Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19, is convinced that her previous visit to Wonderland was nothing more than a vivid childhood nightmare. However, just as she receives a marriage proposal, and is set to decide on her future, she spies a fretful white rabbit dressed in a waistcoat scurrying about. She falls into the rabbit hole once again and is back in Wonderland, where she meets her forgotten friends, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Tweedles, among others, and faces a test of courage against dark forces.
This isn’t the Alice in Wonderland that you’d have grown up with. It imagines beyond the scope of Lewis Carroll’s novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and pitches Alice as a reluctant heroine who has to face up to her demons – in this case, the dreaded beast, the Jabberwocky – in order to find her way in her own life.
Tim Burton’s version is filled with whimsy and mayhem. It seems to attempt to appeal to a wide audience, the way Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did, and the result may not satisfy everyone.
The effects are top-notch and up-and-coming actress Wasikowska is one to watch. Her Alice is excellently portrayed, a young woman-to-be who is believable as a real person, caught in a “curiouser and curiouser” predicament.
Helena Bonham Carter is also a comic delight as the rambunctious Red Queen, what with her “off with their heads” and “I need a pig here!” proclamations, and her bulbous head.
Johnny Depp, as the Hatter, is good or bad, depending on how you enjoy his interpretation. Anne Hathaway, playing the White Queen as an inspired send-up of the White Queen, is marvellous, however, and she tickles with a few moments of unexpected comedy.
In our opinion, Depp’s Hatter is something of a mixed bag. He is not quite the delightful equivalent to ‘drunken master’ Jack Sparrow, and he’s not the intriguingly foppish Willy Wonka.
Like the Hatter, the film could have been much funnier, much more over the top, but it chose to remain rooted in some form of reality, if you can say that about events transpiring in a fantasy world.
Where is the big ‘wow’ factor?
In a nutshell, there’s just not enough ‘wonder’ in Wonderland. The kids will probably still like it, for there are many sequences and effects that utilise the 3D view (stuff being thrown towards the screen; speedy chases).
But one might have expected a stranger, more full-tilt approach from Burton and his gang. (There are live flamingo mallets, live hedgehog croquet balls, plump pig feet rests and frog footmen in court—but it’s still not enough somehow.)
Look to Wasikowska to provide a strong emotional centre for the film; the Hatter may be mad, but he’s not the life of the party as one would have hoped.