There’s no point in telling Hollywood not to remake films and resurrect dead franchises, as they’ll keep doing it no matter what we say. What I will caution studios however, is to stop giving these projects to Tim Burton.
Just because a director has a certain artistic flair, that does not translate into necessarily a good film, and it’s become quite clear that though Tim Burton has filmed some classics of his own over the years, when it comes to re-filming what’s already been made, the man just adds nothing worthwhile, and only serves to taint whatever original film he’s trying to “reinvision.”
It’s thirteen years after Alice made her first trip down the rabbit hole, and she’s grown from a naïve child into a slightly less naïve adult, who doesn’t realize she’s been invited to her own engagement party until her fiancé –to-be is moments away from popping the question. He’s gawky-looking ginger kid, but he’s a lord, so both of their families are pushing her into acceptance. But when she can’t deal with the pressure, she flees the scene, and goes dashing through the adjoining hedge maze where she finds yes, you guessed it, a rabbit hole.
Down she goes, once again chasing that mystical white rabbit of old, but once she’s there, and confronted with a familiar set of faces (a sea of scornful flowers, a fearsome mouse, a stoned, blue caterpillar) she doesn’t recall any of her previous time spent in Wonderland, and the local creatures begin to question whether or not she’s the Alice they used to know.
Is it weird this is one of Helen Bonham Carter’s most attractive roles?
Alice is informed of a new development in the war between the Red and White queens since she last visited. Apparently the Red Queen got her hands on a dragon jabberwocky, and used it reclaim power and strip the white queen of her thrown after a shock and awe campaign of destruction. Now that Alice is back, it has been foretold that she will slay the beast, and return Wonderland to a state of peace once again.
I just simply cannot understand why it is this film exists. A remake of Alice in Wonderland would have been unnecessary enough, but a sequel? Why? And to employ such a simplistic, overdone plot as “outsider fights evil dragon to save good kingdom” is in no way fitting of the wacky Wonderland world that Carroll initially envisioned. It’s much too straightforward of an affair, and I have to believe that a remake would have actually been preferred to this fan fiction, or if a sequel was deemed necessary, at least have it adhere to the sequel Carroll himself wrote, Through the Looking Glass, which was actually more trippy than the original, if that’s even possible.
But besides a mundane and hurried story, Burton’s vision of Wonderland is just rather…tame. For a world supposed to be rich with imagination and insanity, Wonderland seems rather small and ordinary. There’s a mushroom forest, a red castle, a white castle and a big ‘ol chessboard, but outside of that, the surrounding atmosphere of Wonderland just seems relatively ordinary and uninspired. The same goes for the “wacky” creatures that populate the landscape. Sure, it’s necessary to see our old favorites, but Burton has brought nothing new to them at all. The March Hare, the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat look like someone was told to bring the 2D animations of the original film to life in 3D, and to not bother changing anything at all in the process.
Yes, you have correctly rendered a smiling, floating cat in 3D.
What is different, as you’ve likely already seen, is Burton’s vision for the more human characters, the Tweedles, the Red Queen and of course, the Mad Hatter. I have to say the highlight of the film for me was the brilliant animation of the first two. The CGIing of real faces on oddly distorted bodies is an effect I didn’t think would work, judging by the trailer, but it actually ends up being the only worthwhile use of animation in the entire film. Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen is without a doubt the highlight of the movie, and her bobbling head and her bouts of uncontrolled rage inspire the only parts of the film worth watching.
Depp’s Mad Hatter on the other hand is a completely unfinished, yet at the same time, extremely overdone. Far too much time was spent on his outward appearance, with every detail of his makeup made to exemplify his madness, but as a character, he’s extremely undeveloped, and I was perplexed by his accent which switches between English fop and Scottish burr on a regular basis. I couldn’t tell if this was done purposefully, to imply some sort of schizophrenia, or if Depp and Burton really didn’t just know how best to present the character and just hedged their bets.
Mad? Yes. Interesting? No.
There’s just nothing new to see here, and this is simply a movie that never needed to made. The Red Queen still plays croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs, the March Hare and Mad Hatter still sing the same zany songs while drinking tea out of broken cups and the Blue Caterpillar is still smoking that fat blunt. The only real difference is that somehow amidst all this, Alice puts on some armor and fights a dragon.
If they were just going to keep all the same set pieces and dumb down the plot, I don’t know why they just didn’t re-do the original film the first place, as the film doesn’t even bother adding a subtitle to itself to claim that is not in fact a remake. This sequel offers nothing, carries no emotional weight and doesn’t even paint a particularly visually interesting picture of Wonderland. It just…is. And that’s not nearly good enough.
2 out of 5 stars
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