ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Overall Impression – Alice’s return trip to Wonderland is curiously forgettable.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Alice.

What’s she trying to accomplish? – Physical: defeat the Jabberwocky and save Wonderland from the Red Queen.  Emotional: decide whether or not to get married.  Spiritual: learn that she can choose her own path.

Who’s trying to stop her? – The Red Queen, the Knave of Hearts, plus Alice doubting that she’s the Alice that Wonderland wants her to be.

What happens if she fails? – Alice and her friends will die, and the Red Queen will continue to rule Wonderland unopposed.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Alice has forgotten her first trip to Wonderland, so when she does return, it’s like venturing into a new world.  She’s also forgotten that Wonderland taught her to make her own destiny instead of doing what people tell her to do.

Wanderer – Alice explores Wonderland, meeting all of her old friends and learning what the Red Queen has done.  She tries to figure out if this is all a dream, and whether or not she’s the Alice that everybody hopes she is.  She learns that Alice, whether that be her or another Alice, is destined to defeat the Jabberwocky and free Wonderland from the Red Queen.

Warrior – Alice sets out to rescue the Mad Hatter from the Red Queen and to retrieve the fabled sword needed to defeat the Jabberwocky.

Martyr – Alice accepts her destiny as the White Queen’s champion, and faces the fearsome Jabberwocky one on one to save Wonderland.

AND, IN THE END…

This attempt to retell ALICE IN WONDERLAND as a linear story instead of a somewhat random series of events could have a certain appeal, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to add more depth to an already rich story.  On the other hand, by making sense of the non-sensical, you risk taking the heart out of what Wonderland is about.

Alice’s return to Wonderland felt a little flat, and even tedious at times.  Her first adventure was incredibly weird, and incredibly memorable.  As a result, I couldn’t buy that she’d chalked her first trip up to a dream, let alone that she spent the entirety of the movie convinced that she wasn’t the same Alice that had visited Wonderland previously.  Alice and her audience have already experience Wonderland, yet Alice is the only one who can’t remember anything about that incredible first trip.  Maybe it’s inevitable that this adaptation felt slightly old hat…  How much wonder is left in Wonderland when you’ve been there countless times before in other adaptations?

That being said, a lot about ALICE IN WONDERLAND is new, and often very fun.  The Mad Hatter’s crew and the Red Queen throw out some laughs, and it goes without saying that this is an incredibly visual movie.  I might have enjoyed the film more had I seen it in 3D.

One thing WONDERLAND does well is illustrating the power of ‘kick the dog’.  This land is so full of animal characters that you can tell who the bad guys are, and how bad they are, by how severely and how often they ‘kick the dog’.

The Red Queen is the worst animal abuser: she whacks rodents around the lawn using bird clubs, uses pigs as footstools, decapitates a frog servant, and holds a dog’s family hostage!  Next down the list is the Knave: while the Red Queen’s henchman isn’t exactly nice to the animals of Wonderland, he’s kinda chummy with his evil horse.  Follow this pattern down to Alice’s wimpy would-be fiancé, who’s about to squish a caterpillar on his shoulder before Alice manages to save it.

– Dan Pilditch

One Response to “ALICE IN WONDERLAND”

  1. David Goulet March 15, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    The set up for this one reminds me a lot of Hook, where Peter Pan (Robin Williams) must return to Neverland. It’s not an idea without potential, but you ultimately are doing a ‘what-if’ with an existing classic. It makes good commercial sense, but creatively you are trying to fill big shoes. All the reviews I’ve read of this film suggest that Burton tripped over his laces.

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