Alice in Wonderland

tn_aliceinwonderland2010ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Louis Carroll or whoever is one of the most beloved and iconic children’s literatures of our times. It has also been one of the most adapted, referenced and re-interpreted. Ever since the books Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and A2: Rise of the Looking Glass were first published in such and such a year, I myself as a child growing up was inspired by, blah blah blah and you know the rest. In 1951 Walt Disney, etc.

As an adaptation of the original book, ALICE IN WONDERLAND is not entirely faithful. Like many versions it combines characters from the first book and the sequel (Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Humpty Dumpty were from the second book according to Wikipedia, a popular websight). However it’s not meant as a straightforward translation of the book, but more a riff on the world of Wonderland, using our familiarity with some of the imagery and characters from previous adaptations and trying to be clever about re-interpreting them in a different context.

In this version Alice is not a little girl anymore, she has grown up quite a bit. In the world of reality she’s having relationship troubles. But this awkward looking white rabbit runs by, she follows him and escapes into this fantasy world where her encounters make her realize what she needs to do.

She’s completely naive and innocent, but because of her age her interactions with the fantasy characters take on more adult meanings. When she shrinks out of her dress she ends up naked, and the behavior of the weird animal people she runs into makes her uncomfortable. But it’s not until nearly a half hour into the movie that a talking rock convinces her to finger herself and then next thing you know she meets the Mad Hatter, who has no pants on, and she gets curious enough to start giving him a blow job.

By the way I don’t know if I mentioned this is the 1976 porn version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND I’m talking about, not the new Tim Burton one. I’m gonna talk about that later in the review.

Directed by Bud Townsend (NIGHTMARE IN WAX), it stars Kristine DeBell as Alice. She was a Playboy model, but there’s at least one hardcore scene that seems like it’s gotta really be her. (There’s also an R-rated version, like PIRATES). She still managed to go onto a pretty good career in TV and movies, everything from MEATBALLS to THE BIG BRAWL to The Young & the Restless. And she’s the best thing in the movie, playing the ludicrous porn naivete pretty straight. She’s kind of like the poor man’s Barbarella, and come to think of it I never really thought about how much the plot of BARBARELLA resembles a porno with the sex scenes cut out. Oh well. Coulda woulda shoulda.

mp_aliceinwonderland76Basically the story is about her going around meeting the different Wonderland characters, but don’t worry, she doesn’t screw all of them. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum for example are depicted as a man and woman wearing beanies and no pants, they take care of each other. Humpty Dumpty (played by screenwriter Bude Searle) gets his boner back thanks to Alice’s help, but her technique is offscreen and then it looks like he just has a dildo attached to his costume. She doesn’t have to actually do an eggman. That’s why she could still be on CHiPs and NIGHT COURT.

The weirdest thing about the movie is that it seems to be trying harder than you’d expect. The sets and costumes are cheap, and for some reason the rabbit’s ears attach to the side of his face. But it’s got all these musical numbers and dance sequences and they obviously have real dancers and choreographers, even if sometimes they end up getting naked and licking each other. There’s more time and emphasis spent on the musical numbers than the sex scenes, though. And it seems kind of serious about Alice going on this journey, it’s only the wacky music and title cards with sex puns that make it seem like it’s trying to be funny. Also there’s a joke where a character says they used to have a towel but a hotel stole it mp_aliceinwonderland76vhsfrom them. There’s a character who looks kind of like Bruce Vilanch, but I don’t think he was a writer on this one.

I don’t remember a Cheshire Cat or a Caterpillar. Some Carroll purists may be disappointed by these liberties, as well as the part where Tweedle Dum pulls out of Tweedle Dee and cums all over her butt. (I could’ve said “some may be disappointed by these omissions, as well as several emissions,” but this is a pretty classy websight in my opinion so I don’t write that kind of garbage.) I personally was disappointed that the credit for “nude underwater volleyball sequence” turned out to be a joke.

To be honest ALICE IN WONDERLAND is not all that entertaining. It’s kind of funny that it exists, and there are some okay blowjobs. And it is probly one of the only movies where a girl talks to a bunch of animals and learns that she should stop being so uptight and screw her boyfriend. But there are better porns, better musicals and better versions of this particular story.

mp_aliceinwonderland2010By coincidence I also watched the new Tim Burton movie called ALICE IN WONDERLAND. This one is designed more as a RETURN TO OZ type deal, a sequel, where an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland, although she can’t remember being there before. It has the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts and everybody but in more of a fantasy quest type thing where Alice is a chosen one who gets a sword and fights a dragon and shit.

I have some real mixed feelings about this movie. As a visual experience I think it’s unprecedented. Some people claim it’s more of the same from Tim Burton, but that’s not true at all, he’s never made anything half this elaborate. It’s fucking incredible to look at, even ignoring that it’s in 3-D with lots of nice CAPTAIN EO style flying-out-at-the-audience show-off shots. He’s using all that “mo-cap” and what not but in a more artful animatory kind of way. It looks like a very detailed psychedelic painting like you’d see in that “Juxtapoz” magazine they got at Borders.

The Queen of Hearts is Helena Bonham Carter with a head the size of a La-Z Boy, and it looks pretty real. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (strictly Platonic in this version) look like a painting of Pugsley Addams. Crispin Glover plays the Knave of Hearts, whose proportions look very exaggerated but it was a while before I realized they were digitally stretching his limbs. And you got all these little frogs running around wearing clothes, living playing cards that could be stop motion characters, a very real looking Cheshire Cat floating out of the screen into your face, a talking bassett hound who strikes a perfect balance between realism and cartoonish characterization, 100% free of GARFIELD style creepiness.

They also do a good job with the shifting of sizes. You remember Alice drinks potions and eats cookies and it makes her shrink or grow and all that? They do that here too, she changes sizes many times so we see the characters from different perspectives. Sometimes the caterpillar is her peer, sometimes he’s a bug on her shoulder. When she first meets the Tweedles they’re behemoths, later they’re little boys. That’s one aspect where they got the dreamlikeness down just right.

It all looks fucking incredible, I never seen anything like it. It really puts the Whoopi Goldberg version to shame, in my opinion. Unfortunately it’s an amazing visual depiction of a pretty boneheaded script. If it was a straight adaptation of the story people would probly say “been there, done that,” but fuck ‘em, it would be an impressive new visualization of a classic story, like that version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL that I loved and nobody else I know was willing to watch. Instead they decided to make references to all the familiar Wonderland shit (the Mad Hatter is still having a tea party, still asks the same riddle, caterpillar’s still sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah asking “who are you?”, Queen is still trying to find out who stole her tarts, etc.).

THen they take that half-assed ALICE IN WONDERLAND and cross it with some obvious CHRONICLES OF NARNIA shit. And I say that as someone who has only seen the trailers for NARNIA. This has the same amount of depth as those trailers. And when it gets into this by-the-numbers fight-the-monsters plot it no longer feels like Wonderland. Instead of trying to follow these characters and their insane logic you just watch them run around on a mission to save the kingdom from evil. It loses way too much crazy.

I don’t give a shit that they’re changing the story, but it just doesn’t mesh. THe new shit is not in the spirit of the old shit and doesn’t have any imagination to it. And putting the characters into that type of story takes away what makes them cool in the first place. To me the Cheshire Cat even in the Disney cartoon is a terryifing character without doing anything evil. He’s just unpredictable and hard to read and jesus man stop smiling at me you’re gonna make me shit my pants. In this movie he turns out to be heroic. That fucking ruins it, man!

Same goes for the Mad Hatter. In fact, they’re all facing a grave danger and are working together to save the world or whatever. This can be scientifically proven to be less entertaining than when they were crazy and had no logic or purpose. The story is supposed to be nonsense, right? So how do you shove it into a formula? Mathematically that can’t work.

Here’s an example. Alot of it is based off of that “Jabberwocky” poem. The poem says “Oh, frabjous day,” so they turn that into an important holiday called “Frabjous Day” when a prophecy is gonna go down. They’re literally trying to turn nonsense into sense. But they’re not Jodorowky, they can’t turn shit into gold. It’s just a bad idea.

Also it’s strangely humorless for Tim Burton. Anne Hathaway is kind of funny, though. She plays some kind of queen and she keeps posing her arms into bizarre poses. I’m not sure why.

Have you noticed, they got Sam Worthington in AVATAR and CLASH OF THE TITANS, now this Mia W. in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. For some reason they’re farming out the cast of Greg McLean’s ROGUE to all the 3-D movies. She seems like a good young actress, but unfortunately the character in the movie is pretty bland, I didn’t really feel like following her into the rabbit hole necessarily. She’s almost as old as Kristine DeBell was in the other one, but she looks more like a kid so I think it was a good choice by Walt Disney Pictures not to do it as a porno.

It’s a movie full of cool looking characters but not memorable ones. If I had to pick one that was the best I guess I would go with the Queen of Hearts. They actually added a little vulnerability to her. She still cuts off heads but she’s really self-conscious about her own giant head (wait a minute, I just now I understood that) and very susceptible to people who pretend to care about her. I’ve heard criticisms of Burton casting his lady friend in a movie yet again but I have to ask, who else would be better at this character? I can’t think of too many. Although it would’ve been funny if they cast Helen Mirren.

Glover’s Knave of Hearts is not as memorable but I approve of the scene where Alice is bigger than him so he fondles her head and talks excitedly about liking her size. And you realize he’s a fuckin fetishist just like he was with hair in the C’s A’s pictures.

So unfortunately the movie is pretty boring. Amazing and boring. Jawdropping and thumb twiddling. I almost want to see it again just to try harder to like it. It should be great. But it’s not. Somebody’s gotta figure out how to make Tim Burton hungry again. Or maybe just write him a better script.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 at 12:54 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

55 Responses to “Alice in Wonderland”

  1. This is classic shit Vern you got me good at the beginning there man alive!

  2. I liked the TRON LEGACY trailer more than the movie.

    I think that left a better impression on my crowd.

    Vern, you know what to do in December. Perfect tie-in, and more geek culture bashing I suppose.

  3. When i was asked if I was going to go see this I said look, at the end of the day, no matter how good the 3D is,
    it’s still just Alice In Wonderland. Seen it, done it, etc. Then I hear it was a kinda sequel involving
    quests, prophesies and a Chosen One…and reached for my ten-foot barge pole to make sure I kept this thing at a safe distance.
    It sounds like the sort of shitty big budget movies Griffin Mill has pitched at him at the beginning of
    The Player.

    Any suggestions for other unnecessary sequels forced to fit a tired formula? Here’s one – how about a sequel to Moby Dick where Ishmael sets off in a “bigger boat” with a crew of diverse ethnic mercenaries, to kill the Dick and avenge Ahab’s death. It practically writes itself!

  4. MikeOutWest – Oh yeah tottally. We can’t be slaves to big budget blockbuster sequels any longer!

    Oh and btw, TRON LEGACY trailer: http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/03/09/tron-legacy-trailer-isnt-in-3-d-but-its-still-awesome/

  5. Great review, Vern. Throw us out a WIZARD OF OZ/RETURN TO OZ double-bill review and make me happy. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but Walter (GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW, TOUCH OF EVIL: REDUX, etc) Murch’s OZ always struck me as the more memorable one, and the best model that this WONDERLAND reinvention could’ve had.

    Shame. The trailer did nothing for me (looked like that dull WILLY WONKA adaptation Burton did a few years back), but some of the clips looked a bit more interesting… My girlfriend wants to go see it, so I guess I’ll end up watching it. I hate it when adaptations of children’s books have to shoehorn an unnecessary GOOD VS. EVIL story in, just because they can’t be arsed thinking of something more original, the way WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE did. And Jesus, I’m stunned by the vicious reaction to that film that so many people have…

  6. EXACTLY how I and both my companions felt. Goddamn gorgeous to look at, but kinda ‘meh’ everywhere else. I did love the Cheshire Cat, and I also thought Anne Hathaway did a perfect job, which suprised me as I went in expecting more from the bigger names. Good review Vern, cheers.

  7. jsix: I didn’t know much about Anne Hathaway ‘cept for those trailers for the PRINCESS DIARY things, but she’s fantastic in RACHEL’S GETTING MARRIED, where she manages to imbue an extremely unlikeable character with a fair degree of sympathy and respect.

  8. RRA – got nothing against sequels as such – I’m looking forward to iron Man 2 and Tron Legacy just
    as much as everyone else.

    Its just the concept of turning the film into a half-baked Quest/Prophecy/Chosen One irks me. It’s like
    when they turned Aliens Vs Predator into a “I Know What You Did Last Summer/Urban Legend/Final
    Destination” movie.

  9. boy, talk about mixed thoughts

    part of me wants to see the movie just for the 3D visuals, but I’m disappointed that the story isn’t better

    I just can’t decide if it’s worth the effort and money to go see it or not

  10. there’s also the fact that despite being a fan of Tim Burton I’ve only seen ONE of his movies in theaters and that was freakin’ Batman Returns (I was also 2 years old and don’t remember it), so part of me wants to see it just so I can say I finally saw a movie of his in theaters

  11. Awesome review, the first half was some old school comedy Vern.

    Not seen the film yet, but from the trailer it sounds pretty much what your review describes, why the hell did they decide to take AiW and shove it into a typical kids fantasy film structure? There’s something both hilarious and cringe worthy about the idea of the Mad Hatter as a freedom fighter and Alice having to fight the jabberwock.

  12. The plot for this one sounds a helluva lot like “American Mcgee’s Alice”, that survival-horror-like PC game that came out a while back. World in turmoil, Alice has to fight some colossal beast with the help of familliar wonderland™ characters, etc… and I remember hearing that this film (or another slated to come out around this time) was originally going to be an adaptation of the story from the game, but it seems that they settled on something between the two for some inexplicable reason. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? I think Buffy was going to play Alice if that helps the pieces come together in someone’s brain…

    Also, great review, Vern.

  13. @Jam:

    Yeah, it clarifies a few things, cheers. However, it doesn’t explain why the plot for this new one is seemingly an amalgamation of all of these cancelled projects… I imagine it’s laziness, but hey, I’m a cynical bastard.

  14. The hilarious porn review bit reminded me of the Simpsons episode where Moe is babysitting Maggie and goes to read her a storybook “Alice in Wonderland? I wonder if this is a take off of that Alice In Underpants movie I saw.”

  15. Jareth Cutestory

    March 9th, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Not to derail the conversation, but that TRON trailer has to be the most half-assed, lazy looking thing I’ve seen in ages. It makes the movie look like an utterly predictable piece of niche marketing. This is what the AICN manboys are getting all worked up over?

    Maybe I just need another coffee.

  16. For a guy known for how ‘creative’ and apart from the mainstream he is, Tim Burton has been circling the exact same stories and style since, what, Sleepy Hollow? That’s ten years of sameyness. Ten years of the exact same movie getting made over and over again. The one that stands apart from the crowd to me is Big Fish. That’s the one where it seemed like he really went outside his comfort zone to make something different and special and heartfelt. Looking at his current slate and seeing how much of it is remakes and updates and whatnot, it makes me realize that maybe Burton has run out of things to say and just wants to keep the brand going and the Hot Topic crowd buying.

    God that sucks.

  17. It’s the way of the world now, my man. Where I work, (un-named canadian distribution company responsible for shelving such gems as “Direct Contact”, “Command Performance”, “Afghan Nights”, “Reeker” 1 and 2 and other worthwhile ventures) the industry focus seems to be solely on production and profit. Quality/originality is seen as a waste of time and money, as it confuses people who are now expecting the same crap over and over. Vicious cycle. Burton needs to work so he does, and people buy his crap ’cause he’s Tim Burton. And they will continue to do so, until he dies or the world explodes. What I want is to see now another Elfman & Elfman à la Forbidden Zone, since i’m pretty convinced that alot of Burton’s crazy came from his prolific and highly gifted music man.

    side note: Hey Vern, do you think you’re gonna review “Command Performance”? Dolph plays a famous drummer in rock band (who just so happens to have superior combat skills) who has to rescue the Russian prime minister during a big-time concert in Moscow. Tolstoy, eat your heart out.

  18. it would have been quite funny if the sweet Alice, suddenly started giving Mr. Johnny Depp a very deep BJ. Poor Johny it seems that any excentric character coming out from hollywood must be played by him. “If it´s crazy let´s Johnny play it.” By the way when I saw the trailers during the movie I saw that a new Garfield movie is coming soon. But I guess they heard you Vern, because they abandoned the creepy monster depiction for a fully 3d film, Pixar style. But Saddly the movie looks terrible. Would be cool if yo reviewed it tough. I loved your garfield review. One of the best of the site.

  19. To Josiah.

    I haven´t seen the film but I remember the review here on this site. You have to look for it, but it´s here.

  20. Correct you are, Camilo! I hereby withdraw my last suggestion.

  21. Oh man Vern, this review is ten times more epic than the movie!

  22. Josiah- Here’s where I disagree with you: If you wade through the Christmas Carol talkback, you’ll see me pop up and lambast Zemeckis for using his well-earned clout and incredibly expensive new technology to rehash old stories and ideas, as opposed to creating new stories and characters and worlds. Same goes for guys like Lucas and (sort of) Spielberg who chase old franchises and remake old movies, even though they have the resources and skills to do stuff that is completely new and just as good as their old stuff.

    Well add Burton to that list. These aren’t maverick young filmmakers who are being restricted by the limited vision of the industry they are tied to. They ARE the industry. Tim Burton can get any movie made that he wanted. And instead he’d rather remake his old successes, update old TV shows and make the umpteenth adaptation of a story that has always barely worked on screen, if at all. Fuck that.

    What happened to the personal visions? To the unique outlooks on the world? The drive to create new sights and sounds? What happened to the drive to impact the landscape of film with every single movie? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO THESE PEOPLE? Does old age really just choke out any sort of creative drive and energy?

    No, no it fucking doesn’t, and as EXHIBIT A I’ll offer Avatar. James Cameron didn’t just prove the oppurtunities that the new technology offered storytelling, he proved that you can actually USE IT. And people will go see a movie even without giant stars or name brand recognition. People WANT new stuff, new visions, new journeys, and the 2 billion plus gross of that movie proves that audiences will happily reward a film that gives them that.

    These filmmakers have no fucking excuses for why they pissed away their promise and my goodwill. The current creative ruin of that generation of filmmakers is their own goddamn fault and the sooner they all retire and leave the slate clean for the next generation to give it their shot, the better off movies and movie fans will be.

  23. Well said Brendan. I think the saving grace of the movie industry will be that in the digital era we are now in it is much cheaper to shoot and edit a film than ever before and with the internet a small independent movie can find its market. This hopefully will allow innovate and creative people the chance at perusing their vision without relying on the creatively bankrupt studio system for financing.

  24. Brendan – You know what AVATAR perhaps will be in the long term?

    TRON 2009.

    Hey another reference. Booyah!

  25. Well played, clerks. Nice bait and switch. And funny.

  26. @ brendan:

    Pour yourself a drink and light up a cigar– you deserve ‘em. Well said, chief.

    Though personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of avatar. No need to re-hash old threads, we all know that none of us really agree on it. It LOOKED great, don’t get me wrong. I just wish he had put more thought into the story. It would’ve been the next Star Wars or Pitch Black. Instead, it’s just another popcorn flick we’ll all forget about once movies are broadcast directly inside our brains in 5-D by aryan supermen who orbit the planet in giant crystal easter-island-heads.

  27. Great Jorodowsky name drop, Vern. Very funny.

  28. David Wayne is still THE BEST Mad Hatter!

  29. Vern almost convinced me with all his talk about how great it looks. But by the time I got to the end of his review, I was as uninterested as I was five minutes ago.

    Maybe if balls of molten lead begin falling from the sky as I’m standing directly outside a single-screen theater where it’s playing…

  30. One of the things that irked me about the non-pornographic Burton version of “Alice in Wonderland” was the ending (POSSIBLE SPOILERY TYPE STUFF) where it’s like the film-maker’s are saying “Hey, rejecting the values and flaunting the rules of society is totally easy! And you’ll be immediately rewarded for it!”

    Maybe it’s because I recently watched “Lust for Life”, “Vincent and Theo” and Jean-Claude Brisseau’s half-awesome/half bugfuck “A’ l’aventure” – which all, on some level, recognize how perilous it actually is to “go your own way” – that the ending struck me as a load of Hollywood bullshit.

    (END POSSIBLE SPOILERS)

    I guess I’m the only person who fucking hates “Big Fish”. I think that movie’s manipulative in a way that’s really sickening. And Ewan Mcgregor’s performance; I picture Burton directing him by saying, “Play this character as the biggest, smuggest jackass who’s ever existed! ACTION! Wait…wait…CUT! NO, EWAN! SMUGGIER!”

  31. ws — nah Im kinda with you on that. I think its one of Burton’s more soulful efforts recently, which I appreciate, (actually, his only soulful one except SWEENY since basically ED WOOD) but I walked away from the film thinking McGregor/Finney’s character was a gigantic asshole and baffled that the film seemed to want us to dismiss his colossal selfishness as a charming character quirk. The film has some very light moments of criticism of him, and I think utlimately wants to tell us it’s the son’s job to love/understand him even if he’s not the greatest guy ever. But then the movie is one giant love letter from the guy to himself. Focusing on visualizng the “whimsical” exaggerations this guy is spinning the whole movie might be fun for Burton’s art directors, but it weirdly puts this asshole in the position of the movie’s protagonist, rather than its villain. And then the movie acts like the fact that they were exaggerations, not outright lies, somehow makes it OK that this fucko was completely self-absorbed to an almost pathological degree. Sorry Albert Finney, I love you but you’re a total prick.

    That having been said, there are some really nice touches here and there. I particularly like when the son is told the real story of where his father was during some important event (his birth?) by an old friend, who shows how mundane it was and then asks the son if he doesn’t prefer the tall tale. But the son is actually kind of moved to hear something real about his father rather than all the bullshit he’s been spitting his whole life and says he perfers the real story. That’s a nice layer which is very well handled. I wish the script had been more about that aspect, but ah well, at least it’s in there. It’s a frustaring film for me but I do think it’s one of Burton’s better efforts, especially of his modern period. You get the sense that Burton does remember its a story about characters at some level, and not just an art design project (and, of course, the art design IS pretty great).

  32. imdb says Tim Burton is involved in a movie called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. Maybe that’s the fire under his ass we’re all waiting for.

  33. vern

    Brendan
    Bravo on your post. And if you remember my comments from the Christmas Carol I agreed with you then and I agree with you now.

    Recently director Mamoro Oshi went back and fucked up his 1995 film Ghost In The Shell by getting rid of the cel animation and replacing it with PS2-level CGI thus making the movie ugly as all get-out and a few months back he announced he will direct an adaptation of an old 1960s cartoon show as his next feature (which was just made into a live action movie in 2004…).

    I was very disappointed in this as I felt he was one of the last original directors coming out of Japan’s “nerd cinema” and now even he is giving into the nostalgia-craze.

    -True Takashi Mike directed Yatterman in 2009, an adaptation of an 1970s cartoon, and a few comic adaptations but he does like 4-to-5 movies a year and most of them are original ideas. I’m not even that big a fan of Mike and I’m starting to be driven to him now because the other Japanese ‘nerd’ directors I like are just directing shitty adaptations of shitty comic books.

    Jam
    One reason I absolutely fell in love with Secret of the Kells when I saw it earlier this year is because it was a film that would be aimed towards kids but it didn’t have any crappy good-vs-evil plot. It was surprisingly very subdued and melancholic for a film of it’s type. Sure it had a threat of vikings in it but even when they show up it doesn’t turn into a half-assed action film and instead the real villain of the piece isn’t malicious at all, it’s just two/three characters trying to achieve and spread salvation through different ways.

    So to sum up, I agree with you. Filmmakers need to hang up the traditional villain role for films aimed at kids (that goes to you too Pixar; I loved WALL-E and Up but where traditional villains really necessary in the end?)

    -I know I misspelled alot of names in here. Sorry. It is also an accident this turned into another post about me talking about cartoons. That was actually unintended this time.
    –in before cries of “NERD!!” my way.

  34. Yeah, it sounds like they basically took elements of American McGee’s Alice(which I too had heard was slated to be made, but now apparently isn’t being made, I assume because this one was), then made it “family friendly”. The Wonderland featured in “Alice” is a much, much darker place, and Alice herself is older same as here, but is also a bit mentally unstable. A lot of the familiar Wonderland characters are much grimmer. In Alice, the Mad Hatter, for example, has gone beyond simply mad and now conducts experiments on other denizens of Wonderland, turning them into half living, half clockwork creatures. The game itself is really well done, and did a good job of taking the familiar Wonderland setting and characters and doing something new with them, without much of it sounding all that farfetched from their more “traditional” roles.

  35. Thanks for the rewiew, Vern. I absolutely agree with all your points on why it was frustrating and why it failed to live up to its promise. I refused to read any reviews for this going in, but came out thinking it was horribly serviced by the mediocre and cliched plot. But the visuals… Stunning! The original Alice was meant to be dreamlike and the charm was how episodic and non-linear Alice’s journey was. Burton decided to “fix” this problem as he could not connect with the story and came up with this forced good vs evil linear fantasy story that we’ve seen a million times before and in this one, it’s even more simplified than what we would see in the Narnia movies. Heroine does not believe in herself, finds sword, conquers her disbelief and finally the evil monster. And with her and us being told at the start precisely what she needs to do at the end of the movie… it’s kind of an anticlimax considering that we already know what’s going to happen, so what’s the point of following her on this journey? There’s no sense of wonder in that regard. And also, did she even need to learn a lesson in the movie? In the beginning, she was already shown to be bucking the expectations of her time, so when she comes out of Wonderland and is still bucking the traditions (I guess with more self-belief?), it showed no character progress at all. It even gets a bit ridiculous since she gets placed on a ship to travel to China all on her own without question. What lesson is that teaching? That if you decide to explore some distant land no one has really explored, all you need to do is ask and adults will fall over your strong sense of self-belief?

    So yes, I agree it was amazing to look at.

  36. As pointed out by Old Man Murray ten years ago, the plot of “American McGee’s Alice” is essentially the same as the plot of “Earthworm Jim 3D”, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, and for that matter “Through the Looking Glass”. In other words, Lewis Carroll already did an edgier version of “Alice in Wonderland”, all by himself, in 1871, and it’s 10 times better than anything anybody else has come up with since.

    If anybody cares and has some late 90s video game nostalgia, Old Man Murray is a long-defunct but still hosted video game review website that gained a lot of notoriety for being brutally and hilariously honest in its day. Much like Vern, actually.

    http://www.oldmanmurray.com/longreviews/56.html

  37. Cassidy

    Have not seen the film so not defending (just pointing out). The whole the hero was told what to do from the get-go is staple of the Disney formula story-telling (hell it was even in the Cliche Prince I mean Princess and the Frog) so bitching that Disney did that again is like going into a Spielberg movie and bitching it has a happy ending and a subplot about a crappy father.

    Yet again, not defending this cliche just pointing out.

    As an aside…

    I never cared for American McGee’s Alice. As both a video game and a concept. It’s Wonderland except HARDCORE!!11 Big whoop-de-shit.

    As another aside…

    I’m also glad to find out I’m not the only one who thought Big Fish was bullshit.

    -to Mr. Subtlety
    In fairness though and an attempt to give Tim Burton some artistic credit (or to try and convince myself he still has some) maybe the whole “joke” of Big Fish is that it was a typical emotionally manipulative Oscar Bait Piece of Shit but instead about someone who would usually garner pity it is instead about one who does not deserve any. I can imagine Burton reading all the glowing reviews (y’know the ones that said “Burton finally grows up and now makes boring shit just like everyone else! 10-out-of-4-stars!!”) and him laughing his ass off at how nobody got it was a parody of Forest Gump-type films.

    But then I stop lying to myself and realize he just went and made some stupid Oscar bait crap and there’s nothing under the surface but a movie trying to make you feel sorry an asshole.

  38. Geoffreyjar — yeah, I don’t think its some kind of meta joke, but that would be really funny. Maybe Paul Verhoven can make that film someday. Or maybe its a Lars Von Treir thing.

  39. If I was Alice I’d have worn a pair of glasses in Wonderland, there seemed to be a lot of gougings and eye stabbings in that dream world.

  40. I thought the dream sequence in “A Serious Man” (the one involving the brother paddling a canoe into Canada) was a pretty funny “Fuck you!” to Oscar bait.

  41. Add me — “Big Fish” was pretty bad, and also manages to waste Billy Cruddup, which is saying something.

    Burton’s “Alice,” however, might be even worse. It’s the first of his movies that I thought was actually boring. (Haven’t seen “Sweeny,” though…)

  42. I liked Sweeney Todd whenever they weren’t singing, which is not good news for a musical. That’s not really Burton’s fault, I guess. Maybe they’re better when actual singers are singing them, but to me, those songs were just deadly, tuneless messes, crammed so full of show-offy syllables that there was nothing to latch onto. The only remotely bearable one was the one Sasha Baron Cohen sang.

  43. Well, Sasha Baron Cohen could probably sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and make it entertaining.

  44. Mr M — I too was ambivalent to the singing, but oddly found the whole enterprise to be much more full of life than anything Burton’s done in a long while. I think ditching the whimsy and focusing on the darkness helped wake him up a little. Too bad it looks like ALICE is a big relapse.

  45. Did anyone who saw this think the 3-D looked poor compared to other 3-D movies? I didn’t, but Devin on Chud keeps saying that the 3-D “sucked” and at least one of the commenters agreed with him. I tried to ask what they were talking about, but nobody responds to questions over there. They also keep referring to it as “not shot for 3-D,” while Tim Burton says in every interview that the entire pitch to him was “Alice in Wonderland in 3-D.”

    Anybody know what they’re so worked up about?

  46. Vern, they didn’t shoot it with a camera that had two lenses so they could get the perspective for each eye on scene, instead they just shot it normally and then went through and basically photoshopped every frame to create a simulation of what the other eye might see. There’s a Slate article about this faux 3D process here:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2243118/

    I could definitely tell with the live action stuff, it didn’t look nearly as good as a movie actually shot in 3D like the live action parts of Avatar, the people basically seemed like slightly bumpy paper cutouts at different distances from you, and sometimes I noticed little mistakes like part of someone’s face being at a totally different depth than the rest (maybe it helped that I watched the movie stoned). On the other hand, the CG stuff in the movie looked good, so I think for that they probably actually did have the computer render the models from two different perspectives.

  47. this is late, but is anyone else surprised that this is apparently the only Tim Burton movie Vern has reviewed?

  48. ok he also reviewed Planet of the Apes

    but Vern needs to review Burton’s actual GOOD movies

  49. I think he talked about Sleepy Hollow in one of the old Tells It Like It Is columns. Debatable whether or not thats one of the good ones though. I think it’s fairly forgetable but okay.

  50. The only Tim Burton movie that belongs in this dojo is ED WOOD.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    May 7th, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Not a fan of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, Darryll? I thought that was one of the two Burton films that pretty much everybody liked. “That Johnny Depp, he make me cry.”

  52. Jareth – SCISSORHANDS is alright, but ED is by far his best picture. The sad thing is, it’s way to late for Burton to go back to that pure, character driven storytelling.

  53. I like ED WOOD better, but I think SCISSORHANDS is the purest expression of Tim Burton. It’s like VIDEODROME to David Cronenberg.

  54. Finally watched it (The non-porno Disney version) and I agree (as usual) with everything you said. Especially: “Some people claim it’s more of the same from Tim Burton, but that’s not true at all”. Seriously, the movie had to take so much shit from Burton-haters that I expected some pure Burton-ness in the tradition of “Batman Returns”, but it turned out to be the least Burtonesque Filme since “Planet Of the Apes”!

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