that are apparently lit for maximum (if ungimmicky) 3D effect. I didn’t get that “retrofitted” vibe that I did with Nightmare Before Xmas or the bits I saw of the Toy Story movies. That said, I’m not sure I’d bother seeing it in 3D a second time, but then I tend to feel that was about most 3D movies.

    It seemed to me that Burton was referencing every major fantasy film he could think of from THE WIZARD OF OZ (Alice’s going home) to STAR WARS (The Caterpillar as Yoda) to HARRY POTTER (the calendar of events looks like the Marauder’s Map)to NARNIA (Anne Hathaway’s White Queen).

    The first most definitely — albeit with quirky hopeless romance overtones that don’t exist in Oz. I didn’t think of Yoda, but then I actively try to not think of Yoda. You’re probably right, but the caterpillar didn’t annoy me. The map, very probably. The White Queen/White Witch I’m not quite sold on, but I see where you’re coming from.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know, maybe it was the playful nature of the villain(s). I loved the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter was spot on; maybe the best performance of her carer), but I was never scared of her, merely amused. She was just a really fun caricature to me

    Oh, I wasn’t scared of her — or of anyone or anything actually. It’s not that specific. It’s more an overall feeling of Underland as vaguely unwholesome and decaying. For every Maxfield Parrish looking moment, there are intimations of the tawdry, the gone to seed, the morbid. The fact that much of this is presented rather casually makes it creepier to me. Crossing a moat by walking over the heads of those the Red Queen has had executed is pretty grim. (Note that in the 1933 film, it’s made clear that the King always pardons all the condemned behind the Queen’s back.)

    Not to argue with you Ken, but I believe there was a brief showdown that occurs. It transpired right after the Mad Hatter interfered with the duel between Alice and the Jabberwocky. It didn’t really go anywhere

    Yes, but it’s not a showdown because it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s almost like they realized that such a battle didn’t make much sense and backed off from it.

  6. Ken Hanke

    If we check Rotten Tomatoes, we’ll see that nearly half of the reviews there are negative ones (the film scored around 53% there), but if we check the IMDB, we’ll see that it scored 7 out of 10 there. The public seems to be more satisfied by it than the critics.
    I loved it, and what these critics are saying sounds wrong to me. Then again, we are all entitled to our own opinions. what do you people think?

    First of all, I think IMDb ratings are useless. They don’t reflect “the public,” the reflect internet movie fans — a certain type of them — many of whom rate movies before they could possibly have seen them. I forget which one it was, but one of the LOTR movies was no. 1 on the “greatest movies of all time” days before it came out. Sorry. There just aren’t that many “special screenings.” Rotten Tomatoes isn’t that much better in some ways, because there are just too many dubious sources on there. Know your critics. Know where they’re coming from. Learn who the lightweights are. But in the end does it really matter what the percentage is? My pick for the best movie of 2005 was Breakfast on Pluto. It scored 56% on RT. My pick for 2009 was The Brothers Bloom. It scored 64%. Does this bother me? No.

  7. Dread P. Roberts

    For every Maxfield Parrish looking moment, there are intimations of the tawdry, the gone to seed, the morbid. The fact that much of this is presented rather casually makes it creepier to me. Crossing a moat by walking over the heads of those the Red Queen has had executed is pretty grim.

    Oddly enough, I had forgotten about the moat crossing scene. But, yes, I agree that there are absolutely moments where the look is beautifully morbid. (Alice and the Hatter strolling through the burnt village is a good example.)

    I feel that perhaps I’m becoming to desensitized, because while I can see your point, those sequences ultimately just didn’t have that unsettling effect on me that they should have. All the morbid scenery on display just seemed beautiful and well-done. Perhaps I’ve gone mad? It’s a personal thing, I know. I wish I felt differently. Of course, maybe – just maybe – Burton has presented it in a way to where I’m supposed to wonder why scenes like the moat didn’t bother me. Is it an essay on our modern day casual acceptance of the morbid? Would Burton read what I’m writing right now, and say to himself, “what the hell is he talking about?”

  8. Ken Hanke

    I feel that perhaps I’m becoming to desensitized, because while I can see your point, those sequences ultimately just didn’t have that unsettling effect on me that they should have. All the morbid scenery on display just seemed beautiful and well-done. Perhaps I’ve gone mad? It’s a personal thing, I know. I wish I felt differently. Of course, maybe – just maybe – Burton has presented it in a way to where I’m supposed to wonder why scenes like the moat didn’t bother me. Is it an essay on our modern day casual acceptance of the morbid? Would Burton read what I’m writing right now, and say to himself, “what the hell is he talking about?”

    You raise good points, but these points have really been around for a very long time — at least since the Romantics who found strange beauty and appeal in death, decay and the morbid. It’s very much a personal question, though. I don’t think you’ve gone mad — any more than I think David Cronenberg is nuts because he says he finds the scenes that upset people in his movies to be either funny, or beautiful. My guess — and that’s all it is — is that Burton approaches this like a Romantic (though I doubt he thinks in those terms from things people who know him have told me). For me, I think the fact that they are beautiful makes them more unsettling — but in a subtle way. You mentioned the Disney film — which I’ve never made it all the way through — and it strikes me as merely grotesque.

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    I don’t think you’ve gone mad—any more than I think David Cronenberg is nuts because he says he finds the scenes that upset people in his movies to be either funny, or beautiful.

    Well, I’m going to take it as a big compliment to be addressed in the same sentence as Cronenberg. The fact is that I’m more than happy to not be considered normal – whatever that even means.

    My guess—and that’s all it is—is that Burton approaches this like a Romantic (though I doubt he thinks in those terms from things people who know him have told me).

    If you have the time, I would love to know what you mean when you mention Burton’s thought process. The fact that you even know people, who know him, is exciting to me. I’ve always wanted to know what’s going on inside the mind of an artist like Burton.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Well, I’m going to take it as a big compliment to be addressed in the same sentence as Cronenberg. The fact is that I’m more than happy to not be considered normal – whatever that even means

    Whatever that means is the key phrase. You’re probably perfectly normal…for you. What more can you ask? Normal all too often is just a synonym for ordinary.

    If you have the time, I would love to know what you mean when you mention Burton’s thought process. The fact that you even know people, who know him, is exciting to me. I’ve always wanted to know what’s going on inside the mind of an artist like Burton

    I wouldn’t go so far as to claim I have any insight into the workings of his mind. I can make some educated guesses, but that’s all. Some things are pretty obvious — like much of his pose as a kind of naive innocent is just that, a pose. The public Burton seems obviously a role he plays, but that’s true of almost any celebrity. He’s just an extreme case. What I meant in this instance is a direct reference to a certin distrust of — or lack of interest in — the overtly artistic, grounding his taste more in pop culture, even if in rather esoteric branches of it. He also doesn’t strike me as research-oriented in the normal sense. Unlike, say, Tarantino who likes to replicate specifics from older movies, Burton seems much more interested in recreating his memories of films without checking the accuracy of those memories. And although Burton’s on record as being against the idea of being “in touch with his inner child” (I believe he said that sounded retarded), I think a lot of those memories are grounded in childhood impressions that have stayed with him. This, to me, makes his work more rather than less interesting.

  11. Dread P. Roberts

    This, to me, makes his work more rather than less interesting.

    Yes, indeed. There are lots of things surrounding Burton, and his work, that I find interesting. I would assume that can only be heightened by an increase in understanding, and a shift in perspective.

  12. Beetlejuice

    My pick for the best movie of 2005 was Breakfast on Pluto. It scored 56% on RT. My pick for 2009 was The Brothers Bloom. It scored 64%. Does this bother me? No.

    Well, it doesn’t really bother me. I just think it’s curious to read many opinions about films. Most of the times I don’t agree with most of them, but, I just like to read them. When I read something like “this fil should be shot into a black hole in space and never be looked at again” (somebody wrote something like that there about Alice), I immediately disconsider the opinion of this person. A real movie critic, a person who really knows what he’s saying, would never say such a stupid thing.
    As I said, it doesn’ bother me, but I’m curious to read reviews. They don’t affect the way I feel about a movie. Mars Attacks! was destroyed by most critics and moviegoers, but I can’t help feeling it’s a masterpiece and one of Burton’s best films to date.
    Thanks for answering Ken. You truly are a great critic.

  13. Ken Hanke

    They don’t affect the way I feel about a movie.

    And they oughtn’t. We were talking about the critic Pauline Kael in another topic, and while I don’t care much for her or her writing, she did spend years shaking her head and saying that no, A Night at the Opera wasn’t the best Marx Brothers movie, that Duck Soup was. Well, finally, people listened to her and checked it out and discovered she was right.

    Mars Attacks! was destroyed by most critics and moviegoers, but I can’t help feeling it’s a masterpiece and one of Burton’s best films to date

    Not sure I’d go that far, but I do like it.

    You truly are a great critic.

    Thank you. I try.

  14. Hart

    “There is a sense of danger and of something deeply sinister clinging to the film—and that, I think, is just right.”

    I think is a wonderful way of putting the review. After reading some of the negative critiques, I do feel that most harp on two main points:
    1) Alice with the whole battle scene being stupid
    2) The sense of a not very vibrant display of colors from the enviroment.

    In fact, I rather liked the lack of vibrant colors. Generally, the background contianed tones of grey – in fact most of the immagery I felt almost had a smoky screen over them. I think this is where you got the feeling of something sinister and I feel it not only desaturates the visual aesthetics of the movie as a whole but causes the main characters (who are generally dressed vibrantly) to pop out from the enviroment. The film retains a wonderful mood of decay, slightly twisting the disney image I am sure most are accustomed to associating with Alice in Wonderland.

    For characters, I felt the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) was definately the most memorable character of the group with an individual, unreasonable and insecure characterization. Less impressed with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), though I really enjoyed the delicately twisted persona of the White Queen.

  15. Beetlejuice

    YOU: First of all, I think IMDb ratings are useless. They don’t reflect “the public,” the reflect internet movie fans—a certain type of them—many of whom rate movies before they could possibly have seen them.

    Come to think of it now, you’re totally right. George Lucas said that once…

    YOU (on my opinion about Mars Attacks!): Not sure I’d go that far, but I do like it.

    Well, Burton once said that foreign audiences seemed to get Mars Attacks! better. Planet of the Apes, Batman Returns and Mars Attacks! (three of his most heavily criticized films in the USA) have passionate defenders here, and all of them have been called that way (masterpiece), here, with many critics writing wonderful articles and essays on them. Maybe because we look at them from a foreign perspective. Maybe because alien invasion films, the apes movies and Batman occupy slightly different places in our culture here, and we look at them in a different way.
    Burton is really admired here, and it’s common to see his name among the best regarded filmmakers of all times. I think you are one of the few American critics to have said something like that about Burton.
    Answer me something, please: Am I right to say that these films were heavily criticized in the USA (I know the critics said a load about them), or is it just a wrong impression, from a foreign perspective? I think Alice will join them, but I really don’t care. I love all of them anyway…

    YOU: We were talking about the critic Pauline Kael in another topic, and while I don’t care much for her or her writing, she did spend years shaking her head and saying that no, A Night at the Opera wasn’t the best Marx Brothers movie, that Duck Soup was. Well, finally, people listened to her and checked it out and discovered she was right.

    Well, Pauline Kael should come to Brazil and try to convince people here, because we still think A Night at the Opera is the one. Hehehe… I have to say, though, that The Marx Brothers are not THAT popular here in Brazil. They are famous among cinephiles, but Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, and even Jerry Lewis, are ten million times more popular here. I don’t know why people here don’t seem to like the Marx Brothers that much. What a pity…

  16. davidf

    I feel like I shouldn’t really comment on this until I’ve seen it again. I saw it once in two dimensions, and now I’m just waiting for the chance to make the drive to somewhere where I can see it in 3D. I had very strong reactions to the film the first time I saw it, but many of those reactions have been renegotiated in my mind in the past few days and I feel it needs a second chance.
    A lot of the things that troubled me the first time are things that just didn’t make sense (like the combining of the Red Queen and Queen of Hearts characters, for instance), but then I had to face the facts that nothing in an Alice story SHOULD make sense and I shouldn’t immediately dislike it because it turned out to be a type of non-sense I wasn’t expecting. Another thing to which I reacted negatively was the Mad Hatter’s little dance. It seemed to explode out of nowhere with tastelessness, but the further I get from it, it seems less wrong.

    I can’t wait to se it again now for a reanalysis. It’s interesting to me that people have criticized the color palate for being so drab (browns and greys), because the film I saw was extremely vibrant. It sounds like this is just a case of the 3D technology degrading the color palate of a film. The question is, did Burton plan for the difference? I don’t see why they don’t just increase the brightness on the 3D prints of the film so that the color palate doesn’t get so destroyed. It will be interesting to see how different it is with the dimmers on.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Well, Burton once said that foreign audiences seemed to get Mars Attacks! better. Planet of the Apes, Batman Returns and Mars Attacks! (three of his most heavily criticized films in the USA) have passionate defenders here, and all of them have been called that way (masterpiece), here, with many critics writing wonderful articles and essays on them. Maybe because we look at them from a foreign perspective. Maybe because alien invasion films, the apes movies and Batman occupy slightly different places in our culture here, and we look at them in a different way

    You may be onto something, but it’s kind of hard for me to say, since I don’t myself have that perspective. Batman Returns was largely villified at the time of its release because it scared children, which translated into a good deal of outrage from parents who apparently are incapable of reading a PG-13 rating and understanding it. This was partly the fault of — and aggravated by — a McDonald’s tie-in that had Batman toys in their Happy Meals, which meant that PG-13 rating or not Warner Bros. was pitching the movie at kids. Comic book purists have other problems — mostly involving the rethinking of the Penguin. It probably depends on what you’re looking for and how you approach it. Since I was approaching it as an adult and taking it in as a Tim Burton picture, I had no problem with it. As a Burton film, it’s much more personal and interesting than Batman, but as a Batman movie, maybe not. Mars Attacks! simply doesn’t work well for a lot of people. It’s too scattered and shambling for a lot of tastes, and its ending is admittedly pretty much ripped off from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (even if it does improve on it at every turn and makes it funnier by using a real song). I can’t really get behind Planet of the Apes, even though I don’t dislike it and do prefer it to the original. I can put it within Burton’s filmography, but I’d never have seen it without knowing it was his and even suspected it was. To me, it’s kind of “Yes, you’ve proved you can make a ‘normal’ movie. Now, don’t do it again.” My review of it is in the archives on here.

    Answer me something, please: Am I right to say that these films were heavily criticized in the USA (I know the critics said a load about them), or is it just a wrong impression, from a foreign perspective? I think Alice will join them, but I really don’t care. I love all of them anyway…

    I believe you’re right to categorize the films that way, but to actually work it out with great accuracy would require a lot of research, since the aggregation of reviews on websites was not around for the first two and not nearly as all-encompassing as it is now even at the time of Apes.

    I have to say, though, that The Marx Brothers are not THAT popular here in Brazil. They are famous among cinephiles, but Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, and even Jerry Lewis, are ten million times more popular here. I don’t know why people here don’t seem to like the Marx Brothers that much

    Well, I’m not sure they’re that popular here on any broad level just because they’re old. But there’s a significant difference between the Marx Brothers and the others you cited — they’re much more dialogue centered (Harpo to one side) and that doesn’t always play as well to non-English speaking audiences. There’s not just the language barrier, but sometimes things that are funny when heard aren’t so much so when read in subtitles. And there may be a cultural gap, too.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Another thing to which I reacted negatively was the Mad Hatter’s little dance. It seemed to explode out of nowhere with tastelessness, but the further I get from it, it seems less wrong

    I’m still not really comfortable with the dance, but I don’t actively mind it.

    I can’t wait to se it again now for a reanalysis. It’s interesting to me that people have criticized the color palate for being so drab (browns and greys), because the film I saw was extremely vibrant. It sounds like this is just a case of the 3D technology degrading the color palate of a film. The question is, did Burton plan for the difference? I don’t see why they don’t just increase the brightness on the 3D prints of the film so that the color palate doesn’t get so destroyed. It will be interesting to see how different it is with the dimmers on.

    I didn’t find it especially drab either so I’m probably not the person to address that complaint. People sometimes mistake a dark film for a drab one. How you light 3D makes a lot of difference, but I don’t think there’s an easy solution to the dimming problem. The film is going to be projected through a polarizing filter and viewed through polarizing glasses. I’m not sure how you could actually compensate for that without compromising the colors even more. If the projectors had a simple, effective way of increasing the light, maybe. But that’s not the case. Your average theater is going to be using either a 4500 watt lamp for larger houses or a 2-3000 watt one for smaller houses. The degree to which this can be altered is pretty small. (And it varies from theater to theater and has something to do with the age of the lamp, too.) I haven’t seen the film in 2D yet, so I’ve no point of comparison.

  19. kjh.childers

    *** /5 stars
    Oh, surely you have more to say than that!

    Ken … it was my earnest hope that I would have walked away from yet another Burton film feeling totally satisfied … but wasn’t. The effect of nonsense L. Carroll created in his original masterpiece by far emerged via an excess of meaning, rather than a lack of it. And, I think Burton’s efforts, while strong, failed to capture my attention and I walked away somewhat exhausted. I would rather have seen this film under the direction of Gilliam or maybe D. Aronofsky. But, I am biased in that regard.

  20. Maggie

    I have an account on rotten tomatoes and after reading what some people have to say about it, I do have to agree that their opinions can seem way off from my opinion. The sad thing is, say I rate a movie a high percentage and the rest give it a low rating. There are seriously others who will bash my review.

    “this film should be shot into a black hole in space and never be looked at again”

    Yeah, they say stuff like that, which is really uncalled for. Some people really need to grow up. (Okay, I find this funny because I’m 14 and I’m telling people to grow up…but then again maybe they’re 14 too.) The point is I really liked this movie. I saw the Disney cartoon Alice in wonderland a week before it came and found it was really boring since there was no plot what-so-ever, it was just a collage of weird people she ran into. I really like how Burton gave each character their own personality, my favorite characters was the mad hater and the Red queen (or is her name the queen of hearts?) This movie had alot of depth with I really liked, I might even see the movie again. On top of that this movie was a great visual treat. I loved the colors and the make-up and the costumes.
    I think I’m going to make an account on this site. :)

  21. Ken Hanke

    Ken … it was my earnest hope that I would have walked away from yet another Burton film feeling totally satisfied … but wasn’t

    Even while not agreeing with that — or more correctly not sharing the feeling — I can understand that.

    I would rather have seen this film under the direction of Gilliam or maybe D. Aronofsky. But, I am biased in that regard

    Since I’m more biased toward Burton, that’s probably a wash for us.

  22. Ken Hanke

    the Red queen (or is her name the queen of hearts?)

    Well, they call her the Red Queen, but she’s a combination of that character and the Queen of Hearts.

    I think I’m going to make an account on this site

    You are certainly most welcome here. Age is most assuredly not a factor. Just don’t expect to always find agreement — simply, I hope, a more respectful level of disagreement in the comments section.

  23. SpiritMuse

    So good to finally see a sensible review of this movie – and by “sensible” I mean a review that matches my own opinion. It seems that almost the whole world of film critics hate this movie. Not that that’ll stop me – some of my favorite movies have bad critical reviews but I love them anyway. It’s just that it’s annoying to go online, trying to share my enthusiasm, and then being met with a wall of disapproval. Not that there’s none here, but at least here even that is sensible, by which I mean respectful.

    It always seems to me the biggest problem is people’s expectations. Some people expected this film to be so dark, and then were disappointed when it wasn’t. Some people expected the whole film to be so colorful, and then were disappointed when it wasn’t. Some people have such rigid expectations on how a film should look/feel/sound, or what the story should be like, that when it is even slightly different, they’ll be disappointed. So many people see the film for what it’s not, rather than for what it is.

    So maybe it’s not The Best Movie Ever, but then I never expected it to be. This being a Tim Burton movie, I expected it to be weird, strange and quirky, all of which it was. Johnny Depp’s character I expected to be weird, crazy and interesting, all of which he was. I expected this film to be a crazy, fun ride, and it was, and I loved it.

    That’s not to say I loved everything. The end was slightly disappointing. The battle of two opposing armies, the dragonslaying, it was all a bit standard high fantasy. It was all a bit… ordinary. Especially compared to the wackyness of the rest of the film.

    And once I did roll my eyes. I think I actually said “Oh no,” out loud. It was at that moment when the Hatter asks huge Alice if he’s really crazy, and I knew she would mirror exactly what her father had told her all those years ago. Copious amounts of cheese in that moment. And yet it was also undeniably sweet.

    I am with you when you mind-boggle at the people saying they took the “heart” out of the story. Having read both original stories, I’d like to have that supposed “heart” pointed out to me, please. I couldn’t find it. Or any real storyline coherence, for that matter.

    I love this movie, even with all of its faults. Maybe that makes me naively uncritical, but I’d rather be naive and find enjoyment than criticize everything to pieces.

  24. Ben

    “They don’t affect the way I feel about a movie.”

    “And they oughtn’t”

    Then why exactly are people like Ken Hanke, or for that matter all the random non-paid people on the internet still here? Okay, so that was a dumb question, but I’m just curious. I personally love reading movie reviews, after seeing the movie usually, but I’m not sure why. Any thoughts?

  25. Dread P. Roberts

    Then why exactly are people like Ken Hanke, or for that matter all the random non-paid people on the internet still here?

    Because movies is a subject that we all love talking about. Everybody’s got an opinion that they want to share; and a place to congregate, and delve into a subject that we share a common interest in, is fun. Plus, there’s always the potential opportunity to learn more about the movies from one another. I know that I’ve certainly learned quite a bit from Ken and Co.’s input. I’m probably a bit more of a geek than your average Joe, but I love learning new things about subjects that I have a genuine interest in.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I love this movie, even with all of its faults. Maybe that makes me naively uncritical, but I’d rather be naive and find enjoyment than criticize everything to pieces

    There are very few movies without faults and a lot of us love them — sometimes to a point where we end up loving the faults. That becomes especially true when it’s a filmmaker you love and know well and see the same faults over and over again. There are some horrible continuity errors in the cutting of just about every James Whale movie ever made. (I suspect this came about by him “cutting in the camera” so that the film could only be assembled one way — a pretty standard approach with studio directors wanting a final cut guarantee.) But rather than groan, you get to a point where it’s kind of lovable on a “Oh, that’s just Jimmy” basis.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Then why exactly are people like Ken Hanke, or for that matter all the random non-paid people on the internet still here? Okay, so that was a dumb question, but I’m just curious. I personally love reading movie reviews, after seeing the movie usually, but I’m not sure why. Any thoughts?

    Well, Mr. Roberts pretty much answered that. But I’ll add that in many cases we read and discuss in order to get differing perspectives — at least from reviewers we have some respect for. (There are a lot of reviewers — and this isn’t limited to internet reviewers, though there are certainly quite a few of them — whose views hold little interest for me. I really have no interest in what Rex Reed, for one example, thinks of a movie.) A well-reasoned review — whether you agree with it or not — has the ability to at least make you think about a film in a way you may not have considered. The same is true of a discussion.

  28. SpiritMuse

    ” But rather than groan, you get to a point where it’s kind of lovable on a “Oh, that’s just Jimmy” basis.”

    I suppose I have that with Tim Burton. Him and Johnny Depp. But I tend to be a fairly forgiving viewer anyway. If there’s a bit of bad acting, I don’t mind as long as the story is good. If there’s a weak storyline, I don’t mind as long as it’s presented well. Like Avatar. That doesn’t have the most original story I’ve ever seen, but I love it because it’s acted well and of course it looks completely spectacular.

    Talking about continuity errors, by the way, there’s one in Alice that I couldn’t help but notice. I’ll give a spoiler warning here for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, you might not want to know this detail because this is fairly near the end. When the Hatter is about to get his head chopped off, the executioner makes a big point of brushing aside the ribbon on the Hatter’s hat. In the very next shot, the ribbon is hanging straight down his back again. That’s pretty glaring, especially because they’ve just focused our attention on that ribbon.

    But things like that don’t bother me. If anything, they make me smile. And where some see gaping plotholes (“But they never explained how he did that!!”) I see an opportunity for fan speculation. I like putting my imagination to work on these things. I’m currently spinning thoughts on the Mad Hatter. I’d share but I don’t want this to be any more rambly than it already is. I’m sorry for the rambliness, also of my previous comment. It’s just that this is stuff that’s been rattling around in my head for years, waiting for an opportunity to come out. And apparently, this is it. :)

  29. Ken Hanke

    I’m sorry for the rambliness, also of my previous comment. It’s just that this is stuff that’s been rattling around in my head for years, waiting for an opportunity to come out. And apparently, this is it.

    I didn’t find it particularly rambling — and no one’s going to jump you for that anyway. I’m now curious about your take on the Mad Hatter.

    I will note, however, that you happen to have here fallen into a situation with a critic who is fond of Burton and a group of people who, by and large, are sympathetic to his work. You will not find that this kind of positivity is everywhere to be found here. I can be just as harsh on a film I deem to be bad as anyone. For that matter, I didn’t much care for Avatar and have come to pretty strongly dislike it with the passage of time.

  30. Maggie

    “When the Hatter is about to get his head chopped off, the executioner makes a big point of brushing aside the ribbon on the Hatter’s hat. In the very next shot, the ribbon is hanging straight down his back again.”

    HAHAHA! I never noticed that! and I just saw the movie a second time! But then again, I’m not the most observant person. I had to watch the movie twice before I realized the mad hater’s eyes change color when he’s mad.

    “I lOVED aLICE IN WONDERLAND AND IT SHOULDENT BE 53″
    Agreed! This is one of my favorite movies now.

  31. Ken Hanke

    “I lOVED aLICE IN WONDERLAND AND IT SHOULDENT BE 53”
    Agreed! This is one of my favorite movies now

    The point is that is doesn’t matter what its approval rating is. This whole Rotten Tomatoes fan obsession that “someone’s going to come along and ruin it by giving a bad review” when a movie starts out at 100% is bizarre in the extreme. Ruin what? The movie? A review doesn’t change the movie.

  32. Beetlejuice

    Nice to see that the discussion here never ends. I agree with Hanke that a review doesn’t change the movie. I believe it can, though, change the perception of some people, but that’s about it.

    That approval rating in Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t really change anything. I love some films that did really bad there, and hate others that did really well.

    Judging by what those critics are saying about the film, I believe nobody should give a damn about those reviews. I believe that when a critic says something stupid like “someone should throw this movie into a black hole in space” (someone there said something like that), we shouldn’t even bother reading the rest of his review.

    This is a really stupid thing to say. I mean, if he didn’t appreciate the film, can’t he find good reasons within the movie to express his opinion? Does he really have to try to be funny? I hate critics who think they are comedians!

    Well, I liked the movie a lot too, having seen it three times already. It looks better every time I see it again.

  33. SpiritMuse

    I tend to feel I’m rambling whenever my posts are some of the longest to be found on the page. :)

    I will note, however, that you happen to have here fallen into a situation with a critic who is fond of Burton and a group of people who, by and large, are sympathetic to his work. You will not find that this kind of positivity is everywhere to be found here.

    I know – I saw the page for Avatar, and I doubt I would have posted there (as extensively). I had the same trouble finding a place to talk about that one. Fortunately I have found a message board where fans enjoy discussing the movie in-depth.

    You still want to know my thoughts on the Mad Hatter? If not you’re out of luck because I’m going to tell you anyway! He’s easily the most fascinating character in the movie to me. The way I see it, his madness is a compounded madness. They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and I think he was right on that line to begin with; he’s a brilliant artist, after all. Then, the effects of his trade (the mercury poisoning that Johnny Depp talks about at every opportunity) pushed him right across that line. Also, the tragedy he witnessed, the death and destruction of the night the Red Queen attacked, can’t have done his sanity any good either! And the last part of it I think is a pretend madness. He plays it up in order to appear harmless. And it works – the queen’s people discount him as “just a nutter”. Although he’s been doing that for so long I’m not sure he remembers he was pretending.

    That’s what I see. Madness and hurt with a veneer of faked madness over the top. In short, while he is mad, he’s a lot more sane than maybe even he gives himself credit for. When push comes to shove, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    But that’s just my interpretation. I like him this way, but I could be completely wrong.

  34. Maggie

    “I tend to feel I’m rambling whenever my posts are some of the longest to be found on the page. :)”

    haha, no prob I enjoy reading what you have to say anyways, so RAMBLE AWAY!! ;)
    I have to agree with you about the mad hatter, he is one of the most interesting characters in the film. Especially since in the animated disney movie you know so little about him. He just made a short appearance and seems like ‘just some nut case’, but I never did think about it THAT deeply.
    I find the red queen is also a fascinating character too, in my opinion. As the movie goes on it kind of gives you hints about her past, like how her sister, the white queen was preferred. You also get the idea that she wasn’t always this evil when she says something like this, “Is it better to be feared then loved? I can’t decide.” Or something along those lines I can’t remember. but I really did enjoy the movie and will probably buy it on DVD when it comes out and I agree that reviews don’t change the movie, it’s simply a way for someone to express their feelings about a movie. Sometimes even shed some light on the things we don’t realize.
    Hmmm….I guess I’m just rambling on too. So no need to worry SpiritMuse.

  35. jasondelaney

    I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and say that I freakin’ hate 3D. I noticed the same lack of stand out imagery as the rest of you and I blame it on the way things need to be shot, and framed differently for 3D. I can hardly think of a subject matter more suited to have scene after scene burrow into your subconscious and pop up from time to time. I think we may have been expecting something visually more akin to The Cell. (don’t remember the release date but it had Jennifer Lopez in it) This whole film came across just a tad messy to me but the charisma of the cast I believe made it better then it should have been. I liked it, but it just kind of disappointed me, so I guess even the great Burton isn’t perfect.

  36. I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and say that I freakin’ hate 3D.
    Sir, I could not agree with you more. 3D is a terrible gimmick that literally gives me a headache and makes one of my favourite past times a physically painful experience. It is distracting, pulls me out of the movie and frankly, I find the idea of paying an extra $4 a ticket for 30% colour loss irritating as hell.
    I tried to like it. I’ve given it multiple chances. I’m now on a crusade to see it done away with completely.

    I noticed the same lack of stand out imagery as the rest of you and I blame it on the way things need to be shot, and framed differently for 3D.
    Actually, Burton’s ALICE was shot for proper projection then converted to 3D is post-production on Disney’s insistence. As if I needed another reason to dislike them.

  37. Ken Hanke

    And where have you been, Mr. Delaney? You need to come to a Thursday Horror Picture Show!

    And word comes today in the Why This One? department that Alice in Wonderland is poised to enter that select realm of movies that have grossed over one billion dollars.

  38. jasondelaney

    Sorry I haven’t been around in a while Ken, but I’m getting married on the 20th so I haven’t had the funds to go see many movies. They should make a film about how paying for a wedding is what causes all the nasty things people say about being married, that’s something I’d go see. To be fair, part of it is that I was so underwhelmed by Avatar and so violated by Transformers 2 that I’ve been avoiding movies to let the wounds heal before I get burned again.

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