At The Theater #9: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s very hyped, heavily advertised take on the Lewis Carroll classic is surprisingly light on  its Tim Burton. Sure, the surface elements are all there: the characters and their surroundings look weird. But for the most part, this is a by-the-numbers approach to Alice in Wonderland.

It’s so by-the-numbers that it comes across a bit pointless. Even the story doesn’t seem new, despite this being Alice’s second trip to Wonderland. Tim Burton must be working with the major theme of if you forget the past, you are doomed to repeat it; Alice at 19 finds herself going through the same motions as Alice at 6. She’s dismissed her earlier adventure in Wonderland, or Underland as she’s told it’s really called, as a bad dream. The Wonderland/Underland misnomer comes across as a one-off bit shoe-horned late in the film. Is there a point to Alice having the name wrong? Is Underland really a better name than Wonderland?

I don’t want to come across as too harsh against this movie, as I did enjoy it. Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter is the best performance in this role by someone not named Tom Petty. Although it is weird that the Tim Burtonized Mad Hatter makes Johnny Depp look surprisingly like Elijah Wood. Maybe Wood wasn’t available due to Hobbit commitments, or maybe Burton just thought Depp did a better Scottish accent, but still wanted that Elijah Wood look.

The Mad Hobbit

Speaking of people looking like other people, am I the only one who thought that Anne Hathaway’s White Queen looked a lot like Lady Gaga?

Rah rah rah ah ah ah! White Queen ooh la la!

I went to a 3D, but non-Imax showing of Alice in Wonderland. The 3D in the movie was cool. It wasn’t mind-blowing in the way that Avatar’s was, but they make good use of it, and I think the movie was better for it and is worth the extra fee. Theaters are charging $3 extra for the 3D version of the movie to cover the cost of glasses. I think they should waive that fee if you bring your own glasses from the last 3D movie you watched, but that’s not the case in any 3D theater I’ve been to so far. I guess it would be a logistical nightmare, or encourage dishonest practices by customers, or it’s just another revenue stream for them.

Christopher Lee, who has never played General Zod, voices the Jabberwocky. Christopher Lee will always be The Man Who Never Played General Zod to me, after so many years spent incorrectly believing him to be General Zod. He uses the same deep throated voice here that worked so well in playing villains like Saruman and not playing villains like General Zod.

If you decided to skip out on seeing Alice in Wonderland, you wouldn’t be missing much. Because really, at the end of the day, if Tom Petty isn’t the Mad Hatter or Geoffrey Holder, the old 7-Up guy, isn’t playing the Cheshire Cat, what’s the point?

Both of these Alice in Wonderlands freaked me out as a child much more than Tim Burton ever could:

Geoffry Holder as the Chesire Cat:

Tom Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More video: