Saturday, 6 March 2010

Alice In Underland?

Alice in Wonderland; a wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carol's classic escapism novel, riddled with well-casted big names, was an absolute delight to watch. Keeping in tone with the book, the attention to detail is incredibly precise; if I didn't know better I’d assume Carol had been resurrected to survey the whole thing. The film keeps all of the most prominent original characters, landscapes and nonsensical words, along with a few new ones added in too.

The story progresses as a sequel to the original, showing us Alice's (played by newcomer Mia Wasikowska) banal late teen existence in the late 19th century. Showing us her arranged marriage, her ghastly relatives, and her pure contempt for it all. The first book throughout is referred to as 'the dream' and when Alice returns to Wonderland she believes she is dreaming then too. The previously belittled but widely adored Jabberwocky poem from "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There" takes centre stage as part of the main plot. The Jabberwocky, Bandersnatch and Jub Jub Bird all make their first appearances as terrifyingly brilliant abstract creatures.

New dimensions are added to some of the characters and they become secondary protagonists in their own right. The Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, (Edward Scissorhands); The Cheshire Cat, played by Stephen Fry, (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy); and the Blue Caterpillar, played by Alan Rickman (Dogma) all become lovable new adaptations of the originals, yet still keep to their roots. Not forgetting Helena Bonham Carter's (Fight Club) and Anne Hathaway's (The Devil Wears Prada) brilliant portrayals of The Red and White Queen. The film takes on a much darker atmosphere than that of the previous attempts at creating it. For the first time it seems intuitively accurate to the book, the darker side of the tale really captivate the audience. The Red Queen's reign is somewhat horrifying, the way she treats her people, and cries out "Off with their head" remains true to the book, keeping the comedy essence but adding in a macabre element.

The comical twins Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee, played by Matt Lucas (Little Britain); and the incompetent, twisted, promiscuous Knave of hearts, played by Crispin Glover (Beowulf) return alongside the new character Bayard played by Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd), a blood hound, unwillingly an accomplice to the Red Queen. The only character that didn't appear to remain true to the book was that of The Dormouse, played by Barbara Windsor (Carry On). However a new character emerged from the somewhat previously undeveloped Dormouse, and she took her place alongside the other brilliantly achieved characters in the film. The collaboration of the old and new lovable characters to create the underground alliance against the Red Queen's reign is a brilliant concept, giving the film that extra something it needed to project itself into the adult audience, making it enjoyable for everyone.

Lewis Carol fans will be delighted to find several 'in-jokes' that refer directly to the book; however the film is very much accessible to anyone. It is a family targeted film that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of whether or not they have read the book. A brief flash-back montage is shown half-way through the film, filling in the audience of what previously happened.

If I were to really dig deep and try to find faults with the film, I would struggle. My only insignificant disappointment lied in the fact that the infamous scene of the Mad-Hatter shouting "Change Places!" did not make an appearance. However the insanity of the characters was very well presented, The March Hair, played by Paul Whitehouse (Corpse Bride) tossing pots of tea and sugar at everyone at random intervals, most certainly was the perfect bit of humour to break up the scenes. The only confusing addition was that of naming ‘Wonderland’, ‘Underland’. It seemed unnecessary though added a quirky twist when the Blue Caterpillar mocks Alice’s past self for calling the place ‘Wonderland’.

The relation of the characters in Wonderland to those in Alice's reality, are very closely similar and leave us making comparisons, and thinking about the film long after it's over. The film is neatly tied into a bow at the end, but for lovers of ambiguity a few questions remain unanswered including the Mad Hatter's unanswered riddle. So whoever you are, old or young, student or workaholic, find a few hours spare, do yourself a favour and go and watch this film.

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