Thursday, 23 April 2015

Alice In Wonderland

Reviewing this movie posed some degree of difficulty.
Johnny Depp: The Movie
I have heard that many people dislike this movie. Personally I love it. I never get tired of watching Johnny Depp. However, he's often accused of stealing the show from the main character. I won't argue against that.
But wasn't that the point of the original novel?
There are many theories about what Lewis Carroll intended when he first wrote 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland'. The most popular theory is that he was mocking the ridiculousness of Quantum Theory. Essentially the entire story was one long Schroedinger's cat metaphor.
But more importantly, when read with a critical eye, an under-running theme from the book is misery. Every character is miserable, despite how weird and fun their world may seem, actually living there is unbearable.
And Alice is just the viewpoint. In the book she never did anything proactive, she just reacted to the craziness around her.
I could analyse the book for multiple paragraphs, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to watch the movie.
So let's get started.

I wonder where we are?
Obviously the movie opens in Victorian London, where Charels Kingsley is discussing trading prospects with his associates.
Don't worry, they're less stuffy than they look
When his daughter walks in, complaining about her nightmare. Being a good father, Charles comforts his daughter by saying "You're mad. Absolutely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All of the best people are."
And when this guy says something, you believe him
Cut to thirteen years later and Charles has kicked the bucket. Thus we get to meet our main character, Alice.
Who has since become stunningly gorgeous
In keeping true to the spirit of the book, Alice is slightly unusual by her time's standards. Her mother is fussing over her not being 'proper' but Alice is taking none of it. Full credit to her mother though, who stops fussing and drops the issue.
She may only get ten minutes of screentime, but she can still be a fully-developed character
They arrive at the party and meet the hosts.
These guys
He's one of Charles' old business partners who's been supporting Alice's mother since his passing.
She is the bossiest nag you could ever hope to never meet.
She sends Alice to go dance with their son Hamish, who seems to fit every posh toff cliche the book has to offer.
Although the red hair is a nice touch
Alice's mind wanders during the dance and Hamish barely listens to what she says. And when he does he just dismisses it all as idle fancy.
I don't think we're meant to like him.
He tells Alice to meet him under the gazebo in precisely ten minutes.
As a D&D player I fondly imagine that they need those ten minutes to slay it first.
Alice is accosted by two very odd girls who blurt out that Hamish is going to ask for her hand.
And they looked so trustworthy
Alice's sister Mary shows up and scolds the girls, but she confirms that the entire party was so that Hamish could propose. Mary basically tells Alice that she doesn't have a choice but to say yes and live a perfectly happy life doing everything she's told.
She's less than thrilled at the prospect
As someone who's been in this exact same situation, I know what it's like to have people tell you what they think is best for you and then not listen when you point out that you'd be miserable.
Alice then gets dragged away by Hamish's mother (She gets dragged away a lot) who starts telling her that she'd better get started on manufacturing babies the moment she and Hamish are wed.
What an exciting prospect
Just as we're learning about Hamish's digestion troubles Alice is distracted by a hare. She goes chasing after it and bumps into her Aunt Imogen. Imogen is waiting for her true love, a prince who can't marry her because he would have to renounce his throne to do so.
I have a lot to say about this, but that will have to wait until later.
Alice then bumps into Mary's husband, who's sucking a young ladies face off.
And he chose such a discreet hiding spot too.
But before Alice can decide whether to tell her sister or not she gets dragged away again, this time to the gazebo where Hamish is waiting to propose.
No pressure though
Alice panics and runs off, chasing after a white rabbit in a waistcoat, who runs down a rabbit hole. Alice leans in to try and see where it went, but the dirt gives and she falls in.
And the cgi isn't even very good
Alice lands at the bottom, somehow not injuring herself. Looking around she realises something's off.
She's joined Jedward?
After realising she's on the ceiling she crashes to the ground. You all know this next bit. She's in a small room with lots of doors, each of which is locked. There's a small table with a key on it, but the door it unlocks is tiny and she can't fit through. After finding a small bottle with 'Drink me' written on it she takes a sip and shrinks out of her clothes.
Good thing her under-dress shrunk too
Unfortunately the door seems to have locked itself after her and she can't reach the key. But she finds the cake with 'eat me' written on it, which makes her grow.
Never mind the dress, how did her socks not get torn?
She manages to get the door open and be the right size to fit through. And as such, Alice finally enters Wonderland.
And Tim Burton really gets to let loose
As far as design and director go, this was a match made in heaven. Burton's signature love of swirls goes perfectly with the world described in Carroll's book.
After a little wandering, Alice bumps into the first part of her supporting cast.
These guys
They argue for a bit over whether Alice is really Alice or not. Eventually they decide to consult Absolum, who they say will know for sure.
He's wise. He's absolute. He's stoned.
Absolum instructs them all to unroll the Orraculum, which tells of each and every day since the beginning.  They turn to the Frabjous day, which doesn't come from 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland', but actually from 'Jabberwocky', a poem also by Lewis Carroll.
This movie is more of a composite of Carroll's various works and does in fact cut out a lot from the original book. Considering the nonsencial nature of the book, I think this works in the movies favour.
Anywhoo, the Frabjous day is the day Alice slays the Jabberwocky.
And looks badass whilst doing it
Alice says that it can't be her, since she couldn't slay anything. The others ask Absolum if she really is Alice, to which he replies "Not hardly".
For a guy who's supposed to be absolute he sure is vague.
I think he's trying to be Yoda, but it comes off more as Boris.
"I could not fail to disagree with you less."
Then everyone gets attacked by a whole bunch of soldiers and a giant dog-like thing called the Bandersnatch.
What a cute little puppy.
The soldiers begin snatching everyone up. Alice finds herself cornered by the Bandersnatch (Which sounds rather dirty to my mind) but she's not scared since it's just a dream.
Mallyumpkin (The mouse) comes to the rescue by stealing the Bandersnatch's eye.
Bet he didn't see that one coming.
Roaring in pain, the Bandersnatch accidentally claws Alice, who runs off.
After being joined by the Tweedles she comes across a fork in the road.
The Tweedles bicker in their usual unhelpful manner before being kidnapped by the Jubjub bird. Alice just looks on helplessly as they fly away to the Red Queen's castle.
Which looks gorgeous
And inside we're introduced to the Red Queen, our primary antagonist for this movie. She's loud, she's bloodthirsty and she's petty.
She's just like Queenie from Blackadder.
Only less understated
The Queen's angry about her tarts being stolen and when she finds the perpetrator (Who's a frog) she orders him executed. Not only that, but she also orders that his children be rounded up and served to her on toast.
Interestingly, this is no more violent and sadistic than in the book. But in the book it was implied that the King overruled all of her executions.
The King is absent from this movie.
I mentioned earlier about the underlying theme of misery that the book had.
Yeah, this movie brings it to the fore.
So the Knave of Hearts (named Elosevitch Stane) enters having stolen the Orraculum
He warns her that it predicts the death of the Jabberwocky at the hands of Alice but that it can be prevented. The Queen orders him to find Alice.
He blackmails a talking dog into tracking her down.
And worse, he's smug about it
We meet up with Alice again as she wanders through some very dark and creepy woods. Checking her wound she is accosted by the Cheshire cat. He expresses concern over her wound and offers to disinfect it with his tongue, but Alice refuses.
But he looks so trustworthy.
To be honest I can see why Alice wouldn't trust him. We know he's a good guy, but he does still manage to come off as creepy.
She tries to get some answers out of him but he's naturally unhelpful, saying that he never gets involved in politics.
After some pressing he agrees to take Alice to the Hare and the Hatter.
And now it's time for the real star of the show.
This guy
I'm not sure what to say about this scene. Sure, Johnny Depp steals the show as the Hatter, but then again, so did the original Hatter in the book. Johnny also enriches the character by expanding it slightly. He makes the Hatter Scottish, which works really well when he recites the Jabberwocky poem later on. I also did research into Hatter's madness. Back in Victorian times Hatter's used Mercury vapours as part of their glues, which slowly drove them mad, but in a very specific way.
They became irritable and hallucinated often. In extreme cases they became violent. They also became very isolationist, refusing to work if others were watching.
And their fingers became red and blotchy.
When it comes to madness, Johnny really knows his stuff.
Anyway, they get into an argument about how Cheshire didn't help when the Red Queen took over Underland.
Not that he holds a grudge or anything
Mally manages to calm him down and they talk about Futterwacking, a type of dance that the Hatter used to do most vigorously.
I may be straight, but Johnny's voice makes me want to Futterwacken vigorously too
Then the Knave shows up. Hatter manages to give Alice some more shrinking potion and hides her inside the teapot. The Knave insults the trio and asks if they've seen Alice.
The dog sniffs around and almost gives the game away, but Hatter gives him a look and he runs off, pretending to have picked up a scent.
The Knave leaves and Hatter makes a new outfit for Alice that fits her new size.
And it's so pretty
Hare suggests taking her to the White Queen where she'll be safe, so she climbs aboard the hat and they set off.
As he walks the Hatter recites the Jabberwocky poem. In a Scottish accent.
It is pure audio perfection.
Although he does skim a bit.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

“The Jabberwock, with eyes aflame!
      Jaws that bite and claws that catch!
Beware the Jabberwock my son!
      And the frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.'

That's the shortened version. You can read the full version here.
And ye'll read it in a Scottish accent
The Hatter says that it's a prophesy about Alice but she's having none of it, reckoning that she doesn't slay. The Hatter gets mad and has a go at her before telling her what happened.
Some seriously bad decisions regarding fireworks?
The Red Queen attacked the White Queen with the Jabberwocky. While the Hatter was able to save her life, they lost the crown and the Vorpal sword.
More importantly, the Hatter lost his home.
Thus proving that every character can be improved with a suitably tragic backstory
The Knave catches up to them however and the hatter has to literally throw Alice away in order to save her.
And they say frisbee golf isn't a real sport
The Hatter gets himself captured, leaving Alice alone with instructions to make her way to the White Queen's castle.
After a good night's sleep of course.
If your hat can't serve as an emergency shelter, you're wearing the wrong type of hat
In the morning the dog discovers her, revealing that he's a good guy and wants to take her to the White Queen. Alice disagrees. In a short but badass speech she basically tells Beyard (The dog) that she doesn't give one hoot about destiny or what's foretold, she's going to save the Hatter because he's her friend.
They make it to the Red Queen's castle and things take a turn for the even creepier.
Just what every moat needs, decapitated heads.
Alice sneaks into the castle, only slightly perturbed by having to clamber over human heads.
What she finds inside is just plain odd, but again straight out of the book.
Quidditch seems perfectly sensible now
Alice being Alice she unties the poor hedgehog. The Red Queen sends the rabbit to find it.
Instead he finds a very small Alice who asks for some more growth cake. She eats too much and grows very large.
"This isn't the nudist colony. I knew I should have taken that left at Albuquerque"
Alice manages to bluff her way out of trouble with the alias of Um. From Umbridge.
The Queen, being an idiot, accepts this and invites Um into her court, ordering her servants to make her some new clothes.
And again, it's very pretty
The Queen shows off her 'Fatboys' who are of course the Tweedles. It doesn't really serve much purpose other than to show that they're still around.
Then the Knave arrives. He's quite taken by 'Um', which is a nice and subtle way of showing that he doesn't really love the Queen no matter how he acts.
They call for their prisoner to be brought forward.
It is of course the Hatter himself. After being grilled about where Alice is he deflects the conversation by expressing a desire to make hats for the Red Queen, reasoning that such a big head would require hats of higher quality.
Being an idiot, the Queen thinks this is a great idea.
Meanwhile, Beyard has reached the castle of the White Queen.
She's apparently queen of the Goths
This movie seems to know all of my favourite things.
Beyard explains what has happened and the Queen comforts him.
Back at the Red Queen's castle the Knave and the Red Queen are discussing stuff. Turns out that the Knave has been whispering in her ear for some time now, convincing her that it's better to be feared than loved. He may even have persuaded her to execute the King. 
While they're talking the rabbit steals the Orraculum.
Alice finds the Hatter hard at work and accidentally triggers a bit of a breakdown.
Irritable and violent remember?
Alice calms him down by giving him his hat back. He tells her to find the Vorpal sword and take it to the White Queen. He also says that the rabbit will help her.
So she leaves to track him down. She manages to find the Tweedles and Mally as well.
Mally is not happy since she's there to rescue the Hatter.
Mallyumpkin, world's tiniest badass
The rabbit leads Alice to the sword's location. Inside the Bandersnatch's kennel. Alice uses her brain and retrieves the Bandersnatch eye from Mally. This allows her to befriend the Bandersnatch, who helpfully cleans her wound and gives her the Vorpal sword.
See how far a little bit of kindness will take you?
Just as Alice is about to rescue the Hatter however, the Knave's trickery turns the Queen against her. Soldiers are sent to collect her and, in an attempt to help, Mally blurts out her real name.
She's too adorable to get angry at though
With no other choice Alice flees with the Knave hot on her heels. She gets surrounded by soldiers in the courtyard.
But she has a friend in the courtyard.
This is why you should be nice to people
So Alice escapes on the Bandersnatch with the Vorpal sword.
After explaining all of this to the Queen the Knave gets slapped a lot.
A scene I could watch all day long
Alice makes it to the White Queen's castle (called Marmuriel) where she meets the White Queen. After handing over the Vorpal sword Alice mentions that she's been eating too much cake so the Queen takes her to the kitchen so she can brew up a shrinking potion.
And yes, that is an ingredient
They discuss how horrid the Red Queen is and how the only hope for Underland is for a champion to slay the Jabberwocky. Alice still seems apprehensive about this. But she does get shrunk back down to her regular size.
Alice has a little chat with Absolum where he clarifies what he meant when he said that she was 'Not hardly' Alice. Apparently she's much more like Alice now than she was earlier.
In fact, she's 'Almost Alice'.
"And I'm almost helpful."
Meanwhile the Hatter has been locked in the dungeons, but he gets a visitor. Cheshire is visiting and expresses sadness that the Hatter is about to have his head lopped off. Especially since he's always admired that hat.
The morning arrives and the Hatter is led up the stairs to the chopping block.
The executioner attempts to remove his hat but he insists on wearing it. Just as the axe comes down though, this happens.
You can just imagine the executioner's confused face
The Hatter simply vanishes and the hat floats off, revealing that when Cheshire said that he would wear the hat to all of the finest occasions, he meant it.
And it does rather suit him too
The Hatter turns into Captain Jack Sparrow for a moment and spreads confusion everywhere before escaping, along with everyone else that's important.
The Queen takes this personally, ordering the Knave to prepare the Jabberwocky for battle.
All of the good guys make it to Marmuriel.
And the viewers all get this sudden warm and fuzzy feeling
Alice and the hatter have a heart to heart about slaying and dreams.
The next morning the Queen asks for a champion and while she gets many volunteers, the Orraculum says that only Alice an do it. The Queen tries to be nice but she points out that when Alice steps out against the Jabberwocky, she will be alone.
No pressure
Alice runs away from her responsibilities again, but this time she runs into Absolum. And for the first time ever he is genuinely helpful. He points out that the first time she was there she called it Wonderland.
This is the trigger Alice needed to realise that it isn't a dream but is in fact real. As such, the friends she's made aren't figments of her imagination but real people who are really suffering.
And with that in mind, she accepts her responsibility as champion.
And she does it in full plate armour whilst riding the Bandersnatch
And so, the two armies go to war.
Battlefield chosen at random
Rather than having an all-out war however, they both agree to send a champion to do battle. As we've seen, the White Queen's champion is Alice.
The Red Queen's however, is the Jabberwocky.
This guy
I have to say, he certainly looks impressive. 
But in her armour, Alice is definitely prettier
Alice and the Jabberwocky start to battle. It goes pretty badly for Alice so the Hatter intervenes. Naturally the Red Queen takes umbridge at this and orders her army to charge.
Lots of fighting happens, most of which consists of a single scene for each character. But the highlight has to be this moment.
As the Orraculum predicted
Just as it looks as though the Jabberwocky will simply eat Alice she jumps on his neck and cuts his head off.
I think I'm in love
Everyone stares at the Jabberwocky's head as the Red Queen orders them to keep fighting, but without her monsters no-one's willing to follow her.
Turns out we can all just get along
Due to her vows the White Queen refuses to execute the Red Queen, instead banishing her and the Knave to the outskirts of Underland forever.
He takes it well
Everyone gets all happy as the Hatter flutterwackens as vigorously as he can.
And it's disappointing to be honest
The White Queen offers to send Alice home. Despite having some very good reasons to stay Alice knows that she must face her responsibilities. So she says her goodbyes and returns, ready to give Hamish a proper answer.
They've all been waiting for days.
Alice tells Hamish that she's not going to marry him, mostly because she doesn't want to.
I would say "Chin up" but he doesn't have one
She then chews out everybody using the lessons she learned in Underland.
She then enters into a business partnership with Mr. Haversham, so that they can create new trade routes with China.
Apparently trade relations hadn't improved in the 13 years since her dad suggested it
And Alice ventures into her new life in control of her own destiny.
On the whole this was a great movie. The soundtrack was amazing, the characters were spot on to the book and I loved the fight scene with the Jabberwocky.
Sure the Hatter stole the show but there's room in this movie for him and Alice.
I can't help but think I'm forgetting something though.
Some kind of moral that the movie snuck in under the radar.
Aunt Imogen.
I said I would talk about her
Alice told Imogen that she should talk to someone about her delusions.
This struck many people as odd, since Alice just went through so much fanciful stuff that no-one would believe, so why would she say such a thing?
Well, I have a theory.
It's entirely plausible that Imogen's Prince does exist. That he truly did fall for her but would have had to renounce his throne in order to marry her.
But then, he clearly didn't.
It's implied that Imogen has been waiting a long time for her Prince to arrive, but by this point she's fooling herself.
So the message is clear.
Don't wait for destiny to come to you. Go and face your destiny head on.
Those who delude themselves just become a burden to those who do care about them.
And that's a lesson we all could do with learning.

Anywhoo, next week I'll be reviewing a movie that I've never actually watched. I've no idea how it came into my possession, but it somehow did.
It's called Bangkok Ninjas.
Should be fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment