film review: Alice in Wonderland (3D) (2010)


Alice in Wonderland Johnny Depp posterAs I mentioned in my “releasing this week” article on Friday, I was really looking forward to seeing this film. Again I’ve been taught that I’m better off keeping my expectations low.

It’s not that Alice in Wonderland is a bad film. Hehe, that’s probably my favourite phrase, I don’t like saying films are bad… but… Alice just wasn’t as brilliant as I wanted it to be. Then again I don’t know what I expected. I mean it looked good… and the story definitely seemed to follow the Alice canon… it just wasn’t as magical as I thought it would be. It wasn’t as fairytale or as wonder-filled as I thought it would be.

I think we could (and should) have spent more time with the Wonderland characters. There was all this stuff at the beginning that I just didn’t care about. I know you need a certain amount of exposition but it didn’t even really seem to tell us where she was coming from and seemed to go on for ages and then when we got to Wonderland we got introduced to a whole load of other characters but we never spent a lot of time with any of them.

In particular I was disappointed by the lack of Mad Hatter or even the White Rabbit, at least there was a bit of the Red Queen… Mostly the film seems to sweep through the supporting characters without giving them much of a chance to leave an impression. I didn’t hate the Alice character but she wasn’t half as much fun as the others so I would have liked more time with them.

Visually, it was beautiful but it wasn’t incredible. I’m starting to wonder if Avatar has spoiled things a bit. Certainly I didn’t feel like the 3D in this was up to much. It was more than you’d see in say, the Toy Story 3D adaptations, but it still wasn’t great. Also the Avatar world was beautiful but also so it was so immersive; in a way that Wonderland here is not…

…But I could be giving Avatar too much credit here as well. It’s entirely possible that Tim Burton just didn’t do that good a job with this. Actually I’m more inclined to believe that… he failed to make me care that much and it wasn’t weird enough to blow me away.

I will say this and I’m not sure if it’s really in its favour – I do think it’s suitable for children. It’s not dark like Burton’s other films. Maybe not for very young children, like those under 6, but certainly for other kids I would think it should be fine. There’s nothing in it that’s worse than what’s in the books, so if you’re fine with your kids hearing those kinds of stories then this will be grand.

I just don’t really know what to think of Tim Burton any more. I think he needs to stay with the fantastical type of stuff but leave the kids stuff behind. An adult version of Alice in Wonderland would have been a better choice for Burton and, I think, for the rest of his cast. I like to think it would have been a lot more engaging and we wouldn’t have gotten all tied up with PG storytelling we didn’t really need.

So, I’m not going to say don’t see it. I know there’s plenty people out there who’ll love it, and certainly bring your kids along. Don’t expect some twisted dark version of Alice, this isn’t what the film is.



  1. comment-avatar
    NiallMarch 9, 2010 - 5:42 pm

    I fully agree with everything that you said. I really wish someone would find out what happened to Tim Burton.

  2. comment-avatar
    MunirMarch 9, 2010 - 11:09 pm

    Lack of Mad Hatter? Really? I thought there was too much. Too much Johnny Depp anyway. Like they were desperate to have another Jack Sparrow or Willy Wonka. That felt wrong.

    Red Queen felt like a vanity project to put his girlfriend in it. The Knave was well played and interesting.

    Matt Lucas from Little Britain as the Tweedles was an excellent casting choice.

    Otherwise, yes, fully agree that none of the other characters had enough development.
    Was there one Dormouse or two? There was one that swashbuckled and one at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Were they the same?
    The Caterpillar seems to exist only to have Alan Rickman’s voice do a bit of voice acting.
    Dodo we see once in the beginning, once at the croquet game as a caddy, then never again.

    The 3D was never going to be good. It was filmed with standard 2D equipment, then Disney shoehorned the 3D into it in post-production to justify higher ticket prices after seeing what it did for Avatar’s opening weekend earnings. It worked.

    I wasn’t expecting a necessarily dark movie, just a better one. Burton has done films that successfully catered to entertaining both adults and children: Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

    You’re still right. The kids will love it.

    Personally, I’d give this movie a 3/10.

  3. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMarch 10, 2010 - 1:14 pm

    Hmm… I would agree that there’s a scene or two where the Mad Hatter probably wasn’t needed but I think that only really comes across because the rest of the cast is used to sparingly. I do like Johnny Depp in that kind of role though and I really do think he could have done more for the story. As it was, i thought he was relegated to flouncing around…

    You’re right about Matt Lucas, he was great and he should have been in it more as well, they all should have.

    Actually now that you come to say it, were there two Dormouses or just the one?

    Edward Scissorhands and Beetle Juice probably did entertain older kids I’m sure but they weren’t kids films in the way Alice is, Beetle Juice was a 15 cert after all… I do feel like Tim Burton decided to make a kiddie kids film and it’s a bit of a f u to his fans… maybe he’s just decided to go another way with his career, oh well.

  4. comment-avatar
    SeanMarch 10, 2010 - 10:09 pm

    It all felt very conventional to me, with a definite dose of the Narnias/Golden Compass toward the end.
    Burton has made a Disney kids movie. No shame in it, but no real enjoyment in it either.
    Criminal waste of Anne Hathaway to boot.

  5. comment-avatar
    DarrenMarch 15, 2010 - 10:53 am

    I’m in the “too much Mad Hatter” camp too. Particularly with the whole reimagining him as a revolutionary schtick. I liked it better when he hosted tea parties.

  6. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tMarch 16, 2010 - 8:00 pm

    Ah well Darren, I liked him!

    I do agree Sean, it was just a bit blah. Like I said in the review, it just wasn’t magical.

    Though I wouldn’t tar all Disney films with that brush – there are some great Disney films out there… they just aren’t recent. Mind you, I missed Princess & the Frog and by all accounts that was a harkening back to the old days – did anyone see it at all? Have I been misled about it?

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