Monday, May 24, 2010

Special Movie Review of the Week: Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) by Robert Steven Mack

A new era in entertainment has approached us in the last decade. The films of today have cast a shadow over the films of yesterday. New actors ascend to the thrones of stardom, while the old stars of yesterday fade away on the horizon.

As in the world around us, everything is changing in the movie industry: the technology, the style…even the Walt Disney Studios, a place where dreams had once come to us in the most vivid and exciting way. With a new kind of Hollywood in place, and that genius Walt Disney not able to lead them through changes, is the Magic Kingdom of Disney doomed? Did it lose its imaginative touch?

I have now the opportunity and great privilege to review one of Disney's newest films: Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton and starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, Helen Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen.

The new story of Alice takes place several years from Alice’s first encounter with Underland, which, as we learn, she misunderstood as Wonderland. Alice, now at 19 years of age, is haunted by her re-occurring dream of a strange place far away that she had been dreaming about for years. Not finding her place in society, she accidentally falls down the “classic” rabbit hole to Wonderland. Yet, times have taken their toll and Alice is welcome to a run-down Wonderland with the Red Queen on the throne ruling with an iron heart and fist. It soon turns out that Alice was brought here to battle the ferocious Jabberwacky in order to win the land back to its rightful owner - the White Queen.

If you recall from my previous review of a 1933 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, I came up with the testable hypothesis that visual effects were not necessary to tell the story of Alice in Wonderland. I said that all ingredients you need are good actors, costumes, and a good story line to drive a film and make a good movie.

That may be so. However, in that very same review I also made a prediction that the new film would filled with visual effects and less rely on real acting and STORY PLOT as the camera would take over the starring role. This made me wary to see the film, but I decided to have a little faith in the Walt Disney production. Although the usage of amazing special and visual effects were humongous, and the use of technology was extremely high; the storywriters did an equally amazing job and came up with an intriguing, original, an exciting story about Alice’s return to Underland. The acting was not bad either.

In other words, I was wrong! My mother, Diana, was positively exalted about the movie: “Alice is a new woman – a daring misfit. She rejects the safe haven of marriage, she is neither the Queen Bee nor her alter ego, the vindictive Red Queen. She decides to seek out new worlds…follow her own dreams and make her own fortune. Wonderful!”

It is interesting that it was Tim Burton - a visual genius, yet arguably a somewhat of a “nutty” director – who made the best Disney film that was not produced by a Disney/Pixar partnership in years! It may be that this film is the only actual sequel to the 1951 Disney film, even though Tim Burton said in an interview that this film was not a sequel but an extension or continuation of the original story. He added that he did not want to go by the usual list of characters and events but wanted to do something a little different. I surmise, it shall however be regarded by many fans as the actual sequel, if there is to a continuation of this film as then it would have to be quite different for it to be successful.

In any event, this is not the Alice in Wonderland that you remember, and it comes as no surprise that this film was one of the highest grossing films in 2010(and of all time!) This is a witty, charming, action-packed adventure with a delightful comic flair about a 19-year old girl who finds herself in the world! Just like Wonderland -or was it Underland? Prior to the release of Alice Disney Studios was not in the best of shapes. If Disney would make the wise decision of making more movies like this one, then perhaps this film has shone the way to a bright future for Disney Studios. Just like Alice had done for Wonderland!

Movie ratings on scale from 1-100: Robert Steven Mack (100/100), Alex Mack (95/100), Diana Mack (99.7/100)

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for your insightful analysis. I especially enjoyed our discussion today about your paragraph re. "continuation" versus "sequel." It was a pleasure going through both, examples of "continuation" and "sequel" flops an successes in movie history. Would you agree with a compromise, i.e. that the new "Alice" movie could be described as both "sequel And continuation?"


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