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Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Time Event
4:11p
Alice in Wonderland
Sunday the 7th we went to the Oriental Theatre to see Tim Burton's new "Alice in Wonderland," which I think is going to be noted as one of the very most artistically beautiful films of 2010.

This is more of a "Return to Wonderland" since it uses the original Lewis Carroll story as background, the plot being that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) was actually in Underland/Wonderland before, but only recalls the prior experience as having been a dream, and initially thinks that she is dreaming again when she finds herself down the rabbit hole a second time.

Once there, she finds that the questionably sane situation of the prior visit has deteriorated, with the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) having seized sole power in a fiery reign of terror, and put the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) under house arrest. Alice finds that she is the prophesied liberator and isn't at all happy about it--.

The visualization of Wonderland is marvelous, ranging from Burton's own, trademark twisty trees in most regions in Wonderland, numerous adaptations of the iconic John Tenniel character designs, and the White Queen's terrace which is a direct homage to Maxfield Parrish. Both castles, especially the Red Queen's, refer to the Disney "Sleeping Beauty" castle; the ruin where the climactic battle takes place is based on one of Gustave Doré's illustrations for "Idylls of the King," and there are probably other visual allusions I didn't catch on first viewing. Main characters are all interesting and well done, and it's a toss-up as to which is more disturbing, the macrocephalic Red Queen or the vampiric-looking White Queen with her black lips and eyebrows and necromantic potion recipes. The Mad Hatter, as given to Johnny Depp to play, is the most problematical character. He's rather more mad than usually portrayed, although it's suggested that he's decompensated since the Red Queen's coup, possibly including multiple-personality disorder. (At one point he says, "It's crowded in here and I don't like it," apparently referring to his mental status.) Even so, that doesn't really satisfactorily explain either his scary-clown makeup or the fact that he periodically lapses into a Scottish burr. (I kept waiting for him to come out with "They may take our lives, but they canna take our freedom!" or some other "Braveheart" reference, but didn't catch it if there was one--.) Mia Wasikowska seems a bit younger than the 19 that her admittedly sheltered and smothered character is supposed to be, but handles the role well and morphs nicely into a St. George-like action hero by the end.

One quibble, striking since there's otherwise such reverence to the Carroll material: "Jabberwock" is the name of the creature in the poem; "Beware the Jabberwock, my son,": "Jabberwocky," is the name of the poem, a poem about, or like, the Jabberwock. To have the creature referred to in the script as "The Jabberwocky" seems an obvious and clunky error.

Worth going to for the eye candy alone, but it's much better than that, since the witty dialog and marvelous visuals work so well to refresh the otherwise basic "Narnia" plotline. See it.

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