My wife and I recently joined a few friends to watch Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, a movie that I had been looking forward to for a long time; a movie that promised to blow the classic Disney cartoon out of the water with a darkly imaginative adventure.
In this film, a much more grown up Alice finds herself back in the mystical world of Wonderland (or "Underland," to the locals). Having forgotten about the adventure she had as a child, and haunted by a recurring nightmare, the young lady at first assumes she's simply dreaming the whole thing. It is only after she decides she's had enough, and tries to wake herself up, that she realizes how very real is the land of wonder she's found herself in once again.
Johnny Depp gives an adequate performance as the Mad Hatter (and keep in mind, I'm meaning adequate for Johnny Depp — great performance as a whole). I had been expecting quite a lot from him, but that "lot" was just enough more than what I felt I received to leave me feeling ever so slightly disappointed. Just a little bit more energy (and a little less Jack Sparrow) would have given him the seat of my favorite character (something I had expected the Mad Hatter to obtain quite quickly, but instead, a spot that went to the epic March Hare, care of Paul Whitehouse). That being said, Johnny Depp is among my favorite actors and his performance in this role certainly does not change that fact.
The role of Alice is played by young Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. Though there is nothing exceptional about her performance, there certainly isn't anything to complain about. She plays the part very convincingly, especially considering how much of the environment and characters were created in post-production.
Helena Bonham Carter, who many will know from movies such as Fight Club, A Room With A View, and the Harry Potter series, is full of life and energy in her role as the Red Queen. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about Anne Hathaway's slightly odd, awkward, and honestly dull portrayal of the White Queen. When watching the film, you can somewhat see where they were going with her character, but it seems Ms. Hathaway simply wasn't able to put the energy into the quirky character that it so desperately needed.
There are many other elaborate characters carried excellently by great actors (including Crispin Glover's expectedly eerie portrayal of Stayne and Alan Rickman's voice work for the Blue Caterpillar). The Tweedle twins are sure to make you laugh and, as previously mentioned, the March Hare is truly excellent (in the "mad, bonkers, off your head" sort of way you must prepare yourself to expect).
I definitely enjoyed the movie, but I think I would have enjoyed it more had I seen it in the good ol' fashioned way (as in, not 3D). Many of the 3D perspectives appear exaggerated and though the whole film is a work of fantasy and surrealism, the extended depth that the scenes are given simply makes the movie seem unnatural. It's very noticeably layered, giving the appearance of being pieced together into 3D after the fact, not filmed in 3D (which I have a sneaking suspicion is true).
If you take a movie like Avatar, for example, the 3D looks very natural and does not distract from the movie. The added depth seems effortless to the point where you eventually stop thinking about the fact that you're watching it in 3D and you just enjoy the movie experience as a whole. Had Alice in Wonderland been more like that, I'm sure I would have found myself much more caught up in the movie, instead of the 3D.
Now, fancy technology aside, how was the movie? Good. Not great, but good. While being a tad slow in a couple places, it is one of Burton's better films (especially in recent years). He cleverly uses elements from both of the original Lewis Carroll books (Through the Looking Glass and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) in less obvious and more creative ways than have been done before. The film is humorous and entertaining, and though it has a slightly predictable plot (just slightly), it's a good story and, overall, a good movie. Certainly worth watching on the big screen, and if you are a fan of Tim Burton or Wonderland (or if you're a fan movies in general) then it's probably worth adding to your movie shelf when it is released.