Monday, March 8, 2010

Alice's Quest: A Rant

I liked Alice in Wonderland until it stopped being Alice in Wonderland and started being Chronicles of Narnia.

It seems to be a trend in children's book adaptations these days to age child characters into sexy adults and that's what director Tim Burton did here by casting 20 year old Mia Wasikowska to play Alice. Unlike the recent Percy Jackson film, however, they didn't just do it and hope no one would notice. This movie is more of a sequel thought the story is a mish mash of Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwock. The story opens in the early 1800s with a seven year old Alice describing a strange dream about a fantasy world with talking animals and the like to her father. She should be grateful that her father was enlightened enough not to have her committed or leached and was able to reach age 20 relatively unscathed. Her mother, a woman who apparently never read Jane Austen, is trying to marry her young, lovely daughter off to some foolish douche who also happens to be a wealthy Lord. Alice's odd dreams have followed her into adulthood and caused her to become easily distracted and prone to odd, random thoughts. While dancing with her fiance, she stops moving as she suddenly wonders what it would be like to fly. Though marrying a rich douchebag is considered to be the greatest thing a young lady can do in this society, Alice actually runs off when Lord Douche of Douchetopia pops the question and ends up following a waistcoat-wearing rabbit down a hole. What I write next is filled with shocking spoilers so be warned.

It turns out that hole leads to a room with a tiny door. Alice drinks from a bottle that says "Drink Me" and shrinks so she can fit through the door. Amazing, eh? Told you there'd be spoilers. Did I just blow your mind? She enters Underland, a place where everyone knows her, everyone being the rabbit, a wise caterpillar and a pair of goofball twins named Tweedledum and Tweedledee. This is about where we meet the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, in this movie because Tim Burton is required by law to include her in all his movies) and her loyal soldier, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover, who makes that character look unbelievably cool). The White Queen has taken over Narnia and cursed it to be under a perpetual layer of snow...oops, sorry, I mean the Red Queen has taken over Underland and cursed it to be perpetually bleak. The Queen rules by controlling a dragon called the Jabberwock and is somewhat worried about a prophecy saying Alice, who has visited years earlier and called the place Wonderland, would return and take possession of the mystical Vorpal Sword which, I assume, can take out the Jabberwock due to it having +12 Jabberwock damage. The Queen doesn't recognize the now grown Alice who has come to her castle to rescue the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp who, shockingly gives a memorable performance by playing the Hatter as a split personality, one an effete and silly party goer and the other a crazed Scot). Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

Making Alice an adult with feminist tendencies actually worked for me. I've always found the Alice stories to be more than a little disturbing and it's easier to watch all this weird stuff happen to a grownup than to a little girl. If only they hadn't felt the need to turn it into every other movie. It think it was Roger Ebert who wrote on Twitter that he has to write, "It was great until the action film ending," so often that people think he has no original ideas. Actually, it's the movies that don't. I didn't see this in 3D (which may be good since I've seen nothing but complaints about the movie's 3D version) but I know it 2D it had Tim Burton's trademark visual imagination and it even paid attention to things like creating interesting characters including making Alice into a (rather timid) feminist who doesn't feel she needs to marry to have a happy life depsite what everyone around her says. Then it ended with a battle between good and evil and a dragon fight. I won't tell you who won.

Therefore, i say yes, go see Alice in Wonderland. Just feel free to go to sleep during the ending. Trust me, you'll miss nothing.

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