March 11, 2010

The Wonder in Underland

Print More

It has been nearly a century and a half since Lewis Carroll gave us our first glimpse of Wonderland — where we learned to let our imaginations run wild, to dream impossible dreams and to believe in six impossible things all before breakfast. In this year’s adaptation of Carroll’s nonsensical sensation, director Tim Burton takes the story and flips it on its head.As an impressionable six year-old girl, Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole to discover a wonderful world that is truly as a mad as a hatter. Her guides through this amusingly ridiculous land included a feisty, smirking cat, a punctuality-obsessed rabbit, a hookah-smoking caterpillar and an atrocious queen who made a tortuous sport of playing croquet with prickly hedgehogs and graceful-necked flamingos as the ball and mallet respectively.In Burton’s film, it is 13 years later. Alice is no longer a bored child wishing for more excitement in her life; she is a 19 year-old who can’t seem to find her place in society. In a world bound by ordinariness and social convention, she is an outsider, as her every thought and nightly dreams center around Wonderland.She ends up once again in Wonderland when she, in an attempt to avoid the decision to accept a society-demanded marriage proposal from a heinous redhead with digestive problems, she follows a fashionable rabbit with a waist coat down the rabbit hole.However, there is a distinct divorce between this Wonderland and the one of Alice’s memories. For one, Wonderland is now called Underland, a place where wonder and awe are overpowered by much darker and malevolent themes: confusion, loss, tension, vengeance. Yes, the growth-generating cakes and shrinkage-inducing potions remain, but Wonderland is hardly recognizable.In turn, all of Underland believes Alice to be the “wrong Alice.” The Mad Hatter says, “You used to be much more … muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.” In other words, she lost her spunk. (That tends to happen in propriety-confined societies). In order to save Underland from the clutches of the vicious Red Queen, Underland’s inhabitants ask Alice to slay the Jabberwocky dragon.Alice in Wonderland has been portrayed in film countless times, but Burton takes Carroll’s fantastic novel and really brings it to life. Burton uses characters from both Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass. Though staying true to a lot of the story’s features, he creates a world of shocking color and unparalleled aesthetics. Burton even plays with size, as Alice is a towering, huge specimen of a girl at some points and at other times is small enough to fit inside a teapot. Burton enhances all of the aspects of Carroll’s story.Alice is played by Mia Wasikowska. Although a relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene, she does a remarkable job of holding her own in a world of eccentric creatures, dynamic costumes and dramatic actors. Unfortunately, even though this is a first starring role in a major motion picture, Alice’s ordinariness is undeniably overshadowed with all the outrageousness that is Underland.Johnny Depp, who has appeared in six other Burton films, plays the Mad Hatter, a sweetly insane man with a love of hats, crazy-curly orange hair, and pink eye shadow. He is usually portrayed as a short, overly caffeinated jokester with many a riddle, like “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” But Depp brings a new compassion to the Mad Hatter: an indestructible loyalty to the annoyingly virtuous White Queen and a protective nature towards Alice.Even though she is the epitome of evil, it is hard not to fall in love with Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, who is, in fact, a combination of Carroll’s Red Queen and Queen of Hearts. She is quite literally larger than life, as her heart-shaped, bulbous head looms over the rest of her subjects, a true testament to her enormous ego. Helena Bonham Carter steals the audience’s attention with her head-to-toe heart ensemble and her screams of “Off with their heads!” at the slightest provocation.Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton, along with Helena Bonham Carter, who is actually also Tim Burton’s domestic partner, make quite an impressive team in the film industry. The three have worked together on several films, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Other stars of the film include Anne Hathaway, who plays the White Queen, and Alan Rickman, better known as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series, whose voice is used for the hookah-obsessed blue caterpillar, Absolem. Furthermore, the uproarious British comedian, Stephen Fry, has a cameo as the voice for the ever-cunning Cheshire Cat.­All in all, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a delight for all, children and those just nostalgic for the simpler times of their youth. It isn’t the typical Burton film, like Sweeney Todd or Corpse Bride, that focuses solely on the evil of the world; Alice provides an enchanting escape from reality.

Original Author: Heather McAdams