Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You've lost your muchness

The Best Friend and I have known we would be seeing Alice in Wonderland in the theater the day it was announced. In fact, the day we went to see Sweeney Todd we discussed it. The poster with Johnny Depp’s face on it was hanging when we saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and we discussed how I would totally have sex with JD in that getup.

Opening weekend of the movie was a busy one for me. The day it premiered, I went with my mother and niece to see Reba McEntire and George Strait in concert. Then the niece was supposed to have practice and a jump rope performance the next day, so that day was out. So we decided on a Sunday viewing, hoping for a smaller crowd and quieter theater.

We lucked out on the latter, and luckily got there 30 minutes early and beat the former.

If I have to tell you there will be spoilers under this jump cut, I am gravely disappointed with you.

I loved this movie. I am a huge Tim Burton fan. He makes some of the most visually appealing movies, always has the most amazing cast members, and the musical score is pleasing to the ears. He let me down on one of those factors with this movie, but I’m working to forgive him for this.

I didn’t realize from the onset that this was Alice in Wonderland, 13 years later. I was confused by the fact that Alice was older, but when she was kneeling beside the tiny door, and you hear the voices, I immediately understood what was going on. The “real life” parts were negligible, but wonderfully funny, with just the right taste of foreshadowing.

The main (and really, the only) issue I have with this movie is the lead actress. In order to carry a movie of this proportion, you need an extremely strong main character. And Alice was anything but. Her acting skills were sub par, for one thing. The way she carried herself didn’t translate to the emotions she was supposed to be feeling at any given moment. It became more and more irksome as the movie went on. She was entirely too weak to play such a pivotal role.

The two queens were incredible. The perfect opposite sides of the chess board. I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, I think she’s a fantastic actress with great energy. TBF and I were making fun of the flighty movements and speech, but it was the perfect counterpart to Helena Bonham Carter’s extreme rage and forcefulness. Her black eyebrows with the white hair made me twitch a bit, but combined with the black lips and fingernails, she made it work.

I’ve read reviews criticizing Tim Burton for his nepotism in casting HBC in pretty much all of his movies. While I agree that no director/producer/etc should cast someone solely because they are having sex with them on a regular basis, in this case I think it’s extremely unfair to criticize him for reusing her. She is fantastic. I’ve loved her since Fight Club, and she hasn’t let me down once in a movie. The big head in this movie may have really made me want to bear her children.

Speaking of the red queen, she had some of the greatest visual images of the movie. The extreme amount of reds that are in all of her scene are heaven to the eyes. Her castle, however? As soon as it popped up on the screen, I leaned over to TBF and said, “Evil Disney castle.”

SERIOUSLY. Look at the castle used in the opening title card of all Disney movies, then look at Red Queen’s castle. Evil Disney!

Even the Red Queen’s hair was visual fun. Not only was her head heart shaped, but her hair was rose shaped, a wonderful throwback to Painting the Roses Red.

I love love love the way they did the deck of cards/guards. Instead of each of them being a card, they were all compiled of cards. It really made them look fiercer, more sturdy, and like they were wearing armor. I found myself watching the way the cards moved in every scene, rather than focusing on the action taking place.

Two of my favorite characters from the animated cartoon are also two of my favorites here. That is, of course, the Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar. The Cheshire cat is by far the creepiest thing in the original cartoon, and not only does he up the creep factor here, but he is voiced by Stephen Fry, a man I deeply adore. The fact that the cat can float and fly is a little irksome, since he can’t do that in the book, but for the dramatic scene with the Hatter, it totally works.

When I was in high school, I pilfered a shirt from my then-boyfriend that had Alice standing in front of the caterpillar on his mushroom. This was my favorite shirt, and I never ceased to get compliments on it from everyone (not to mention double takes from teachers who didn’t know quite what to say about it). The caterpillar here is such a noncharacter until the end, and I was disappointed in that. But his cocoon scene with Alice made up for it. It made me smile, and it made TBF smile, and because he is the last character seen in the movie, I can forgive them their early neglect. Plus he is voiced by Alan Rickman, and there can be no bad when Alan Rickman is involved in a project. I recognized his voice immediately, and when TBF looked slightly confused, I said, “Snape!” Which she promptly passed down to her husband.

When Stayne first came on screen, I thought, “That is Crispin Glover!” Then I thought “No. That can’t be Crispin Glover.” This continued throughout the entire movie. We stayed in the theater while the credits rolled, and I saw it was, in fact, him, and I felt vindicated. George McFly in Alice in Wonderland? Didn’t see that coming. I’m presuming the playing card has an eyepatch? Couldn’t figure out that little bit of trivia.

All of the creatures were perfection. No bread-and-butterflies, but we did have the rocking horseflies, and dragonflies. That was nifty. The big dog whose NAME I WILL LOOK UP RIGHT NOW* was incredible. I wanted to pet him from moment one, so when he and Alice reached a truce, then he became an ally, I was thrilled. The dodo was also fun, and reminded me of Kevin from Up, only nowhere near as beautiful or funny. I did feel HORRIBLE for the poor hedgehog. I was glad Alice freed it.

I didn't particularly notice the March Hare in the cartoon version, and even in the book, the Hatter really overshadows him. He was SO AWESOME in this movie. TBF and I were cracking up so much watching him. I liked that he was in the movie so much.

The fight with the Jabberwocky would have been SO much better if there were a different Alice. In fact, TBF’s husband said the role of Alice and The White Queen should’ve been reversed, and I couldn’t agree more. Anne Hathaway would’ve made a kick ASS Alice. Getting past that, the Jabberwocky was precisely what it should’ve been. Huge, intimidating, and terrifying. The battle was great to watch, especially the bit players like the Hatter and the Dormouse fighting the guards and creatures. What is with the eyeball pokage, by the way? Two creatures got stabbed through the eye, and my own eyeball hurts just remembering it.

The final scene between the two queens was amazing. The White Queen setting aside some of her flightiness and banishing her sister. The Red Queen’s vulnerability, plus her heartbreak that her “beloved” had just tried “to kill me! He tried to kill me!!” Very amusing.

I think I’ve covered everything…

Oh, yes. One other matter.

I would completely boink Mad Hatter!Johnny Depp.

There were audible noises in the theater when he first came on screen. I looked at TBF, and I think we both contributed to those noises. He is hilarious in this movie. He really puts his all into any role he picks, and he went for it with this one. And so effing creepy. It was the eyeballs. I had to look away a couple of time. But his sad moments gave me a frowny face every single time. His heartbreak in the scene with the battle between Red and White made my bottom lip poke out. Just a little.

I love that he got to recite even a little of The Jabberwocky poem. I immediately thought of my wondrous friend Meltha, who is actually the person who introduced me to the poem. I didn't read the book Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass until just last year, so my only knowledge was based on the Disney cartoon and a poorly made TV version back in the 80's.

The previews for upcoming movies were very important for me. I'd been wondering if this movie would be child friendly, so I could take the niece to see it. Yes, it's Alice in Wonderland, but this is Tim Burton we're talking about. And the trailer looked deliciously scary, so you never can be too sure. Once the previews started and I saw that they were all children's movies (or close to), I relaxed.

Prince of Persia looks like a great action movie, but it's not the kind of movie I would pay good money to see. If it becomes available at the library, I will give it a shot, though. And Jake Gyllenhaal looks AMAZINGLY BUFF AND HOT in it. I'd heard about Will Smith's son being in the new Karate Kid, and while I'm hesitant to see a remake of a movie that was a huge favorite for me as a child, that one looks AWESOME. "Take off the jacket" being the new "Wax on/Wax Off". Jackie Chan, who I love and think is incredibly funny and kick ass to watch fight on screen. I would like to take niece to see that one. The Sorcerer's Apprentice also looks pretty good. Who knew Nicholas Cage could pick a decent movie for once? It's been so long…someone else must've forced him into this one. Great previews.

So, save for the horrible acting skills of the main damn character (the hell, Burton, fix that for next time), this was a truly magnificent movie. And I got in to see it for free because TBF's husband is a police officer and does details at the movie theater, so they give him free passes when he asks for them.

Life is good.

* Hunh. Can't find it. Well, it started with a "B", I know that much.


  1. The "big dog" is the "Bandersnatch"

  2. Some of the jacks in a deck of cards (specifically hearts and spades), are seen in profile, so they're called "one-eyed Jacks" since only one eye is visible. Hence the eyepatch.

  3. Nice catch with the castle. I didn't even notice and I see it all the time (the castle they use in the credits is Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World Orlando, only, you know, with a wall and a moat and crap.)

    I'm not a Burton fan really, but I loved this one. :)