Welcome back to my long string of Tim Burton reviews! Good news: The series is nearly over! Bad news: I have to talk about Alice in Wonderland (2010). I remember seeing this in the theaters and was pretty much blown away. To my eyes, the special effects were really good, and I was very happy on the ride home. But, flash forward seven years later, and, well…it doesn’t hold up. Let’s discuss this piece of crap.
So, a few weeks ago, I ended up reviewing Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001). It’s safe to say that the film is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Then, I reviewed Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Not a terrible film, but not a great one either. What do both of these have in common? They’re remakes! I don’t know why Burton’s revised versions of older films end up being mediocre, but it seems as if every single attempt he makes fails. The only instance when a remake of his has been good was Frankenweenie (2012), and that was his own idea, to begin with!
Anyway, instead of being a direct adaptation of the source material, Burton tries here to make his own little re-imagining, and I usually have nothing wrong with that. But the way Burton’s signature style works its way into the gears of this film is just terrible. Planet of the Apes? I’ll give it a pass because the original was kind of a bleak film, to begin with. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? A little too dark and weird for my liking, but it wasn’t the worst. This? No. Just no.
Another thing I’ve noticed throughout Burton’s remakes is that they try a bit too hard to balance funny and dark, but the attempts usually fail. You can’t remake an iconic and beloved film, aim it at the child audience, and then make it too macabre for the main audience’s PG-level brains to understand. Yet again, Burton does just that and mixes in a bleak, tiresome world void of any happiness.
I do want to talk a bit about what I like about this film because it isn’t all bad. I feel like I’m kind of going on a tangent and ranting on everything the film has to offer, but the film isn’t lacking in everything. For one, the acting is decent. Except for Johnny Depp, who is oh-so-terrible as the Mad Hatter, the rest of the cast is fairly good. Mia Wasikowska is pretty good as Alice. Anne Hathaway is quirky but relatively fun. Helena Bonham Carter owns the role of the Red Queen and is perfectly suited to play an over-the-top role like this.
Another thing I really like is the world so beautifully crafted for this film. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about, but seriously, these are some of the best environments I’ve ever seen on screen. However, the rest of the CGI, mainly revolving around the creatures. Almost all of the beings living in this world look really bad, almost laughably so. The flowers Alice encounters are really shoddy-looking. Absolem the Caterpillar looks very bad as well. The Bandersnatch also looks very overdone and is really obvious that they spent a bit too much time designing it. The only creature that looks good is the Cheshire Cat.
As for action in the film, there is a lot, but the biggest example is the giant duel towards the end where Alice must kill the Jabberwocky. While I can fully understand Burton’s reasoning for not staying close to the book, it certainly doesn’t work in his favor here. The final duel is clichéd, boring, and just not that good. It’s entertaining for audiences that are younger but it just can’t live up to a bar set by the original.
Overall, Alice in Wonderland is-yet again-another misguided attempt at a remake that succeeds on some levels, but fails on others. I’m going to give the film a C-.
Alice in Wonderland stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman. Directed by Tim Burton.