By Duncan Voice
Alongside Labyrinth and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Disney’s 1951 animated classic Alice in Wonderland remains one of the most terrifying films of my childhood. It was the peculiar worlds that the characters found themselves in without any way out terrified the 8 year old Duncs. I’d frequently raid my big brother’s VHS collection for the Predator’s and Hellraiser’s of which did nothing for me, but when Alice went down that rabbit hole, man was I in for some bother.
Purveyor of the peculiar Tim Burton has once again stamped his surreal mark on another reimagining, the wonderfully bizarre Alice in Wonderland. Thankfully the scares were non-existent, and I was just left grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
As has been commonplace since the Pirates series, Johnny Depp seems to be the main draw for anything that he appears in which is generally completely justified, although as the Mad Hatter for once he plays second-string to a number of other characters. His Mad Hatter has a somewhat low-key introduction, but soon develops into what you would expect from possibly the greatest living character actor. I did get a hint of Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins, except with a split personality disorder and a bright orange afro.
Helena Bonham Carter is truly wonderful as the Queen of Hearts, and yes, that is Barbara Windsor as Dormouse. Matt Lucas and Paul Whitehouse make appearances as the Tweedle brothers and the March Hare, with Alan Rickman as the stoned but wise old Abosolom the Caterpillar. Stephen Fry is the soporific yet shrewd Cheshire Cat, who can be hypnotic to watch at points as he glides around screen during conversation. It is great to see such a strong British presence in a high-profile release.
Relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska steals the show as the titular Alice. She gives the role the innocence required for such a playful adventure in which belief should most definitely be suspended, whilst also injecting enough maturity for what is effectively a coming-of-age film.
Unfortunately round my neck of the woods (literally, I live in a forest) there is no facility to watch films in their desired three dimensions, so I had to make do with the bog-standard two. There are moments that are obviously filmed so they pop right out into audiences faces, but then again this is a Tim Burton film and every scene is literally Christmas for your retinas. Everything is drenched in rich colour and imagination, you can only wonder how he manages to come up with it all. Be it the stomping Bandersnatch, the terrifying Jabberwocky (okay so I got a little scared when you first get a glimpse of it) or the incidental touches like the flying… er… trumpet… um… seahorse, Wonderland is so steeped in resplendent detail you almost want to go hunting for rabbit holes in Richmond Park.
Yet for all of the imagination flying around (literally) and with such a wonderful cast, it never quite transcends into greatness. A large portion of the film takes place in the Red Queen’s palace, which lacks the same vivacity as the stunning locales and is arguably when the story begins to falter, before picking up for a terrific ending.
There are certainly better films out right now, but none that look quite as spectacular. Another excuse to buy a Blu-ray player when it comes in HD then.
7 OUT OF 10