A world of surprises from a live action Wonderland
Lewis Carrol’s ode to madness and mystery has endured quite well over the ages, and Alice in Wonderland has developed a kind of cult following as Through the Looking Glass was re-imagined again and again. Given the bizarre quality of the tale, the story has developed something of a style that quite transcends the text on those pages, and you will often find a hint of Wonderland inspired design in unlikely places. It seems like it was only a matter of time before a more modern iteration took place, and it seems only fitting that Tim Burton would be the one to take a crack at it. Perhaps what really impresses me though, is that instead of being a mere retelling of the same old tell, Disney’s new Alice In Wonderland live action is actually a sequel to the story they already touched upon.
Now a young adult, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) feels smothered by the customs of late 19th century nobility. Convinced that her original excursion to Wonderland was just a dream, she has all but forgotten it. On her way to her own wedding party, she finds herself mourning her late father, whose free spirited attitude inspired her when she was younger. Forcing herself to go through the social gathering of the two noble families, a glimpse of a waist coated White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) draws her away from her fiancé and into the gardens beyond, where she soon finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole once again. She soon discovers that Wonderland is in desperate need of her help, as the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken over the place in the years since her last visit, somehow gaining control over the dreaded Jabberwocky and laying waste to the land. Certain that there is nothing she can do about it, her old friends in Wonderland must convince her otherwise while staying one step ahead of the Red Queen’s minions.
This movie turned out to be a lot of fun. The designs are all whimsical with hints of darkness about them, and the CGI effects are all well executed so that they never detract from the story, only enhance it. Wonderland seems both magical and dangerous, and poor Alice is very out of place in a world where nothing is as it seems. What really makes this movie though, are the visual effects employed to make the film really seem as though nothing is as it looks. Employing the usual ‘drink me’, ‘eat me’ routine, Alice is almost never her proper size throughout the whole film, and the curious thing is that somehow everyone and everything around her remain the same size. Other bizarre filming techniques are employed throughout the film, doing things like making the Red Queen’s head always appear bigger than her body and similar effects. I’m sure some of this is really simple computer assisted photographing, but the frequency at which these techniques are employed make Wonderland seem more bizarre than it should be for a live action film. Speaking of which, many of the supporting cast and animals are CGI’d characters, but they play their roles well, the voice actors doing a good job at lending character to each of them. While “Alice” isn’t the first film to employ CGI almost exclusively (I think Avatar carries that distinction), the blending of real actors with computer generated characters and effects is done remarkably well; it never detracts from the feel of the film.
If you’re looking for a venture into Wonderland that carries a unique visual style and fun acting from the cast, look no further than Disney’s new film. The plot is a little darker than it is in their animated classic, but not dark enough to turn people off to it. It’s a fun film the whole family will enjoy.