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Blu-ray Review: Alice In Wonderland
Empress Eve   |  

Alice In Wonderland Blu-rayAlice In Wonderland
Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 1, 2010

Most people are already familiar with the story of Alice In Wonderland, the classic tale by Lewis Carroll, about a bored little girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a magical world. In this “wonderland,” she encounters strange animals who can speak and comes up against the evil Queen of Hearts. Disney’s 1951 animated film further popularized the tale and has come to be the definitive on-screen version representation of Alice In Wonderland.

Now, Disney has dipped back into the Alice In Wonderland pool to give us a live-action/CGI hybrid version, directed by Tim Burton. A common misconception is that Burton’s new film is just another remake of the classic, but in actuality, the new film is really a follow-up to the original Alice In Wonderland and its sequel Through The Looking Glass, and probably would have benefited from being marketed that way. And if you expect it to begin right away with Alice falling down that rabbit hole, well, you’ll be a little disappointed, as there’s a lot more for you to learn about Alice before she even gets to Wonderland — or, in this case, Underland.

We’re first introduced to Alice Kingsleigh as a small child, but only to learn that she suffers from strange dreams and nightmares, from which her father, a forward-thinking innovative man, tries to calm her. Soon after, we see meet Alice (Mia Wasikowska) again as a young woman of 19 being unsuspectingly courted for marriage by a most incompatible suitor. It’s obvious from the start that she neither fits in nor wants to fit in with Victorian society. At her surprise engagement party, Alice is overwhelmed by what’s happening, then starts to see a rabbit in a waistcoat running around the garden. Too preoccupied by the rabbit, Alice leaves the main party to follow the intriguing creature, and that’s when — you guessed it — she falls down the rabbit hole into Underland.

Once in Underland, Alice is faced with the same dilemmas as the original Alice, but for some reason, this Alice doesn’t know how to overcome the obstacles. While a few Underland inhabitants secretly watch Alice’s struggles, they wonder if perhaps she is not the same Alice who visited as a child. Unfortunately for them, they need the true Alice, as she is the one prophesied to return to free the Underlanders from the oppression of the tyrannical Red Queen.

The initial set-up at first drags on a little bit, and you’re left to wonder when the real action will begin and when the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, will appear. But again, though it’s called Alice In Wonderland, it is not an adaptation of the classic story, and getting to know the grown-up Alice is an important part of what makes this sequel so enjoyable.

Once you get to Underland, you will immediately feel like you’ve teleported into a vibrant magical world, and if you’re a fan of Tim Burton, you’ll be pleased to see his signature whirly designs spread throughout the film, though not overbearingly. Though Burton’s stamp is all over the film, you’ll never feel like you are not in Wonderland.

As far as characters go, you’ll be thrilled to know that Disney was able to get all the original characters to return for this lively sequel. Present here is the aforementioned rabbit (the White Rabbit, voiced by Michael Sheen, though he isn’t as talkative this time around), the dormouse (Barbara Windsor), Tweetledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the Caterpillar (known here as Absolem and voiced by Alan Rickman), the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), and of course, The Mad Hatter, who is absolutely more mad now than ever before. For Alice’s old companions things have gotten much more oppressive since the last time we’ve seen them.

Under the rule of the Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) — a character which is a combination of The Queen of Hearts and The Red Queen — the inhabitants of Underland live in fear and despair, as the land has lost much of its vitality. When we revisit the Tea Party setting, the guests are no long emphatically imbibing in their tea and pastries, but instead are sullen and depressed, sitting in what looks like the ruins of a worn-torn society. Their only hope now is that the visiting Alice is actually The One of prophesy foretold in the Oraculum, an illustrated scroll of all the days of Underland, one of which is Frabjous Day — the day the true Alice returns to Underland to slay the Jabberwocky, thereby removing the Red Queen from power, restoring it to her sister, the benevolent White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Alice doubts that she’s the true Alice, and over and over again proves with her actions that she couldn’t possibly be the same Alice from years ago; plus, she’s convinced everything that’s happening is all just a dream!

I’m not a big fan of CGI, but for Alice In Wonderland, I feel the majority of what was done here was done very well. All of the sets for Underland were created through CGI and were beautifully created, like the paintings of a master artist. It never seemed ‘fake’ even thought what is being shown is fantastical. Burton also employed the use of motion-capture performance, yet another thing I’m usually not fond of, but he was sensible enough to let the human main characters — Alice, Hatter, Red Queen, and White Queen — perform completely live action in costume and make-up with only slight computer enhancements (for instance, widening the Mad Hatter’s eyes and enlarging the Red Queen’s head). Honestly, this probably saved the film for me, because had it been completely mo-cap, I would have lost interest quickly. In my opinion, there’s no reason to make human characters use motion-capture, which is why I was a little confused as to why Crispin Glover had to use it for his character Ilosovic Stayne, the Knave of Hearts. He wasn’t completely mo-cap, and it could be because he had to appear a little taller than everyone else, but I don’t think it was worth it. I I didn’t realize he was part mo-cap initially but when I saw Stayne get on a horse and gallop away, the rigidity of his movements made it obvious.

Another aspect of the film that was a little bit annoying was the obvious 3D visuals, which are not 3D in the home video versions. The film was in 3D in the theaters, so the obviously 3D ploys, like having flying creatures that have little need to be in the scene flying right at the screen, are used. There was probably only one 3D gimmick that I liked, which involved the Mad Hatter, that I thought wasn’t in-your-face enough. But, overall, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film, it was just something that felt obvious and unnecessary to me.

On a whole, Alice In Wonderland is highly enjoyable and in the end, I think it was wise to make this a continuation of Alice’s journey. Carroll’s original tale has so many details about the world, and Burton’s version elaborates on those details. The actors all did an outstanding job with their characters and truly immersed themselves into the world of Underland, even though that world for them was actually bright green-screen sets. Not surprisingly, Johnny Depp stands out among the cast; any previews of the film you’ve seen cannot begin to show you what he does with the Mad Hatter. Oh, and I should mention that Christopher Lee voices the Jabberwocky, which is just icing on this Wonderland cake, as is the amazing score by long-time Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman.

Alice In Wonderland is a worthy edition to Tim Burton’s film repertoire and is definitely a film that gets better every time you watch it, especially after you get passed the beginning sequence and accept that this is a continuation of the story we all know and love, because a wonderful continuation it is.

Special Features

DISC 1

Wonderland Characters

- Finding Alice: Tim Burton and the actors talk about how Alice has evolved now that she’s near adulthood, though still has a bit of child-like attributes to her. Alice is back in Wonderland trying to figure out who she is and if she is the original Alice that visited as a child. Costume designer and actress Mia Wasikowska talk about Alice’s clothing for the film, how they had to figure out different outfits because Alice shrinks and grows throughout the film.

The Mad Hatter: Depp talks about his character, The Mad Hatter. He’d read something about real hatters, how they used mercury when making the hats, and they went mad from it. We’re shown watercolors of Depp’s vision of Hatter; we see Depp being fitted in costume and make-up, all practical. Depp is not motion-capture, it’s all him, just with a little CG enhancements (like making his eyes wider). There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and details about the Hatter’s hat.

The Futterwacken: This is the dance that the Mad Hatter does in the film. Depp was embarrassed to do it and was relieved when they found a guy through YouTube doing a strange dance, so he did the moves instead of Depp. We see the behind the scenes of the dance moves.

The Red Queen: Concept art of The Red Queen. Also, Helena Bonham Carter says she didn’t know that she was going to play the role, though she says that about every role she gets in a Tim Burton movie, as if she didn’t already know she’s a shoe-in. We see the make-up application and details about the Queen’s scepter.

Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Queen: It takes about 2 1/2 hours to apply The Red Queen’s make up and this feature is a time-lapse version of Carter getting her make-up done as the Carter and makeup artist narrate.

The White Queen: This is the Red Queen’s sister; she’s the good sister, but she has an off side to her as well; she has a bit of her own madness to her. She fears going too far to the dark side, like her sister. This feature discuses talk about the costume design and make-up for the White Queen.

Making Wonderland

Scoring Wonderland: Composer Danny Elfman talks about collaborating with Tim Burton and creating Alice’s theme.

Effecting Wonderland: The effects team talks about blending motion-capture, live actors, live actors with slight CG effects, and full CGI characters and sets.

Stunts of Wonderland: Behind-the-scenes with stunt coordinator, footage shots, training, testing with stunt people, Mia Wasikowska swordfighting training and in a harness for her stunts.

Making the Proper Size: Alice is different sizes in the film, this discusses her different looks and sizes.

Cakes of Wonderland: Famous bakers Cake Divas (from the reality series on TLC) provided the lavish desserts, as well as the famous “Eat Me” pastry and we see all the different size cakes they had to make and the desserts for the Tea Party.

Tea Party Props: The creators talk about how they came up with the look of the Tea Party.

DISC 2

- DVD Feature Film with Bonus Features: This is a DVD copy of the film, which ocomes with only three featurettes from the Blu-ray copy: The Mad Hatter, Finding Alice, and Effecting Wonderland.

DISC 3

- Digital Copy of Feature Film: The third disc in the pack comes with a digital copy of the film, which can be transferred to a portable device, like an iPod.

  • robertarizona

    A very interesting and informative review!

  • Fierste

    Loved this movie. Looks like the bonus stuff is nice, might have to pick this up.

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