Friday, March 05, 2010

Almost Audrey: Musings that turned into a review of Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland yesterday - not in 3D and by choice. Every person that I've told has given me that incredulous stare, "Why?!" Why would I opt to watch a movie in non-3D when there's a 3D version available? The simplest way to explain this would probably be this - I have not been impressed with a single 3D movie except for Avatar, and maybe it could be bacause I saw it at Bangkok's IMAX theater, maybe not as I still felt the screen was tiny compared to Sydney's. One thing that I know for sure, if I have to spend 2 hours wearing dorky ass glasses that are hella uncomfortable, your 3D better be seamless. Last thing I need is to notice things jumping out at me on screen. Hate seeing my world framed, probably why I spent days of my adolescent life lobbying my mum to let me switch to contacts.

I'm a Burton fan and have always been since Edward Scissorhands (the boyf pointed out that I've been mis-pronouncing the title for as long as he can remember. I called it "Scissors-hand.") so it's no surprise that Alice in Wonderland was lovely! My one complain was that the colors on screen were not as bright and bold as I expected, but I blame it on the cinema screens for the washed-out feel (yes you, Golden Village at Great World City!). Costumes were wonderful - not just on the Wonderland characters but also what the people in the London(?) scenes wore. I loved Burton's subtle suggestions of how Wonderland could have been Alice's dream, with her subconcious mind taking things in "real life" and using them as elements of Wonderland - the annoying twin girls with Matt Lucas channelling Little Britain as the "fat boys," her sister's cheating husband as the Knave of Spades, the crazy red & orange hair, the over-dressed guests of the party with the fakeys of the Red Queen's court, and of course, Lord Ascott as Absolum the Blue Caterpillar (if you think the Blue Caterpillar looks familar, it's because it's Alan Rickman, who also plays Harry Potter's Severus Snape - same haughty air). There was honestly no need for the scene at the end where Alice returns and she exclaims how the twin girls remind of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, etc but then again, it's a Disney movie, I bet you Burton was forced to add those lines in!

I loved that Burton kept the things that I remembered and adored from the original Disney classic - the talking flowers, Blue Caterpillar's "who are you?" the drink me/eat me scene in the rabbit hole, the kooky Cheshire cat, the mad tea party with the crazy cups, and of course the 10/8 ticket on Mad Hatter's hat! But of course, Burton had to put his magic dust all over the movie too - I adored the animals in Red Queen's court (especially the pigs & chandelier held up by ravens - see the scene where Hatter the prisoner is summoned by the Red Queen), tiny things like how the Knave of Spades heart-shaped eyepatch changes from black to red when he's indoors, the crazy Futterwacking dance by the Mad Hatter (very Beetlejuice!), Umm from Umbridge, and the dead fingers in the potion that White Queen nonchalantly whips up. Things I didn't like - what's the point of the March Hare and the Dormouse and why's the White Queen so fake? I honestly don't think Anne Hathaway was the right person to play the White Queen -- too mainstream, too Princess Diaries.

Was it just me or did anyone else get the sense that the Jabberwocky slaying scene at the end reminded them of Maleficent as the dragon getting slayed by Prince Charming in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, except that it's Alice instead of Prince Charming? An easter egg nod for Burton's next project Maleficent perhaps? And yes, if you're wondering, I was one of those kids who grew up on Disney cartoons - the ones that were actually drawn and painted by hand - Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin. And I know that Johnny Depp's character is supposed to the mad, but man, he was truly stark, raving, mad down to point of being scary but Depp's the only person who can pull off madness but still have you rooting for him when he quietly pleas for Alice's love ("you were always too small or too large," "you can always stay in Wonderland." Maybe he's mad because he truly believed in everything - the White Queen, Alice's return, the slaying of the Jabberwocky - that passion crosses the line to insanity.

On a more personal note though, two of my favorite scenes in the movie are: Where the Blue Caterpillar is encased in his cocoon (he's knitting the cocoon, look closer for the knitting needles in his hands - hehe!) and Blue Caterpillar explains to Alice why she was "Hardly Alice" and now she's "Almost Alice;" and when Mad Hatter tells Alice that she used to be "much-ier." It could be because it was Johnny Depp playing the Hatter, but the movie reminded me of Finding Neverland and the theme of how one loses your childlike sense of awe or the times when we as adults, lose ourselves and become "Hardly Alice." A year ago, I felt I was Hardly Audrey and that's why I took the much-needed break and this is actually the reason why I started writing this post (which took on a life of its own and turned into a review - sigh, I'm easily distracted, hehe), because I was pondering if I have now returned to Almost Audrey? I don't know for certain just yet, but I know I'm getting warmer.

So what does the raven and the writing desk have in common? I like the Edgar Poe answer best.

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