Thursday, March 25, 2010


The weekend before last, I caught Tim Burton's Alice. A few folks have asked what I thought of the movie, so I figured I'd answer all of them here.

I should note up front that I am a big fan of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. I entered the movie expecting and wanting to like it a great deal.

I emerged with very mixed feelings. Overall, I enjoyed it enough that I was glad I'd seen it. It was certainly visually stunning, as saturated with the strangeness of Burton's imagination as his best work. (The 3D effects were fine but nowhere near as good as those in Coraline or Avatar, so I won't go into that topic again.) His re-imagining of this classic was always a treat for the eyes.

The movie suffered greatly, though, from several weaknesses. First, Helena Bonham Carter had way, way too much screen time. Her Red Queen was fine in small doses, but Burton fed us big gulps that quickly turned cloying.

Burton also misused Johnny Depp. Rather than restrict Depp's Hatter to the moments that made sense for the story, Burton thrust him into way too many scenes, almost as if he was saying, "Hey, it's Johnny Depp! Isn't he cool?"

The biggest weakness, though, was the story. Burton kept tweaking the tale to accommodate his vision, and most of those changes resulted in weak film. The greatest sin was the tacked-on message ending, which was downright gag-worthy. When (and this is a spoiler, but the movie's been out for weeks, so deal) Alice near the end declares that she's going to do something useful with her life, the film should have faded to credits. All that followed was at best dull and at worst offensive to all common sense and history.

Now, having advanced all those negatives, let me close by saying again that on balance I enjoyed the film. The power of Burton's imagery and strange storytelling is such that even with so many flaws, it won me over and left me glad to have seen it.


Michelle said...

I totally agree. I love Johnny Depp and have always enjoyed Tim Burton's movies, especially those involving Depp, but other than the cool visual effects, I didn't like the movie. It seemed like he was trying too hard to make it weird. And, it was weird, but the characters seemed forced. Other than the wonderful costumes and Depp's eyes, I wasn't impressed. And, I really wanted to be.

Mark said...

I liked it, but I also obviously had issues with it.


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