TIM BURTON'S 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND'
Alice in Wonderland: An ending so horrible, it's enraging
By MATT BERRY
STATIC and FEEDBACK staff writer
For the past few years, I have grown wary of seeing new films by one-time genius filmmaker Tim Burton. Until a few months ago, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then, I saw the promotional images for his take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it finally hit me: Tim Burton hasn’t had an original idea in at least fifteen years. Sure, some of his movies worked (Big Fish comes to mind), but an examination of his work since 1994’s Ed Wood reveals a director hesitant to take on an original story.
Since that time, Burton has released exactly one film based on an original idea: The Corpse Bride, of which I was not particularly fond. His other feature-length releases in that time consist remakes (Alice, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and adaptations (Big Fish, Sweeney Todd, Mars Attacks!). So the director who, in the 1980s gave us a completely unique and original style in films such as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands has fallen into the trap of trying to put his own spin on established works. He has alternately succeeded and failed, depending on the project.
For the most part, the first 95 percent of Alice in Wonderland falls somewhere in the middle. The visuals were engaging, though not overly spectacular. To be fair, this was the second film I have seen in 3D, the first being Avatar. I’ll be kind to Burton and say that it’s unfair for any 3D film to live up to the jaw-dropping visuals laid forth by James Cameron’s new technology so quickly after its release, but the clunkiness of some of Alice’s 3D imagery was apparent, at least to me.
The film features exceptional voice work, particularly from Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman’s Blue Caterpillar and Paul Whitehouse’s March Hare. The story-line wasn’t overly engaging or revolutionary, and virtually zero time was spent on character development, but overall, it was a fairly successful film.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ALICE IN WONDERLAND AND PLAN TO, STOP READING NOW. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY I HATE THIS MOVIE, CONTINUE.
Then, Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter did something. If you’ve seen the film, you know exactly to what I am referring: Depp’s awful, awful little dance after Alice defeats the Jabberwocky. After spending an entire movie developing an environment that, while fanciful, maintains much of the Victorian setting of Alice’s life in the real world, Burton says “Aww, screw that!” and has Depp break-dance to horrifyingly cheesy, pseudo-hip hop music. If this were the trailer to a Wayans Brothers movie, the pulling-the-needle-off-the-record sound effect would’ve been quite appropriate.
My friends and I shielded our eyes in horror. My girlfriend had tears in her eyes she was laughing so hard at the, to borrow internet nomenclature, EPIC MAD HATTER FAIL that had just transpired. Some people applauded. I weep for them. The dance is difficult to describe, but the fact that it was so clearly CGI-enhanced makes me think that Johnny Depp had no idea what had been done until the premiere. At least, I hope not. I still harbor a little respect for him, the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean 4 notwithstanding.
This bizarre, abrupt shift stops the movie in its tracks, and it never recovers. Alice returns to the real world and tells everyone at her engagement party all the things she’s learned (even though her character has not developed one bit in the last two hours). She then, inexplicably, has a business meeting with her late father’s former partner, where she singlehandedly creates the Open Door Policy by deciding to be the first to open up trade with China. Then she gets on a boat and goes to China.
The ending was so nonsensical and slapped together that the screenplay must’ve just ended with four pages of question marks followed by a directive to Burton: “I don’t know, figure something out.”
And so, a mostly effective or passable film became a failure too immense for me to even convey. In ten seconds, Johnny Depp’s wobbly legs and the unforgivably anachronistic soundtrack eradicated any goodwill I had towards the previous 90 minutes of the film. An apocalyptic robot battle at the end of Emma would have made more sense.
I could go into a long diatribe about how this is indicative of Burton’s recent failures in original storytelling, but the closer I get to the end of this review, I think it’s a better idea to take Alice in Wonderland’s conclusion as a warning to just quit while I’m ahead.