Could Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" suck? Review inside...

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 8 years ago '05        #1
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DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271
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Could Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" suck? Review inside...
 

 
It's been a little over a week since I saw Tim Burton's new "Alice In Wonderland", which is not so much a remake or an adaptation as it is a sequel, ignoring of course the idea that Lewis Carroll wrote a perfectly lovely sequel himself. It is wrong-headed in pretty much every way it can be, poorly designed, loud, and worst of all, boring. It is a catastrophe as a movie, and as a place marker in the career of Tim Burton, it is a big fat dead end.

Remember when it used to be exciting to hear that Tim Burton was making a new film? Those days seem to be well and truly behind us. That's a shame, too. Ever since the moment the lights came up at the end of my first screening of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," I've been interested in this filmmaker. I love that film unreservedly. I think it's witty and beautiful and it has such amazing visual imagination. I caught up with his short films "Vincent" and "Frankenweenie" later, and I have huge affection for both of them. "Beetlejuice" is a little messier than "Pee Wee" as a script, but it's still heaps of fun to watch. I'm not crazy about his "Batman," but I think he was railroaded on that movie. "Batman Returns" is all his, and I absolutely prefer it for reasons I've written about at length in the past. "Mars Attacks!" is a film that many people hate, but I think it's a hoot. It's a mess, but I have to love those crazy little alien bastards hanging around their spaceship in bikini underwear, doing perverted experiments and blowing up things just for fun. "Sleepy Hollow" is a solid modern-day Hammer film with a groovy movie monster and a love for spilling the red. "Big Fish" doesn't work for me at all because (A) my father loved me and (B) the stories Albert Finney tells don't work at all thematically. And "Sweeney Todd" is a movie that works for me in every way except the most important... the music. And considering it's a Sondheim adaptation, that's made it almost impossible to rewatch.

I left a few films off that list because they are at the polar extremes of Burton's skill set, and before you consider this latest film of his, you should ask yourself where you stand on these. For me, the very best of what he's done is contained in "Edward Scissorhands," a simple fairy tale with a deep wellspring of genuine emotion, and "Ed Wood," a wonky masterwork that features career-best performances from several gifted actors. In both cases, Burton took his lifelong affinity for the outsider and transformed it into potent art that works on many levels. The absolute worst of his films so far have been "Planet Of The Apes" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," indifferent corporately-mandated remakes of films that didn't need to be remade. At least in those two films, there were a few touches where it felt like Burton was chafing at the yoke.

Not in "Alice At Wonderland," though. Any sign of the artist whose career I've enjoying watching over the years is submerged completely here, and what we're left with is a whole lot of art direction, a ton of expensive effects work, some of the ugliest 3D of the modern era, and not a hint of fun or wonder. Add to that a script that seems to be almost completely ignorant of what it is that makes the original work by Lewis Carroll so significant and elastic, and I'm genuinely baffled as to what anyone is expected to take from the endeavor. It is rare that I feel as completely trapped as I did while sitting in the El Capitan, and maybe part of that is because I was seated next to Crispin Glover (sheer chance, as he sat down after I'd picked my seat) and I didn't want to exhibit any outward sign of the excruciating discomfort the film caused me. Maybe part of it is because the decision to turn the film into 3D as a post-production process instead of shooting in the process results in a blurry, indistinct visual mishmash that made me feel like I was looking at a cheap Viewmaster, not a $100 million-plus fantasy film from someone who is supposed to be one of the premier visual artists working in Hollywood.

There's a lot of talent wasted in this one, which is part of what offends me about it. Mia Wasikowska is, in my opinion, sort of a genius. If you haven't seen the first season of HBO's "In Treatment," then you might not be aware of just how powerful a performer she is, but she ruined me with her work as Sophie on that show. She gave a performance most veteran actors decades older than her would be jealous of, and she made it look like it was as natural to her as breathing. She's also very, very strong in "The Kids Are All Right," one of the big films out of this year's Sundance Film Festival, and I expect that when that film gets released at the end of the year, much of the conversation about its merits will focus on her, and with good reason. Here, she's fine, but she has nothing to do. Alice is a passive character in Carroll's original work, and screenwriter Linda Woolverton obviously thought the way to make Alice more interesting would be to make her older and make her the center of a prophecy that turns her from an interested observer into the savior of Underland, as this film calls it. Linda Woolverton was wrong. Making this yet another riff on the monomyth is pretty much exactly as wrong as you can get "Alice In Wonderland." Carroll's book has served as a great springboard for many different interpretations precisely because it's not a typical fantasy story about a Chosen One doing Heroic Things, but is instead a canvass onto which you can paint whimsy and satire and commentary. Alice isn't picked for her journey because she's special. Instead, she stumbles into her adventures because of her own childish curiosity. In this film, all of Alice's efforts lead to her in a suit of armor f!ghting a monster with a sword.

No. No. No, goddammit, no.

I've got an interview that will run next week with the great and legendary Ken Ralston, and the conversation we had was a genuine pleasure. The effects he created for the film are strange and surreal and pretty much non-stop. There are some flourishes that really work, like the dreamy Miyazaki-like riff on the Cheshire Cat or the way the Jabberwocky moves through the film's climax like something out of one of Harryhausen's most wicked dreams. But seeing how strong his work is only irritates me more considering the context. If Burton had simply thrown out this entire pointless "sequel" approach and done a straight rendering of the story with his sense of humor, using the characters as whatever symbols he chose, this could easily have worked. There's no point to this being a sequel, since Alice spends 2/3 of the film claiming she doesn't remember anything, and all of the characters largely just do what they did when they first met her anyway. The "girl power" bookends to the film, where Alice is proposed to by a chinless git at a garden party, are perfunctory and played at a level of grotesque exaggeration so strong right off the bat that there's nowhere for the film to go when it gets to Underland. And there are actually bookends on the bookends, telling the story of Alice's father, a long-missing adventurer who evidently died trying to open a trade route to China, and that material just feels like syrup on top of sugar on top of syrup, overkill for no reason. There's no payoff to the missing father, nothing that Alice gains as a character aside from a smarmy little one-sentence affirmation of the joys of mental illness at the start. It's a set-up for the set-up, and Woolverton's script is so indifferent to its own machinations that she seems to simply forget to do anything with all of this blather she's built in.

At the press day last week, I heard one person actually say with a straight face, "I think Helena Bonham Carter has a real shot at Best Supporting Actress for next year." Unless he was talking about the Razzies, he was hilariously wrong. Her work as the Red Queen is pure scenery chewing ham, and while she appears to be one of the few people in the film actually enjoying themselves, that does not translate into "good performance." It's the fault of the script, really, since there's no real point to her here, and Anne Hathaway is just as stranded as the White Queen. She tries to make her oh-so-bland character interesting with some weird business involving her gag reflex and a few inappropriate responses, but it's just embarrassing. Crispin Glover doesn't make much of an impression one way or another as the Knave of Hearts, but I did spend much of the film staring at him, baffled as to why Burton chose to give him an all-CG body and just keep his head real. It's a truly bizarre decision, and all it does is make Glover look strange without really paying it off in any way.

Some of the supporting cast gets off easy by virtue of the characters they play. Matt Lucas does everything you could ever want from a Tweedle, playing both Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but he's in about fifteen minutes of film total. Stephen Fry's vocal work as the Cheshire Cat is solid, as is Michael Sheen's as the White Rabbit, but both characters are inconsequential. Same with Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar or Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare or Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky. They're all perfectly competent, but there's not a memorable moment for any of them, so why fill the cast with actors like that? They go skipping by, in and out of the movie, making no impact beyond the visual.

And then there's Johnny Depp. As disappointed as I am in Tim Burton on this film, multiply that by a thousand for Depp. I would like to formally request that Congress step in and pass a law that prevents him from working with Tim Burton anymore, because at this point, I think they're starting to actively hurt each other. There were years where I was a passionate Depp defender, when the mainstream had no use for him at all, and I still feel like his best performances are breathtaking to revisit. "Dead Man," "Donnie Brasco," "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas," and of course the twin triumphs with Burton, "Ed Wood" and "Edward Scissorhands." This time out, though, his work as the Mad Hatter is nigh unwatchable. It's a jumble of crazy voices and creepy make-up and shifting accents, and instead of coming across as someone genuinely damaged or mad or eccentric or fascinating, he just plain feels like he's trying too hard. And did anyone... ANYONE... really need a backstory for the Mad Hatter to explain why he's mad? No? Well, too bad, 'cause you're gonna get one. And it's really really stupid.

I could go on, but why? More than anything, I'm just plain sad that this is where Tim Burton is as a filmmaker in the year 2010. And with "Dark Shadows" and a "Sleeping Beauty" riff in his future, it feels like he's got nothing left to say. Good god, he's even remaking his own "Frankenweenie," and based on the evidence of this film, I fully expect it will entirely miss the point of the original. When he can't even regurgitate his own ideas properly, maybe it's time to just take a step back and enjoy the MOMA shows and the famous wife and the lifetime display section at Hot Topic. Tim Burton is a brand these days, and that's certainly impressive, but he's not much of a filmmaker anymore. I'm sure this film will open big, and it will sell merchandise and DVDs, but I can't imagine anyone talking about it in six months, much less six years. All this money, all this effort, and in the end, it's an empty box, all gift-wrapping and no gift.

[pic - click to view]

 Tim Burtons Alice In Wonderland with Johnny Depp is anything but wonderful - HitFix.com

Damnnn.... Just... wow.

106 comments for "Could Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" suck? Review inside..."

 8 years ago '04        #2
Nu Tymez 8 heat pts
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I will still see it, Been looking forward to this for awhile..
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 8 years ago '05        #3
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 Illstreet said:
Yeah, I've not been interested or turned on by it at all...

It looks like a heaping pile of s**t.

Then again, I'm not a Burton fan(besides Batman 89 and Returns).
Yes, I am incredibly sick of Tim Burton. But, if there was ANY story that seems like it is suited for his style and that he couldn't possibly screw up even if he tried, it's Alice In Wonderland... I mean... WHAT THE F*CK??


Last edited by DaOmega_1; 02-27-2010 at 01:36 PM..
 8 years ago '04        #4
rashad0715 76 heat pts76
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Allow your fears to be alleviated – those concerned about Tim Burton's increasingly indulgent direction can ease back into their seats; Alice in Wonderland does not fall to the same pretension of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's not a vanity project or a hollow reboot. Alice in Wonderland is a lovingly filmed and meticulously crafted interpretation of Lewis Carroll's treasured tale, rife with fantasy, coated in gothic iconography and presented by a superb cast who nail their characters' portraits utterly.

4 out of 5 Stars | 8/10
 8 years ago '05        #5
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 rashad0715 said:
4 out of 5 Stars | 8/10
Ah, I don't trust IGN AU because they're reviews are too generous to crappy films... I ain't gonna trust them with this one... I'm waiting for more reviews...

the post-production 3D isn't helping matters for me either.
 8 years ago '06        #6
modalee 5 heat pts
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i never liked Tim Burton
 8 years ago '07        #7
TH35 103 heat pts103
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I don't like Alice in Wonderland. Never have, never will. Tim Burton is alright but I'd rather see him do something original or almost original (because nothing ever really is).
 8 years ago '04        #8
JFamis 235 heat pts235
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I wish he'd make more movies like Big Fish, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and movies like that are a waste of his time, I think.
 8 years ago '09        #9
Vincent_Chase 27 heat pts27
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i dont care about some niccas opinion I'd rather judge for myself..
 8 years ago '06        #10
Blah 17 heat pts17
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 Vincent_Chase said:
i dont care about some niccas opinion I'd rather judge for myself..
yep
 8 years ago '05        #11
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 JFamis said:
I wish he'd make more movies like Big Fish, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and movies like that are a waste of his time, I think.
Can't forget about the very worst of his, "Planet of The Apes"... remember that one?

For real, the problem for me is that I just can't take him seriously anymore because his films exist entirely on commerce, just to sell Hot Topic t-shirts. And, every film he makes are 1 of two types of movies now... 1). A super-wymsical self-indulgent visual feast. OR... 2). a super-gothic self-indulgent emo film... Only Ed Wood, and Big Fish have broken away from this formula he has.
 8 years ago '06        #12
Jhnnyblz427 174 heat pts174
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imax here we go!
 8 years ago '06        #13
Triple0 8 heat pts
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Still seeing it day 1.
 8 years ago '04        #14
Kasssssst 135 heat pts135
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Friday im there
 02-27-2010, 03:45 PM         #15
smokeweed101. 
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 JFamis said:
I wish he'd make more movies like Big Fish, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.
Came here to say those are his 3 good films, Batman was straight as well. He hasn't done anything since Big Fish and I don't expect much but some hopefully good visuals.


Last edited by smokeweed101.; 02-27-2010 at 03:47 PM..
 02-27-2010, 04:02 PM         #16
tj.iscool 
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 Vincent_Chase said:
i dont care about some niccas opinion I'd rather judge for myself..
what he said
 8 years ago '04        #17
JFamis 235 heat pts235
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 DaOmega_1 said:
Can't forget about the very worst of his, "Planet of The Apes"... remember that one?

For real, the problem for me is that I just can't take him seriously anymore because his films exist entirely on commerce, just to sell Hot Topic t-shirts. And, every film he makes are 1 of two types of movies now... 1). A super-wymsical self-indulgent visual feast. OR... 2). a super-gothic self-indulgent emo film... Only Ed Wood, and Big Fish have broken away from this formula he has.
I don't count Planet of the Apes as entirely his fault. He was constantly at war with Fox while making that movie and Fox had more to do with f**king it up than him, which isn't hard to believe. He stormed off the set like daily. Haha.

 smokeweed101. said:
Came here to say those are his 3 good films, Batman was straight as well. He hasn't done anything since Big Fish and I don't expect much but some hopefully good visuals.
Oh, yeah. Batman and Batman Returns are good too, but I'd rather see him step away from popular adaptations for awhile and do things a little less mainstream than the other three mentioned.
 8 years ago '06        #18
Storchaveli 94 heat pts94
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This is just 1 review. I don't give a f**k, still watching it.

 8 years ago '09        #19
Ms Ambitious 249 heat pts249
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I liked Alice in Wonderland from Disney, but when people try to remake animated films into movies, they always turn me off to them. Just like when they made the Grinch who stole christmas into a movie, and I was like hell naw lol. I might see it and it's a strong might.
 8 years ago '07        #20
TH35 103 heat pts103
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 JFamis said:
Oh, yeah. Batman and Batman Returns are good too, but I'd rather see him step away from popular adaptations for awhile and do things a little less mainstream than the other three mentioned.
agree 100%
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