Dripping with radiant colours and elevated by the sort of amazing special effects that the finest 3D pictures are made of, Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland is a dazzling feast for the eyes. Buoyed by the skilled director’s creative eye and steadied by his more-than-capable hands, the film is quite an entertaining spectacle, a beautifully executed re-imagining of the classic children’s tale.
In the same vein, superb art direction can always be expected when one goes to take in a Tim Burton film, and Alice joins a long and gorgeous list that includes Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow, which do not disappoint.
Now 19 and on the cusp of matrimony, Alice Kingsley (fresh-faced Aussie Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland, where she reunites (after several awkward moments) with the kingdom’s diverse and colourful inhabitants, including the wacky Mad Hatter (an inconsistent Johnny Depp), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum (Matt Lucas), and the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen). But things are vastly different from the last time Alice fell down the rabbit hole, when she was a young girl.
The Red Queen (a deliciously diabolical Helena Bonham-Carter), with her army of red soldiers and key henchman (Crispin Glover), has wrested rulership of Wonderland from her sister, The White Queen (an elegant Anne Hathaway), governing the kingdom with an iron fist – and a very big head. As foretold, it is up to Alice to slay the Red Queen’s champion fighter and secret weapon (the monstrous Jabberwocky, voiced by the eminent Christopher Lee) and return Wonderland to its former glory.
Predictable as the narrative might seem, Alice In Wonderland is such a visually appealing production that its minor flaws become immaterial. True, there are moments that lull and the story isn’t always fluidly told, but more often than not you find yourself swept up in the magic and splendour that unfolds on screen.
Wasikowska, 20, (one of Entertainment Weekly’s 10 To Watch in 2010) makes quite a first impression in the title role, imbuing Alice with a sweet warmth and quiet strength that are just as noteworthy as her beauty and grace. However, her Alice is not as scene-stealing as Bonham-Carter’s Red Queen, whose brawn and cruelty ("Off with their heads!") are among the film’s most amusing highlights.
Whimsical, vibrant and lovely to behold, Alice In Wonderland is another Tim Burton triumph and a stirring adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy tale. More important, enthusiastic filmgoers are again the lucky beneficiaries of Burton’s vision and flair as a filmmaker.