Monday, July 11, 2011

ERNEST GOES TO WONDERLAND : Tim Burton's painful "Alice"

          I know it came out quite a while ago, but it was on cable this morning, and I ended up watching the last half of it, with the same nauseating mixture of bafflement and disappointment I felt when we first saw it in the theater in 3D.
          And by the way, the ONLY thing in the film worthy of 3D was the Cheshire Cat's all-too-brief appearances. There was no other point to the inflated ticket price and stupid glasses.
          I don't know whether to blame Burton, or Disney, or both, for the many horrendous flaws and massive errors in judgment. The only ones involved in the film I DON'T heap loathing upon are the artists directly responsible for the many stunning visuals. I admit it all LOOKS great.
          To begin with, the idea of Alice returning to Wonderland as an adult and having only a hazy memory of her past visit is certainly nothing new. It's been done many times over, pornfully and otherwise. And I don't like it.
          I read part of an interview with Burton before the film came out in which he states that he doesn't really like the original story, or even the original animated Disney movie. It came across sounding like this was Burton's way of "fixing" all the things he felt were wrong with the original story. The end result is a Wonderland stripped of its unique and delightful nonsense. One of the qualities that makes Carroll's work memorable is the wandering & dreamlike anecdotal structure. (or non-structure, as the case may be) Things end abruptly, happen for no apparent reason, and transition in strange nonsensical ways.
          Wonderland should not be linear or plot-driven! Forcing it to be so just makes it feel like Burton &/or Disney don't understand the original property. Who wants a non-dreamlike Wonderland?!
          Johnny Depp used to be cool. Now he has done about 2 "Pirates" movies too many. Some of us are pretty tired of his "Jack Sparrow" shtick. Some of us don't want to see Jack Sparrow aping about and mugging for the kids as the Mad Hatter. Some of us think the Mad Hatter makes a very creepy love interest for Alice, since he first met her when she was 7 and he was already clearly much older. Maybe Disney & Burton think the Hatter/Alice crush element was subtle, but it was not.
          I didn't like the special effects used to make the Queen of Hearts' head look huge. It was distracting. Likewise the awkward elongating of the Knave of Hearts. And the thing about her court wearing fake enlarged prosthetics was totally stupid and not Wonderland-y. Why would they have to use prosthetics when it would be more in keeping with the fantasy to have them just rub a bit of that enlarging cake on whatever they want bigger, or drop a bit of the shrinking stuff on anything to make it smaller? Know what I mean? Rather than swallowing the size-changing stuff, which obviously affects the entire body, just use it topically on certain parts. That's nonsense logic.
          Didn't like the Burton/Disney Dormouse, either. Didn't like her having the voice of an old lady, or being all vicious and wanting to stab things with her sword. That is so unlike the book they should have just used another character entirely. The Dormouse is supposed to be little and cute, dozing drunkenly in a teapot and mumbling bits of stories and songs.
          Epic battles between organized armies do not belong in Wonderland. Neither do prophecies. The residents of Wonderland have short attention spans and very poor organizational skills, and that's part of why I love them. Dum & Dee can occasionally fight it out with pots and pans until they both get winded and fall down, but that's it. If you want epic battles and crap like that, look to Narnia, Middle Earth, or Prydain.
          Also, the POEM is called "Jabberwocky," the creature itself is "the Jabberwock." Yet in the Burton/Disney version, they all refer to the creature as "the Jabberwocky." This is unforgivable. It's like not knowing the difference between Frankenstein the mad scientist, and Frankenstein's MONSTER.
          The worst moment of the entire film, the "bottom of the barrel" moment, is the Mad Hatter's shockingly lame dance of victory after the "Jabberwocky" is slain. It has some stupid name like "the fluffernutter" or whatever, and has no basis from the original books. It's so lame, with anachronistic almost hip-hop music, it makes you feel like you're watching "Ernest Goes To Wonderland." And I do not want to feel like that. I don't need to see Johnny Depp staining Carroll's creative property with a puerile Michael Jackson imitation. But I've already seen it and it cannot be unseen.  :(
          Avril Lavigne over the end credits. Seriously? Who thought Lewis Carroll's classic story would be best honored by Avril fucking Lavigne?! There are not enough words in the English language to describe the injustice. Robert Smith did a much more appropriate song for the soundtrack, called "Very Good Advice," based on the Caterpillar's dialogue from the book. Why didn't they use that instead? Did they just want to make absolutely sure that only 13 year-old Hot Topic shoppers would leave the film happy?
          Did I like ANYTHING about the film? Well, I enjoyed Anne Hathaway, because I like her and thought she was kind of funny. It was weird having the Queen of Hearts from a game of cards, and then the White Queen presumably from a game of Chess, especially since they were supposed to be sisters. But I still liked Hathaway's performance for some reason.
          The Jabberwock looked totally awesome, despite everyone calling it the wrong thing.
          I loved the Cheshire Cat, and thought that one character probably hit the only really appropriate note in the entire film. The way he lazily rolled about in mid-air and appeared and vanished like smoke was great. The big glowing eyes were cool, too.
          Okay, and Alan Rickman voicing the Caterpillar was cool. Visually the Caterpillar was cute and looked right.
          But I would never want to own this movie because it ultimately just pisses me off, as you can tell.

1 comment:

  1. I like the movie but I do agree that some things were not "quite" right either, and I found bits like the Doormouse and Knave a bit annoying at times and never really liked these Tweedles' design/s. But I like Mia Wasikowska and Anne Hathaway as well - notice how SHE was Whiter than how the White Witch, who is described as literally having skin white like snow, was depicted years before and now? (I also think Anne Hathaway is the perfect life action choice for Disney's Belle)

    Just so you know, the Mad Hatter danced the 'futterwhacken' (sounds German for foot whacking).

    Don't worry too much about this film, and hopefully you'll enjoy one of the better and other film versions of the book/s like Jonathon Miller's 1966 black-and-white BBC version (I HIGHLY Recommend that), the 1972 Fiona Fullerton musical (despite the Tweedles seemingly taking over the Cheshire Cat scene) and/or the 1985 2-Part TV Musical American All-Star cast.

    Jared and I are also hoping to make the DEFINITIVE adaptations of the Alice books someday once we are finished with the L. Frank Baum Oz movies, and having seen different versions and knowing a thing or two about dreams (not to mention LIKING the book) I'm sure I could make this a Dreamy surreal depiction that's appropriately done.