Burton's Alice adaptation a whole new wonderland

Film ReviewAlice in Wonderland☆☆☆☆

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is a visual thrill ride with heart and humor, adding another masterpiece to the collection of an endlessly imaginative director.

Thirteen years after her first visit, 19-year-old Alice is called back to Wonderland to slay the Jabberwocky and defeat the Red Queen, who has taken over and turned Wonderland into an apocalyptic nightmare.

Alice, however, has lost the "muchness" she had as a child, and must regain her old spunk in order to combat the Red Queen and her army of cards and creatures.

Her mission to reclaim Wonderland culminates into an epic all-out battle across a giant chess board as Alice takes her Vorpal Sword in hand and kicks some Jabberwocky tail.

In the new film, Wonderland is given a heart and a purpose. The Red Queen's flighty threats have very real, gruesome repercussions (that is, a moat filled with heads), and Alice is often in very real danger. The Wonderland natives, so distant and cold in most adaptations, are finally allowed to connect with Alice, especially the affectionate Hatter.

This is also one of the main criticisms of the film. The point of Lewis Carol's original Alice was to create a world of disorder in which nothing makes sense. Burton focuses his adaptation, creating it more in the vein of adventure films like Chronicles of Narnia, or even Harry Potter.

While this might weaken Alice in Wonderland's merit as an adaptation, the film still very much stands alone. Burton sets out to create something new, weaving a tight story and lavishly ornamenting it with vivid landscapes and larger-than-life but still endearingly vulnerable characters.

Burton's talented hand is visible in even the minutest details of the film. The Red Queen's chandelier is held up by three constantly-flying birds, and her favorite courtiers all have fake appendages to match her oversized head, which is also used to mess with our sense of perception. Burton doesn't shy away from this technique, inflating the Red Queen's head and stretching her minion, Stayne, into a sinister, lanky beanpole.

Newcomer Mia Wasikowska marvelously portrays Alice, and shows her skills as a young actress with a unique, compelling look perfect for Burton's gothic style.

Johnny Depp is endearing as the off-kilter Mad Hatter, who switches from a soft British lisp to a Scottish brogue when agitated, and Anne Hathaway is delightfully whimsical as the White Queen, an airy, benevolent ruler with a hilariously weak stomach.

The costumes and the scenery are dazzling, allowing the viewer to become completely immersed in a mad wonderland of vivid color.

While Alice in Wonderland might not be true to the essence of its source material, it remains a fantastically entertaining film and a wonderful example of Burton's signature genius.

The Writer RecommendsAlice (2009). Directed by Nick Willing. Starring Caterina Scorsone and Andrew Lee Pots.

Edward Scissorhands (1990). Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.