Alice in Wonderland: Hooray for British Imperialism!

Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" adaptation is, as you might expect, a visual extravanganza full of interesting and very odd characters. It's a sort of update on the original tale, where Alice experienced the original story when she was younger, but forgot it, thinking it was a dream. When she's 19, fleeing an unwanted proposal of marriage, she follows a white rabbit down a hole, to discover that Wonderland (or Underland, as it's called here) has been enslaved by the tyrannical Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter), and that Alice herself has been prophesied to liberate the land.

Alice herself is played by a relative unknown, Mia Wasikowska, and is way too pale, to the point where it can get annoying. Wasikowska does deliver a good performance, however, showing subtly how brave, imaginative, and intelligent she is in pretty much every one of her scenes. Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter steals the show, however, as a character with a split personality, both of which are off the wall bonkers. One is a timid cloudcoockoolander, utterly adorable, while the other is a totally mad Scotsman, ready to overthrow the tyrannical Red Queen. She, by the way, is also good, rather like if a toddler were grown into adulthood while retaining the same pitiless personality. All of the other characters, including Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman's Caterpillar, and Anne Hathaway's White Queen, are each incredibly awesome in their own way, each one a character that is unique and incredibly strange, as is proper for an adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland."

The effects, scenery, and other visual elements are all very pretty and strange, as is to be expected in a Tim Burton film. When CGI and the like is combined with already existing characters, to make the Mad Hatters eyes and the Red Queen's head bigger, for example, it works well. When CGI is used to create a totally fake creature, as is the case with the Red Queen's three monsters, the Bandersnatch, the Jubjub Bird, and the Jabberwock, they unfortunately do not quite pass the test and end up looking a bit too fake. But that really is a minor quibble when compared the the wondrousness of the visuals of the movie, this turns into a relatively minor complaint.

Some might take issue with this particular adaptation, as it strays quite a but from the original book, which was a dreamlike picaresque of very loosely interconnected scenes. This, on the other hand, is an epic fantasy of the best sort: there's a struggle between Good and Evil, a Chosen One, and obstacles she must defeat. Fans of the original book might be uncomfortable with all the Tolkien that seems to have snuck into their nonsense story, but for those who like epic fantasy, this works well.

I had one minor problem, which deals with the end of the movie. to avoid spoilers, Alice suggests taking a decision that I, a student of history, could easily see leading to certain real-life unfortunate historical events. Having the hero of your story directly or indirectly responsible for some of the worst excesses of colonialism puts a funny spin on the character.

But aside from this (which only bothered me because I had recently read "The Cartoon History of the Modern World pt. 2," and so the consequences of Alice's actions were already in the forefront of my mind), I quite liked the movie. The acting is good, especially those characters who are utterly off the wall, the Mad Hatter being the champion of them all, and the visuals are exquisite. Watch it, if you don't mind massive changes from the source materials. 

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Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 6 years ago

Hum. I hadn't even thought of the implications of that last, apparently triumphant moment in the film. Go figure!

And you're right, I was uncomfortable with all the Tolkein that had snuck into the story. And the cliches, the worst of which had to be the "six unbelievable things" moment during the Jabberwocky battle, were annoyingly manipulative. But I liked it for the same reasons you did.

Good write-up. And welcome to hubpages!

Cheers!


davidlev profile image

davidlev 6 years ago from Corvallis, OR Author

Thank you kindly for your encouragement and welcome

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