Alice in Wonderland (Blu-ray Review)21 May, 2010 By: John Latchem
Disney, Fantasy, B.O. $331.5 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 Combo Pack, ‘PG’ for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.
Stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas. Voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen.
The Blu-ray version of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland doesn’t offer a trove of extras, but what is available is rather insightful.
A lengthy series of featurettes show off just how extensively visual effects were used to create the world of Underland. Not only were most scenes filmed in front of green screens, but many of the costumes were created using CGI, and even the actors’ natural features were enhanced. That’s not to mention having to keep track of how big or small Alice has to be in any given scene given the constant use of the “Eat Me,” “Drink Me” gimmick. The DVD version offers only three of the 11 featurettes.
The film itself is something of a sequel to the original Lewis Carroll books, 1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and 1871’s Through the Looking Glass, which thrust Alice into a series of ridiculous and random circumstances for the amusement of the reader. Most movie adaptations of Carroll’s works tend to present an amalgam of the two books, which has led to a great deal of confusion about which characters originated from which stories.
For his version, Burton wanted to provide a plot that gave Alice a purpose in being there, other than as an extension of her overactive imagination. Unfortunately, the story he chose runs a little too similar to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, what with a child destined to lead a magical land in rebellion against a tyrannical queen.
That really isn’t much of a problem since Burton’s visuals are so imaginative, and the actors are having a lot of fun, particularly Helena Bonham Carter, whose Red Queen is reminiscent of Miranda Richardson’s Queenie from “Blackadder.”
Fueling the action is the rousing music of Danny Elfman, turning in his best score since pehaps 1989's Batman.
Burton’s reworking of Wonderland doesn’t require prior knowledge of the story, but rewards those who are familiar with it. Actually it’s not a bad idea to watch Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland from 1951 before checking out Burton’s, since they share a great deal of synergy. With a few exceptions, Burton’s version could easily be a continuation of that film. Unlike the animated Alice, Burton at least remembers how small Alice needs to be after getting through the door to Underland.