Alice in Wonderland

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This 2010 version of the Lewis Carroll story is more of a sequel to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland story than the one we are used to seeing portrayed in various versions over the decades. This movie has a brilliant cast of many high-end actors and actresses, mostly British, with a few North Americans here and there, but it is truly a British tale. In the beginning, we see six-year-old Alice still struggling with the idea that her adventure might have been a silly dream, but her doting father, Charles Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas) assures her that even if she might think that she could be insane, that all of the truly best people are, and that it is perfectly fine to think of sic impossible things before breakfast. Fast forward to 13 years later. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is of marriageable age, and her father has passed, leaving her as the heir to his shipping business. Alice is to be married, for all the wrong reasons, to Hamish (Leo Bill), the son of her late father’s business partner, Lord Ascot (Tim Pigott-Smith). Lady Ascot (Geraldine James) has been planning a match for her son for two decades, and will not let anything stop it from happening. There we see many family members that have similarities with some of the people and creatures she met in Wonderland many years ago. Faith and Fiona Chattaway (Eleanor Gecks, Eleanor Tomlinson), twins whom finish each others sentences. Aunt Imogene (Frances de la Tour) a dotty older woman who is still waiting for some exotic prince to whisk her away. It is a huge engagement party for an engagement that hasn’t even happened yet.

Alice has become quite a lovely, but very free-spirited young lady, and is going along with the engagement as a duty to her family, because her mother feels is the proper thing to do. Alice is non-conformist, and does not want to be so proper all the time. The more she learns about Hamish, the less she is liking the idea of marrying for the good of the company. As she takes a walk with Lady Ascot through the garden to learn more about her planned fate and Hamish himself, she becomes distracted when she sees a white rabbit run by. She makes her excuses, and dashes off to find the rabbit, just like she did years ago, but she has forgotten what had happened to her then, and dismissed it all as a dream. She falls down the rabbit hole slowly, as things become “curiouser and curiouser” once again, and finds herself in the room with the multiple doors, the shrinking potion, and the growing tea cake. She finds her way out of the chamber to the garden where she once again meets with Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the opium-smoking blue caterpillar, the Dodo, and even the Cheshire Cat. All of them lead her shrunken self to Wonderland’s most famous not-stop Unbirthday tea party, where the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), and March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) are still celebrating. What Alice does not know is that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) is aware that Alice has returned, and has sent Stayne, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and her steely pack of cards to find her. Hatter hides Alice in a teapot while he and his tea-drinking and scone eating party guests do their best to get rid of Stayne. Stayne is one of the most impressive roles Crispin Glover has done, very different from his roles as the shy-nerd types he has played in the past. It works very well for him.

There is more mischief and evil afoot than even in Wonderland, and dark days have even invaded the realm of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Alice’s fate in Wonderland is far more important than the marriage she is reluctant to make in her own world, because her she is to become an agent of the White Queen, but not without doing some investigating and rescue missions in the Red Queen’s keep first. The Red Queen’s influence has taken over what used to be a place of wonder, and she is not done yet. The moat of her keep is filled with the heads of those who lost her favour, and some members of her court have taken to disguising their average bodies with disfigurements as to make sure they stay in her favour and survive. The Red Queen’s head has grown immense, and she has no fear of anyone trying to take her down. Her ace in the hole are two creatures that she uses to instill fear in her kingdom. They are Bayard (Timothy Spall), a huge dog similar to a warg, but intelligent and he can talk. The other is the Jabberwocky (Sir Christopher Lee), an evil dragon than does her bidding and can turn the tides on the upcoming war with the White Queen. Alice is to stop this from happening by becoming the White Queen’s champion and slaying the Jabberwocky.

This is a dark story, and a far cry from the various versions of Alice in Wonderland that have been done over the decades before. Being that it is a Tim Burton movie, that is not all that surprising, but as one can see by the categories listed, family movies was not added. This is fine for teens who want to learn more about a common tale they grew up with, or for parents who feel the same way, but the little ones would be most likely frightened by some of the intense scenes, and the Red Queen herself. It is a great grown-up sequel to a story that was written while Lewis Carroll was under the influence of what were very legal narcotics in the time of Victorian England. It makes this reviewer wonder what other notes might have been left behind on the subject of Wonderland.

I give this film a Musing review of ★★★★★☆ 

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