Tim Burton’s ‘Wonderland’ Is Wonderful

Sara Purington

“There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Well luckily I am.”

Put on your 3D glasses and get ready for another journey down the rabbit’s hole. But this time it’s director Tim Burton’s version of Wonderland starring Johnny Depp. If you’re expecting a modern remake of the original Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) that you grew up with, then prepare for something surprisingly different because this is actually a continuation of the first film.

You will still find the white rabbit, Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and a few other recognizable characters and scenes. But this time around it’s a whole new adventure to Wonderland with some new characters and a very different story. In typical Burton (“Edward Scissorhands,” 1990) style, he takes us down his own twisty and windy path to Wonderland.

The movie begins with a young version of Alice describing to her father a dream she had about dodo birds, blue caterpillars and a white rabbit, but is reassured by her father that it’s all just a dream. The next scene takes us 13 years into the future where Alice can’t seem to quite fit into the stuffy real world of corsets, stockings and marrying lords.

Alice Kingsley, played by newcomer Mia Wasikowska, seems to walk around in an almost dreamlike state with her pale skin and sleepy eyes. People even describe her as “easily distracted” as she daydreams about things like flying. She soon finds herself once again falling down the rabbit’s hole. This is Alice’s second time to Wonderland and this is the biggest plot twist from the first movie. Throughout the movie it’s difficult to connect the fact that this is her second trip to Wonderland. For some reason she doesn’t remember exactly ever being there before except in her dreams. There is a constant debate between Wonderland inhabitants on whether or not she is “the” Alice.

The world of Wonderland, as seen through Burton’s eyes and 3D glasses is beyond anything imaginable. Burton does a brilliant job of creating a whole new world, from the Red Queens castle, to the decaying wastelands, to the mushroom forests. Everything seems to be planned to the last detail as you can see the drool dripping from a dog’s mouth or the tiny specks on a butterfly’s wings. It is an absolute pleasure for the eyes.

Burton brings in his quintessential look of spindly branches of trees and colors that are just slightly off like the greenish bluish tint to the grass. Then there is the Cheshire Cat who seems to just ooze with poise. His huge turquoise eyes and matching stripes exude with the coolness instead of the goofy and silly original version. The images of the movie, from the scenery to the costumes, draw you in and almost capture more of your attention than the plot.

This modern CGI world of Wonderland is somewhat different than the original animated version, which seemed to have no real plot or story line except for following a young girl around Wonderland as strange things happened to her. The new Wonderland still holds true to being trippy and dreamlike and has its fair share of surreal creatures. But, unlike the nonsensical Wonderland of the original, this sequel seems to follow a logical line of reasoning and an actual plot. Even the hookah smoking caterpillar with his incessant questioning of “who are you?” eventually makes a point. Unfortunately, even a reasonable plot doesn’t mean an interesting plot.

Luckily the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, oh yes!) comes along to help the movie with its somewhat tiresome plot. With Depp’s dilated green and orange eyes, white face, orange hair and garish costume, the Mad Hatter is a change from the previous character of Jack Sparrow. The Mad Hatter, who plays a leading role, is one you can’t help but love even in his madness. Depp once again does a brilliant job shaping an unlikely character all the way down to the stained finger tips.

To add some more fun, the classic trio of Burton, Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (The Red Queen) reunite once again as seen in “Sweeny Todd,” “Corpse Bride” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to add another whimsical movie to their bios.

The movie also introduces some new characters like Stayne the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover, “Back to the Future” ) who is a random minion of the Red Queen and is out to get Alice, but he seems to just fill the role of another bad guy. And like typical Disney, there was another lovable talking dog.

Of course it being a Disney movie, “Alice in Wonderland” has its fair share of life lessons and learning to be yourself and accomplishing the impossible. The story line follows the atypical plot of Alice facing her fears and doing something she doesn’t think she can. If you’re beginning to wonder if she makes it and if there is a cheesy ending where she achieves her dreams, remember it is a Disney movie.

“Alice in Wonderland” is rated PG for fantasy/action violence involving scary images and situations and for a smoking caterpillar.

Opened March 5 nationwide. Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Linda Woolverton; based on the book by Lewis Carroll; Dariusz Wolski, director of photography; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; Robert Stromberg, production designer. Running time: 108 minutes.
WITH: Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsley), Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Crispin Glover (Stayne the Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee/Tweedledum), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Absolem the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman).