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Movie review – Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton + “3D” technology impressions!

This is a movie I was quite excited about for 2 reasons. First, it’s Alice in Wonderland. And I LOVED the original animated film by Disney, which still lives up to this day. Second reason is that it’s made by Tim Burton, a man who made wonderful movies like Ed Wood and The Nightmare Before Christmas, amongst others(like the beetlejuice cartoons).

Another tiny draw was the fact that the movie was presented in 3D. I didn’t watch Avatar in 3D, so I was quite interested in seeing if the new 3D technology was worth all the hype it was getting.

So read on and see what I thought of the movie, and what I thought of the 3D technology used in it!
(Note: I did not see the movie in Imax, just the “Disney Digital 3D” version of it)

The 3D Technology!
Before I actually talk about Alice in Wonderland, let’s skim over my impressions on the 3D technology used in the movie.
I was one of the skeptical people. A big part of that is that I ALREADY watched “3D” movies a long time ago. Using those Blue and Red glasses that frankly sucked ass. Yeah, they sometimes worked okay, but you had to be viewing from the right angle and the right distance, and the effect was rarely very good. All it was ever used for really was making things jump out at you to scare you. Even the few times I saw “3D” using different technology, it was again just used to make things jump at you. And I thought that the return of the “3D” fad was just gonna be more of that.

Well, I’ll be happy to say that I was wrong. Alice in Wonderland uses the RealD 3D glasses. The basic idea of this new “3D” tech is pretty much the same as the Blue and Red 3D glasses. The screen displays multiple images, and each lens on the glasses blocks out one of the images, somehow creating the illusion of 3D(yay for over-simplifying!). Here though you don’t have different-colored images, instead (I think) being images with different polarities, which makes it look a lot better.

The actual effect… is surprisingly good. Instead of just having things jump out at you, here it does a lot more than that. It actually adds a level of depth to the picture that any other “3D” tech has never really done before (in my experience). The feeling of depth is a lot more natural than just looking at a flat screen. It’s actually a bit hard to explain, but I’ll just say it looks very nice.

My problem is that I was REALLY close to the screen, and on the lowest level in the theater(so I had to look up for the whole movie… my neck hurts now), so I THINK that the effect wasn’t as good as it would have been if I had been placed better in the theater, and sometimes I caught a glimpse of the “extra” images used for the “3D” effect. But overall though, it looked quite nice.

So yeah… I’m not that skeptical about the return of the “3D” fad anymore. BUT I’ll also say that this will never become something that will make or break my movie-going experience. While the visuals are sort of enhanced by the “3D” effect, you’re still seeing the exact same movie as someone who goes to see it in “2D”, and it won’t affect my overall enjoyment of a film. To make a parallel to video games (we are a gaming site after all), games having super-advanced visuals don’t make the games more enjoyable. Games with 8-bit NES graphics are just as enjoyable as the latest epic 3D game on the PS3 or Xbox 360. The same can be said about movies. Seeing them in “3D” won’t make them any better than seeing them in “2D”.

So on the the movie, Alice in Wonderland
The Visuals
The visuals, as to be expected from Tim Burton and an Alice in Wonderland film, are really cool. There’s this weird mix between CG and real people, though most of it is CG, and most people are wearing really excessive make-up, or have some kind of weird visual effect that makes them look CG. But somehow everything worked. The mix of CG and real characters, in mostly CG settings, worked really well. They definitely did their best so that, visually, the film would look perfect, and nothing looks out of place.

The settings were very Wonderland-esque,  but a lot darker than in the original film. It takes place quite a while after the original, so the Red Queen’s dominion hit Underland hard, and the fear of her and the Jabberwocky definitely shows in the visuals. There’s a lot of really cool things to look at, like the river of blood surrounding the Red Queen’s castle, filled with the floating heads of the people she had beheaded, or the weird-looking woods, and many other locales that are really nice-looking. Overall, the movie definitely looks like Alice in Wonderland should look like, and it makes sense with the story that it looks a lot darker.

One minor complaint that I have is that the “3D” effect isn’t perfect here. There’s some scenes where it was great, but I feel that the trailers before the movie started had it a lot better… but then again it might just be because of where I was placed in the theater.

The Characters
The characters aren’t too bad.
Alice acts similarly to the original. She kind of just accepts everything she sees as it is, though here for most of the movie it’s because she believes it’s all a dream. She’s quite well acted and she fits in perfectly with the world around her. She’s also a bit on the crazy side, which I think is quite cool.

The Mad Hatter is a lot more important here than in the last movie, having just about as much screen time as Alice. I find that he’s not exactly as interesting as his old incarnation, acting a bit less crazy than before, despite seeming a lot more insane… If that makes any kind of sense. He’s still a fun character to watch, and Depp’s acting is definitely quite nice here and makes the character believable.

One that kinda disappointed me was the Cheshire Cat. I mean, visually he was really cool, and that teleportation power of his was as awesome as always, and he has that diabolical smile that made him awesome before. But the way he talks and the things he says and the way he acts… aren’t nearly as interesting and fun as in the 1951 film. Maybe it was to fit better with the darker tone of the film or something… But I definitely liked his original incarnation more.

The Queens were okay. The Red Queen(why she’s not called the Queen of Hearts anymore I don’t know) looks really weird, with that gigantic head of hers, but she’s a relatively threatening vilain… Though I feel she kind of lacks conviction when she says her usual “off with their heads”. The coolest part about her is probably her army of Card Warriors. At first I thought they looked a bit stupid, but their look quickly grew on me and I ended up thinking they looked cool, really contrasting with their wacky look in the 1951 film. The White Queen is okay… Her make-up looks a bit stupid, and she’s a relatively shallow character, but the way she moves around and talks is really fun, making her an enjoyable character.

The Jabberwocky… was a bit disappointing. He looked rather cool, despite just being a cliché dragon. But I have a small question here… why did he need to be voiced by Christopher Lee? I mean, yeah, Christopher Lee is awesome, but why get him as a voice in a movie when the character he voices says about 10 words? What a complete waste of ressources … Anyways… The thing with the Jabbberwocky is that we see him for about 5 minutes, during the movie’s climax. There’s next to no build-up(he’s mentioned from time to time, and you know Alice will have to fight him, but that’s about it), so when you see him there’s really no impact, and he doesn’t feel as threatening as he should be.

The rest of the cast was pretty interesting, though not incredibly important. Each character had a unique personality, and everyone was out of their minds, which fits the Alice in Wonderland world nicely.

The Story
This is actually a sequel to the 1951 animated film, which quite surprised me. I mean, I knew that it was a sequel beforehand, but I only actually realized it was a sequel near the end of the film, when there’s a flashback with remade scenes from the original…
So the story… it takes place some time after the original, probably around 10-15 years after. Alice is now a grown adult in her early 20s, who is being set up for marriage. While the man she is set up with is popping the question, she is distracted by a rabbit wearing strange clothes, and decides to follow it rather than answering to the marriage proposal. She, of course, ends up in Underland (AKA Wonderland). Many things that happened in the original happen her here, like her figuring out how to enter the door to Underland using the potion and cake to change her size, and meeting that caterpillar who is always smoking, amongst other things. Here she meets up with a bunch of weirdos, who are saying it might be her destiny to fight the Jabberwocky using the Vorpal Sword (hey, you can’t slay a Jabberwocky if the sword isn’t Vorpal, right?) and save Underland… If she’s the “right” Alice that they are waiting for. That leads Alice to the Mad Hatter who decides to help her on her quest (even if she thinks she’s not the right Alice). She meets up with various weird characters and creatures on the way to her final goal.

I’ll stop right there before getting in spoiler territory… Anyways, the story is rather enjoyable, even if it falls short in multiple aspects. The pacing is a bit weird, though it never goes too slow, and the climax sort of happens out of nowhere. And the ending is incredibly predictable from the start. But the dialogue is very well-written and quite fun to listen to, and there’s a few interesting key moments. The visuals and dialogues really draw you in too. The story is not great, but it’s worth watching.

Overall
I’ll say that, other than a few cool visual effects and such, this doesn’t feel much like a Tim Burton film… But it shows that Tim Burton can direct different kinds of movies than what he is known for.

Anyways… I thought that it was a pretty fun film, and an okay sequel to the original Disney animated movie. The story isn’t incredible, but it’s good enough to make you want to watch the movie through to the end. It’s still quite wacky and strange like the original animated film, and uses similar humor, but I think it feels dumbed down a bit… though that might just be because they reuse most of the wacky things from the original.

The dialogues are nice, the visuals are splendid, the cast is enjoyable, and the story is average. Oh, and the music by Danny Elfman is pretty good too. Fans of the original should find something to like in the film. People who are somehow new to Alice in Wonderland will probably like it too. There are several downfalls, like the lack of build-up for the final vilain, and the story not being nearly as good as it could be, but it’s a really fun movie nonetheless. Not exactly as good as the 1951 classic, but it’s worth checking out, “3D” or not.

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Categories: impressions, Movie, Review
  1. March 13th, 2010 at 14:05 | #1

    Red Queen in the movie is a mix of the Queen of Heart and the Red Queen (from the Chess board) that was in the second book (Beyond the looking glass) if you cared to know.

  2. March 13th, 2010 at 14:23 | #2

    Good to know, I never actually read the books… Maybe I should.

  3. March 13th, 2010 at 15:10 | #3

    wtf.. I said chess, I meant checkers of course. No reds in chess.

  4. Victor
    March 13th, 2010 at 23:27 | #4

    When I went to see this movie, I had a hard time with the 3d. Things getting focus over others even when I’m not looking where the movie necessarily puts in the foreground confused the hell out of my brain. 😛

    I kept telling myself. I’d probably enjoy this movie more in 2d!

  5. March 18th, 2010 at 12:33 | #5

    Saw it last night. It wasn’t a bad movie. But it didn’t leave much of an impression to me.

  6. Fabric Shower Curtain ·
    November 3rd, 2010 at 17:27 | #6

    i always look for a good movie review first before watching new movies *