There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter
The above was, of course, said by Mad Hatter character in the movie. But I believe, it applies to the movie itself if you just replace the likeness for Earth with likeness for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. You have to be a true fan of both these master of their arts, to like the movie.
The movie released in Delhi and Mumbai quite sometime back. But it came to Bangalore only last week, 4th June to be precise. I did not find time over the weekend, so I caught up with the movie on a Tuesday(8th June). And let me say it upfront, the movie disappointed me big time. Every minute of the movie I kept feeling that I’d rather watch Pans Labyrinth again or re-read the book . Don’t get me wrong, the movie is visually brilliant but the problem lies in the script. The script and story seems like a tired effort of unimaginative souls. The only creativity was in characterisation where they brought-in Twiddle-Dee, Twiddle-Dum (whom I mistook for Humpty-Dumpty), Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat etc. But the characters themselves played out bland and predictably.
One of the issues with the movie is Alice herself, the 20 yr old Alice. It’s quite odd for a 20 yr old girl to be enthusiastic about these fantasy characters or curious about the ‘Underland’, and that’s why in the movie she is never amused about being there. Its her wonderland and she fails to recognize the characters as they appear one after another, although she keeps saying “It’s my dream, It’s my dream”. The innocence of a pre-teen and the look of surprise and engima, the overwhelming feeling of being in the wonderland is totally absent.
The cinematography and CGI is fabulous, the creatures come alive on-screen; the dormouse, the rabbit in a cloak, pigs at work, all very well done. The feel of being in a wonderland is very much there, but the disconnect with the characters is evident. They remain mere characters, none enchanting.
The story is as old as the hills. A mission is what differentiates the book from the movie. While the book was a jaywalk into a fantasy land, the movie is mission-based where Alice is led to the Underland for a reason. The entire Underland has been waiting for Alice to arrive and save them from the treacherous Red Queen. But Alice has no clue as to how to go about the business. In her wantonness she drinks potions, eats magical food that shrinks and enlarges her. After this Arabian Nights affair, its time for some Narnia to creep in. I mean, some action and fights between good v/s evil. Strange creatures, talking animals surround you but its all visual charm. There is no soul. You enjoy it while its played out, but it doesn’t stay with you once you walk out of the theatre.
Johnny Depp has worked a lot on his portrayal as Mad Hatter, full marks for that. His association with Tim Burton has always brought great stuff to light, like Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. But this time, they have failed to nail the character.
Burton has done a great job with the setup and the direction, but the weak script lets him down. Things happen too easily for Alice, almost simplistic. She does not have to struggle much or use her brains, she is spoon-fed with every little detail. Whereas, she should have been the driving force, she should have taken charge as she has weaved the entire story in her imagination. But here, she is found wanting.
What put me totally off was the fact that Alice’s journey into the Underland is a one-time affair. There are no images to capture delusion/hallucination effect or the fact that its a figment of her own imagination. She should have slipped in and out of her dream/consciousness a few times before she succeeds in her mission.
Anne Hathway’s guest appearance as White Queen, metaphorical for purity and bliss, is actually quite the opposite. She prepares a vicious potion consisting of fingers and animal flesh/blood and calls herself peace-loving, quite an oxymoron. In fact, Red Queen, although loud in her portrayal, makes a nice remark something to the effect that ‘its better to be hated/feared for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not’.
I still like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp for making this attempt; thats the only thing to be applauded, everything else is passe.
This post was first published on PFC