Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Alice In Wonderland

directed by Tim Burton

Alice In Wonderland poster  
Tim Burton's films always have a distinctive style, even when they look entirely different from each other. Somewhere between gaudy gothic and dark fairytales streaked with insanity, his films always have more than their fair helping of visual genius.

In Alice In Wonderland Burton outdoes himself with landscapes of giant multicoloured mushrooms, acid oranges, clashing reds, fabulous castles, fierce beasts and blasted wastelands. Like a hallucination, the imagery conjures up nausea and amazement in equal measure.

Although it's based on Lewis Carroll's stories, this movie is a sequel to them. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is nearly 20, and Hamish (Leo Bill) is about to propose to her. Everyone expects her to accept, because he's a Lord and she won't be young and beautiful forever. But she hesitates, and runs off to gather her thoughts. But in the process she follows a white rabbit, and falls down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

Wonderland is full of characters who remember an Alice, but they don't recognise the grown-up version. Is she the same Alice, or only someone who happens to share the same name? Alice herself can't remember visiting, and in any case she's certain it's all a dream. But is it?

Everyone is terrified of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), a petulant tyrant who rules with the help of the wicked Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover). Whenever someone annoys her she's liable to shout "Off with his head!" Her own head is an enormous bulbous outgrowth, like a genetically modified strawberry gone wrong.

Alice isn't too happy with her dream, and she wants to get back to the real world. But the people of Wonderland want her to help them overthrow the Red Queen and restore her sister to the throne. The White Queen, played by a sissy Anne Hathaway, wins the award for the most effete display of hand-waving ever seen on film. Her gestures are actually more nauseating than the potion of dead-mens-fingers-and-spit she brews up for Alice.

Alice meets more allies, all of them strange but most with more backbone than the White Queen. However the Red Queen has a Jabberwocky on her side. There's a prophecy about a champion coming to slay this creature, but Alice can't see herself fulfilling that role. So who will save the kingdom?

This is an accessible tale about the power of social norms and finding courage and self-belief. There are dark touches, such as the stepping-stones in the moat, yet the movie is still tame enough to charm rather than frighten, and it should appeal to children. The somewhat obvious dialogue may disappoint older viewers. However there are plenty of drug references put in for more worldly people to feel smug about picking up on.

The visuals are sumptuous, looking like nothing Tim Burton's ever created before yet carrying his unmistakable stamp. The story is okay, but in spite of a rich cast of comedians it's more of a long, slow chuckle than a riot of laughter. There is anarchy, but it's all for your eyes.

Film Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Oz The Great And Powerful cover    

Oz The Great And Powerful by Sam Raimi
James Franco plays a magician who is struggling to convince anyone of his value, when he is swept away to the magical land of Oz.

Automated Alice cover    

Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
Alice in Wonderland travels forward in time.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Tim Burton

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