At last – I have now seen a thoroughly wonderful movie that lifts the soul and spirits. Reading my recent posts, I feared I had become the critic from hell, finding fault in everything she sees. Had tough personal challenges made me cynical and unable to be pleased? Was the endless rain in London dampening my weary spirits further? Or was I just a little bored of Stratford’s Picture House?
No, thank goodness. Thanks to Tim Burton’s marvellous and imaginative “Alice In Wonderland”, my faith in the uplifting nature of the restorative film is back. I am a wide-eyed kid in love with cinema again. Even the screaming child in my row – great lungs, kid – coouldn’t detract from a lovely film.
It’s not perfect. The American and feminist slant skews the whole into some gooeyness, like chocolate pudding. It cloys at times and slows down dangerously at others. The ending is almost impossibly contrived. It must be wasted on children, given that it defies the breathless pace of the video game and demands steady concentration on visual detail.
But, all in all, Burton’s exceptional vision holds together wonderfully. I have never seen the point of Johnny Depp, because he is so girlie. But that very androgynous quality of his works well as the Mad Hatter. The eye makeup, odd red hair and the perfect hat give him stature. He believes in it all, and so do you.
If you want a faithful retelling of “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” or “Through The Looking Glass”, you won’t find it here. This is a mix of bits of both books and – as my friend Michael rightly observed – a coming of age fable. But what a coming of age! Imagination and fantasy and a glorious artist’s paintbrush take the whole to a higher level. This is “Alice” for artists.
I am not wholly convinced by the 3D. I spent part of the movie with the glasses flicking on and off, and I couldn’t see anything but the occasional enhancement or floating object. “G Force” does that better.
Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter (Burton’s real-life partner) as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and a whole slew of glorious Brit character actors and celebrity voices make this a home-grown achievement to be proud of. But the real triumph is the colour and shape that just wows you from the start. It’s a little dark at times and I enjoyed taking the 3D glasses off to make the faces and shapes lighter and brighter.
Yet I know it will stay in my heart and mind for some time to come. Go see it. At the very least, the ship called “Wonder”, the prospect of sailing to China and the special Johnny Depp dance with the silly name will stick with you. If you have ever drawn other realities and imagined the layers of the underworld, the shapes of the Red Queen’s castle and court and the White Queen’s contrasts will take you back into your own imagination. And – after all – that’s what the best movies do for me.
POSTSCRIPT ADDED ON MARCH 25TH: I saw it again. This time, I saw it in a big cinema, in 3D. It was magical. The falling scene was utterly transporting and breathtaking. So, don’t go to a little venue. Go big screen. IMAX may be the winner, in that this is the format that shows off Burton’s vision best.