Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Tonight I saw Alice in Wonderland, starring Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp.

I must confess: as a child I never liked the famed Lewis Carroll book. It simply creeped me out. I had a wild imagination of my own and the last place I wanted to take it was to a world with black holes and talking cats.

But tonight, my love for the creative fusion of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp won out over the unfavorable memories I had of the story, and I sat through the whole film. I'm so glad I did.

Mia Wasikowska is the very picture of a perfect Alice (except her hair was too curly, but I digress), and she's all grown up. In fact, she's just been proposed to by a boy she's not in love with and needs to escape the situation to take some time and think. She finds the perfect excuse to depart as she spots a rabbit in a waistcoat in her peripheral vision, then bolts away after it, only to fall down a big black hole.

Upon landing she's in a place she once called Wonderland (though she has no memory of ever visiting before) where she encounters all types of interesting characters: the Mad Hatter (Depp), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and a pair of sister queens—one good and one bad.

The good one is the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) who lives in a white palace with white things surrounding her. She seems sweet if not a little bit spacey.

The bad one is the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) who suffers from harboring a huge head and a horrible demeanor to go with it. "Off with his head" is a common phrase she screams, perhaps because she wishes she could rid herself of her own.

Anyway, somehow Alice gets caught up in the drama between sisters and has to slay the Jabberwocky to make everything right. She repeatedly insists that she doesn't slay and believes the whole ordeal is a dream from which she will soon wake, driving home the metaphorical theme of free will throughout the film.

And themes are big here.

In a deep conversation with the Mad Hatter, he asks her if he's bonkers and she replies that he is, but all great people are. It's a theatrical fist pump to all the crazy geniuses out there, and it was a nice—if not obvious—touch.

Also emphasized is female independence. From Alice confronting her sister with the fact she may not marry her suitor, to the queens leading their respective entourages into battle, this whole world is controlled by women.

I'm glad I got to spend time in Wonderland. This version is much less frightening than the one I created in my head as a child, and even the scariest of characters have comedic redemption.

Plus, watching Johnny Depp do a mean Futterwack is worth the price of admission.


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