A seemingly unstoppable money magnet, Tim Burton's deliriously trippy re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's anthropomorphized netherworld marked a return home for the king of cinematic kook, having began his career as a Mouse House animator, and a smash hit success for a director who despite some serious name recognition has never been that commercially viable. Neither Wonderland, nor Through The Looking Glass, Burton's take sits somewhere inbetween – Alice in 'Underland' – as some have come to call it.

Relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska was tapped to fall down the rabbit hole, her feisty Alice desperate to escape a surprise arranged marriage to a stuffy, pampered aristocrat. Landing in the bizarre landscape of Underworld she experiences flashes of hazy familiarity, while Carroll's renowned cast of critters, nutters, and helpers, insist that she has been here before and is the chosen one, sent by prophecy, to slay the vicious jabberwocky and restore The White Queen to the throne.

Carroll's nonsense book, wrapped in swathes of drug-imagery, halfway hallucination, and potholes of logic was going to be a tough ask to shoehorn into a sensible story. And Burton was certainly not about to worry over it; not when there are forests to contort, candy-stripes to paint, and Johnny Depp to play with as a flame-haired, borderline schizophrenic Mad Hatter. Far more concerned with the color palette than coherence, Burton's Alice is an artistic delight; dazzling and enchanting, while at the same time perfectly content to devolve into a highly-stylized form of gibberish.

No matter, it works best as a mood piece anyway, and while the lengthy, if scattered, list of famous characters who guide and inform Alice are more a parade of hipster cameos than a supporting cast – Stephen Fry as Cheshire Cat, Matt Lucas as Tweedles Dum and Dee – they do make their small, underwritten roles their own. Crispin Glover as the dastardly Knave of Hearts seems to have finally found a suitable vessel for his singular brand of creepy campness. Helena Bonham Carter also deserves special praise as the fat-headed Queen of Hearts, her constant cries of "Off with their head" almost a form of tourettes, while her tantrum-having huff and puff owes more than a nod to Miranda Richardson's Queen Elizabeth of Blackadder fame.

Indeed the bad guy are clearly having all the fun, Anne Hathaway's White Queen frustratingly vacant in her pearlesence. Even with the fuzzy plotting, muddled motivations, and Johnny Depp's Hatter overshadowing Wasikowska almost to the determent of the movie, there is much to be said for just letting it all wash over you. Burton isn't really a director at all – he's an artist that just happens to use film as his medium, and when permitted to indulge himself to this extent there are few out there whose excess is more fun to revel in.

Blu-ray special Features:

This three disc set contains both Blu-ray and DVD copies of the feature, along with a digital copy. Extras include two featurettes; one on characterization and casting, the other on production design from concept to completion.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman
Director: Tim Burton
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Distributor: Disney
Rating: PG

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1 Comments

  • ngarun
    ngarun on

    With 3D televisions starting to enter the market for general consumers, I wonder when Blu-ray/DVD movies will start catering to that capability? Alice in Wonderland or Avatar might not translate as well into "regular" formatting.

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