Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I Loved Burton’s Wonderland Even Though So Many People Didn’t

Despite making a killing at the box office this past month, Alice in Wonderland has received some rather unfavorable reviews from critics and audiences. The majority of the negativity stems from how far the film strays from the original story by adding new action and character development to the plot. I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland or Through The Looking Glass but am familiar with the general tale. And I've seen the Disney animated film but I’m not really attached to either the film or the books. So I was very open to seeing a retelling of the story that added to the Lewis Carrol story and wasn’t merely a live action version of the 1951 Disney film. But Burton’s adaptation is so awesome that it makes me want to read the books and re-watch the cartoon. And helping a classic continue its popularity is always a good thing. So before all the other blockbusters/3D films erase Alice in Wonderland from our short-term moviegoer memories, I wanted to share my love for the film and encourage everyone to go see it.

Photos from the El Capitan aplenty and more on the matter after the jump

I saw the film at the El Capitan in Hollywood so my experience was extra wonderful. Here are the photos from the theater (my iPhone apologizes for the crappy quality):

Playing at the El Capitan till April 20th!

The Disney store, attached to the theater, was selling lots of cute merchandise. I want this Johnny Depp/Mad Hatter doll.

A pianist plays Disney hits before the film starts!

Set up to make you feel like you're in Wonderland...or should I say Underland!

costumes and props from the film:

You don’t have to see the film at the El Capitan or even in 3D (since it was shot in 2D) to appreciate it. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; the whole film looks like an ethereal painting. The Danny Elfman score fits so perfectly to all the imagery (shocking). The costumes are, without a doubt, my favorite part of the film. I loved watching Alice’s outfit transform each time her size did. I really want all her dresses! All the characters are amazingly well-cast but Mia Wasikowska is especially lovely as Alice. She brings this natural, subtle beauty to the character. In this film version, Alice is about 19 years old. She's a young, imaginative woman who learns to embrace her ingenuity and courage because of her adventures in “Wonderland.” Alice’s added background story brings some depth to her character. Her childhood relationship with her father (who encourages her uniqueness and individuality) contrasted with her current relationship to the rest of her family and friends (who wish she’d be more pragmatic) make for internal conflict that she must face and resolve. The Mad Hatter and both Queens are also multidimensional characters whose histories are briefly explored. The entire war sequence between the two Queens, the Oraculum, and the manifestation of the poem “Jabberwocky” are all entertaining additions to the plot. While much of the plot is similar to other fantasy films, I was thrilled to see Alice done on such an epic scale!

Criticisms about the film being too trite or not dark enough are just too cynical. Alice in Wonderland manages to be an engaging and visually stunning film without being overly sentimental. It’s exactly the film I want from Burton and Disney—whimsical but with a focus. I’m a big Tim Burton fan and I generally like screen adaptations of children's books so this film is a big win for me (and it was released on my b-day! yay!). But I think if you watch it with an open mind and view it as its own entity—as a film loosely based on the books—you’ll like it too. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, hop on down to the theater and enjoy the trip.