You’d think Tim and Alice would be the perfect match. Tim Burton, master of the weird and off-kilter, and Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s dream-like and surreal Victorian masterpiece: an ideal combination, surely?
Yet Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, though dazzling to look at, isn’t quite as wonderful as admirers of both director and book might have hoped.
As it happens, Burton’s 3D movie isn’t exactly an adaptation of Carroll’s book but a sequel which finds the now 19-year-old Alice (played by Australian actress Mia Wasikowska) returning to the fantastical Wonderland – or rather, Underland – after fleeing from a dim toff’s marriage proposal and tumbling down a rabbit hole.
She thinks her memories of previous Wonderland adventures are simply dreams but is soon meeting a number of familiar faces, including the Cheshire Cat (purringly voiced by Stephen Fry), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) and Johnny Depp’s decidedly loopy, white-faced, green-eyed, ginger-haired Mad Hatter.
These characters all look and sound amazing, as do gormless tubby twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee, inspired and rather endearing CGI versions of Matt Lucas. Helena Bonham Carter’s stroppy Red Queen with her huge oversized head is a scream too (though she owes a big debt to Miranda Richardson’s brilliant comic creation Queenie in Blackadder).
All this is fabulous. The problem is the plot.
Storytelling has never been Burton’s strong suit and his weakness is here compounded by a desire to somehow squeeze Carroll’s topsy-turvy, logical-illogical tales into a teen-friendly, Disney-approved, big-screen adventure.
So feisty, proto-feminist Alice is thrust into a bog-standard quest narrative in which she becomes the Joan-of-Arc-like champion of Anne Hathaway’s White Queen and undertakes the task of slaying that fearsome beastie the Jabberwock – the monster from Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ poem, found in the Alice sequel Through the Looking Glass.
Sadly, this doesn’t really come off. Burton’s Alice could nibble and nibble on the cake labelled ‘Eat Me’, and sip and sip on the potion labeled ‘Drink Me’, and she still won’t go through this door.
On general release from 5th March.