Johnny Depp in Disney\’s Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland
by David Kirkeby
By now people have come to expect certain things from a Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaboration. Alice In Wonderland marks the seventh time the pair has worked together. It’s been twenty years since Edward Scissorhands, and Burton is still churning out films with his own particular brand of strange. Sadly, he often falls back to what makes him a marketable brand. Audiences immediately associate dark elements taken from German expressionism with Burton. The use of deep shadows and off-kilter stage design make Burton one of the most recognizable directors in history.
The most surprising thing about Alice In Wonderland to me was it’s subtlety. This may not be the first reaction that most people have with this film; however, is this really what people expected from the Tim Burton take on the classic story?The world is not nearly as dreary as the ones depicted in Burton’s Sweeney Todd or Sleepy Hollow. Burton’s Alice has vibrancy and life. It is much less about shadows than it is about light. Where the bright tones work for Alice, I didn’t feel that the 3D version added anything of value to the experience. Characters are also less rigid and more determined, of course, this is in part due to the fact that Burton is not retelling Lewis Carroll’s books.
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Alice In Wonderland is based on a screenplay by Linda Woolverton. Its actually an unofficial sequel to the original Carroll stories. Alice does fall down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, but the story is entirely different. The eyes from which we view the film, are nothing like the original text. Alice is drastically different from the version with which audiences are most familiar. This is due in part to the change in the protagonist’s age. Alice is no longer a wondering girl, she has instead become a reluctant warrior.
Carroll’s stories are such a part of modern culture that it was nice to see someone take new look at a familiar world (Although Ms. Woolverton had guts to think that she could improve upon such a classic.) Depp plays the Mad Hatter, Alice’s closet ally in the war for Wonderland. It is not his most captivating role. However, he brings an enhusiam to the part of Alice’s support character that I don’t think many other actors would have brought to the table.
Of the films that Burton and Depp have made together,Ed Wood is my favorite film . That production did not rely on special effects or sylized design to retain the audiences’ interest. It may have been Burton’s least financially successful film, but I believe it was far and away his biggest creative triumph. Creativity and financial success do not always go hand in hand. Burton and Depp’s biggest financial success together, thus far, is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and I absolutely detested that film. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay is the most interesting aspect of Alice in Wonderland, however there is no doubt in my mind that the film should have had a different title (although I’m not sure what it should be). There were several slow moments throughout the film but overall I enjoyed it. Woolveton’s story is original and shouldn’t shy away from that fact. Her screenplay seems closer in tone to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories than Carrol’s off-kilter romps. The final scenes of Alice In Wonderland reminded me of leaving the Lewis’ Wardrobe.
This is not the first time that I have been led to question the numbers at the box office. Alice in Wonderland has had great box office numbers, even though it merely resides in a nice middle ground. Alice is a populist film, and although cinematic quality is not the driving force behind whether or not a film has commercial appeal, Alice actually retains it’s integrity. I left the theater very content.
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