Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Return to Wonderland

It suddenly struck me at the age of 40 that I have never read "Alice in Wonderland" or seen any of the various movies based upon Lewis Carroll's story yet because of the iconic nature of the story I knew it. That maybe part of the reason why having watched Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" it didn't do it for me with what is basically a reimagining of the familiar story changing things and adding things to make it hard to connect with. Maybe if I had read "Alice in Wonderland" as a child these various differences wouldn't have bothered me so much but whilst I admire the ingenuity it left me disconnected or maybe it was something else which caused that disconnection?

Having grown up and now approaching her 20th birthday Alice (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself at a garden party where she is expected to accept the proposal of a young man set up by her mother. But Alice becomes distracted by a white rabbit and after falling down a hole she finds herself in "Underland" where magic potions lead her through a tiny door to talking animals and the mad hatter (Johnny Depp) who all seem to know her. And so starts the adventure as Alice realises she is in "Underland" for a reason.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh in Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I mentioned that "Alice in Wonderland" is basically a reimagining of the well known story and to be honest I applaud the creative team who came up with it. There are some nice embellishments which make it more than just a rehash of the well known story and whilst not all of it works, becoming a bit tedious in places it nicely includes many well known elements. And with this being a Tim Burton reimagining there is an element of twisted darkness to this, maybe a little too dark in places for young children as scenes involving an eyeball takes you aback.

But in truth whilst I did struggle a bit with the storyline I struggled more with the visuality of the movie which probably sounds incredibly daft. Burton and his team of artists and animators have done a staggering job of creating this fantasy world which is crammed full of detail from moody skies to wisps of hair moving in the wind. But it is so detailed with so much going on that it ends up distracting you from the story, your mind wanders as you see something in the background which suddenly moves. As I said it sounds daft to criticize so much attention to detail but it gets to the point that it borders on the headache inducing because there is so much to take in in every single scene.

And that is not my only issue when it comes to the visuality of "Alice in Wonderland" because in making it comically quirky and fantasy like the various actors seem muted by makeup and effects. Don't get me wrong as both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter deliver brilliant voicing of some very quirky looking characters but the look of them takes away from how they actually act. In the end it is becomes as headache inducing as the rest of the movie because these character creations have so much going on visually that you don't know where to look.

What this all boils down to is that "Alice in Wonderland" failed to do it for me and in fact was a disappointment. For me the movie ended up being all about the visuals, the animations, the effects and the fantasy world which I am sure is what some audiences loved but it became distracting and head inducing as too much was constantly going on.