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Alice in Wonderland in 3D

Down the rabbit hole we go. And who better to lead us there this time than Tim Burton? He is an expert at crafting movies that are both visually arresting and populated with quirky characters. The Wonderland characters are played by his regular gang of friends: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Alan Rickman as the blue caterpillar and Christopher Lee even briefly lends his voice to the Jabberwocky. This feels like a chess board where all the right pieces have been placed in the perfect place for a smashing victory.

This version of the tale is familiar at first, but evolves into something new as the story progresses. Alice, played by newcomer Mia Wasikowska, is now 19 and about to be married to a Hamish (Leo Bill) a man not interested in imagination, which is a shame because Alice loved her father’s ability to think of six impossible things to do before breakfast. When Hamish pops the question, in front of an entire family gathering, Alice panics and says she needs a moment. She follows a white rabbit wearing a frock coat, falls down a hole, and you should know the rest.

Apparently, so should Alice. While she is busy growing and shrinking at the bottom of the rabbit hole, someone is watching her and wondering how come she doesn’t remember all this from the first time. This leads to the debate about whether or not she is THE Alice as is asked by the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). It turns out that Alice is very much needed in Wonderland, or Underland as it is called by the locals. It has been written that she is the champion who must defeat the monstrous Jabberwocky thus allowing the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to reclaim the power stolen by her evil sister the Red Queen.

All this is told through wonderful visuals that do a good job of integrating the human characters within an obviously green screen environment and CG creatures. A talking dog named Bayard (Timothy Spall) looked a bit cartoonish when he did talk, but the card soldiers looked like very-well designed characters in a solid video-game. The 3-D can be an enhancement in some scenes, specifically in battle scenes or when objects are flying towards the camera when Alice is falling down the rabbit hole. The only downside is that with the glasses you lose some of the colours of such a rich environment. With all the effort that went into designing such a world, it’s a shame to lose some of the imagery in order to have objects fly at your face.

Johnny Depp receives top billing as the Mad Hatter, a role which he is naturally good at considering his resume of recent years, but Mia Wasikowska does an excellent job of portraying an Alice who evolves as her journey progresses. She is initially naive about the whole situation since she figures this nothing more than a dream. As the peril increases, she becomes more daring and angry at being told what to do. She also does something that is rarely seen in fantasy tales: she picks up a sword and fights. Am I the only who loves the sight of a woman dressing up in armour and being the hero of a story?

Story-wise this is quite memorable, but not perfect. As I watched I somehow felt that there was something missing. You care about the characters; you care about what they are doing, yet you wish that events could unfold faster. Furthermore, the ending feels contrived in order for things to turn as best as they can for the heroine. Still, the images, characters, and to a certain extent, the 3D will ensure that you have a good time while visiting Wonderland with a promising newcomer surrounded by professionals.

B+

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