Yea gods, I’m reviewing something I know something about, what’s going on?
I have a love for Alice in Wonderland which balances a tight line and regularly threatens to tipple down into flatout obsession. Its a book which has interweaved itself into my life: like all the best stories do. From when my dad read it to me as a child and hung framed illustrations around the house, riding on the alice in wonderland ride at blackpool pleasure beach with my mother and re-interpreting alice’s sexuality, drug use and gender norms as a precocious undergrad. There is something in the story which captures my heart: to the extent that in the unlikely event of me getting pregnant I would call the child Alice (if it were a girl, though you never know).
So high level of expectation. But its ok you know, because Burton’s my man. I mean, ok so he sometimes gets it wrong and chruns out some utter toss, but I forgive him. His gothic sympathies, outsider aesthetic, love of narrative and the magic of the surreal won me over a long time ago. He’s alright. He gets it.
And I have to say, overall I was impressed. I sat in the cinema grinning like a loon, lost in the magic of seeing my favourite fairytale characters floating around in front of my face in 3D surround. I wanted to stroke the cheshire cat, ducked out of the way as one of burton’s trademark tangled branches brushed past my face. I rediscovered the joy of the book which as compliments for films go, isn’t bad.
Sure burton deviates from the novels, and I had to quieten the purist in me from grumbling every time he did it. Alice is far too feisty, reinterpreted for our modern age she’s a self-assured adventurer. I don’t mind this deviation too much carroll’s relation with the real Alice Liddell was so problematic it makes sense to review it. Its made for a family audience so some of the implicit dark, sinister, drugged elements of the book are toned down, which I lamented. But the humour works well, even if the dancing doesn’t. Carter’s red queen is pitched perfectly and Burton’s attention to detail manifests itself through the playing card warriors, the fairytale castles, right down to the floating dandelion seeds. You can see the love that went into it and I really hope he gets his distribution sorted.
For me its mainstream cinema doing what it does best: taking you away, wrapping you up in the magic of an adventure which is visually stunning and immersive. It is an old school romantic epic of a film, and its these which Burton really excels at.