Saturday, March 27, 2010

have you any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?

Ye have been warned, this post contains spoilers.

I'm finally managing to write my review of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D. I saw it last weekend (though it feels like months ago) with Christian, his sister Coryn, and her boyfriend Harold. Because it was a Disney movie, I wanted to see it. Because it was a sequel to the original Alice in Wonderland, I was not extremely enthusiastic. Walt himself said, "I've never believed in doing sequels. I didn't want to waste the time I have doing a sequel; I'd rather be using that time doing something new and different.” And have you seen some of the Disney sequels? They're awful. I'm also not OMG OBSESSED!!1! with Tim Burton the way a lot of people are. But I kept an open mind...

This was no "Belle's Magical World," or even "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." It was exquisite: Tim Burton managed to make it sinister without being overtly creepy, and beautiful without making me feel like I was stuck in a world of computer-generated images.

Of course, it follows Alice's journey back to Wonderland. It's been so long since I've read Lewis Carroll's book that I can't compare the book to the movie, but Burton's version goes further in depth with the plot and characters than Walt's animated version. I was disappointed that there was no singing ("A very merry unbirthday!" "To me?" "Yes, you!"), but the tone of this movie was somber, not lighthearted like the animated feature. It reminded me of the 1985 Disney film Return to Oz, actually.

Alice herself is a very complex character - she's come a long way from the seven-and-half year old child was in her first visit to Wonderland. She is now 19, and because she lives in Victorian England, there's a lot of pressure on her to act like a perfect lady; however, it's clear from the beginning that Alice is different from girls her age. She feels pressure from her family and society to get married because "she's getting older and her face won't last," but in her heart she knows that she doesn't want to lead a boring, stuffy life with a man who doesn't love or understand her. She's very much a modern, indepedent person stuck trapped inside the body of a nineteenth-century fragile doll.

She runs away from the real world and the problems in her own life, once again falls down the rabbit hole, and finds herself in Wonderland. But she doesn't remember anything about her previous experience in this surreal place. I won't spoil the reason why she was needed back in Wonderland, but she is faced with the decision of saving everyone from the wrath of the Red Queen. Throughout her journey, she comes to term with who she is and who she feels called to become.

Oh, and did I mention that Mia Wasikowska is gorgeous?

Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter was incredible. I wanted to be friends with the Hatter. He's still bonkers, but he's not his usual self. He's worried, like everyone else in Wonderland, about the fate of their beloved word at the hands of the Red Queen and her terrible weapon. He plays a much more important role in this sequel because he teaches Alice something very important. He sadly tells her, "You used to be much more...muchier. You've lost your muchness." He represents childhood, in a way; he isn't afraid to be mad, and he isn't afraid to believe in the impossible. He teaches Alice that in order to fulfil her role in Wonderland, she must revert back to the mindset she had when she was a child. "Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast," Alice confides in the Hatter. "That," he answers, "is an excellent practice."

(There should be a picture of the amazing Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, but it didn't want to show up. :[ )

Then there's the presence of good and evil in this movie. Obviously Iracebeth, the Red Queen, represents evil. (And there is no one better suited to play a crazy, cruel queen than Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the role fantastically.) But what about her sister Mirana, the White Queen? Anne Hathway is stunning, no doubt, and we are much more inclined to like her because of her unfailing kindness - but would we really want to be like her? Anne Hathaway said that her character comes from the same gene pool as her sister, but took a vow not to harm any living thing out of fear that she would go too far. I found myself pitying her.

Is it better to be good and infinitely loved, like the White Queen, but ultimately powerless to protect oneself, held captive by that very goodness? Is it better to be bad, like the Red Queen, protecting oneself and exercising power but losing everyone's faith and love in the process? To me, neither of these are ideal. Alice is a fusion of both Queens - kind and well-loved like Mirana, but strong and able to protect herself like Iracebeth.

In the end, despite the Hatter asking her to stay, Alice realizes that staying in Wonderland won't solve her real world problems - but the real world doesn't have to be a nightmare. Life is what she makes of it. So it's with great difficulty that she says goodbye to her beloved Wonderland and travels back to her life. It's a paradox that in keeping the heart of a child, she grows up.

I saw so much of myself in this Alice - 19, headstrong and somewhat rebellious, questioning everything. She always says the wrong thing, and people don't take her seriously because she's so "distracted"; in other words, she has a wonderful imagination. But eventually, she learns to accept herself despite others' opinions, and realizes that it's okay to believe in the impossible.

The ending of the movie was emotional for me: it was like seeing myself up there on the screen, realizing that realistically I cannot stay at WDW and saying a bittersweet goodbye. There's a whole lot I could say about this movie, but that would take far too long. I think anyone who was ever enchanted by the idea of falling down a rabbit hole into another world should see this, though, because it really is a masterpiece.

As for sequels, I feel like this one would make Uncle Walt change his mind, at least this once. It's much harder to enchant adults than children, and even harder to persuade them to believe in the impossibility of magic. This movie does both, which makes it pure Disney.

I hope everyone has an opportunity to see it. May you never lose your muchiness.

And as for why a raven is like a writing desk, I have no idea.


  1. Now I REALLY want to see the movie!

  2. I agree with much of what you said. I think, though, that the ending did not have as much muchiness as it could have had. Overall the movie was still excellent. I think the Cheshire Cat stole the show in every scene he was in. I liked that he wasn't purple. His grey tones are more in line with the somber ambiance of the movie. All the supporting characters were amazing in their roles. And Mia Wasikowska, upon first laying eyes on her in the first scene, I said to myself, "She is absolutely beautiful." I also loved the fact that Alan Rickman and Christopher Lee had voicing roles. I was ecstatic to hear their voices. I saw it in 2D. I am going to go see it in 3D soon.


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