Thursday, March 11, 2010


So what if the movie was universally panned?

Fact is: I glided out of the cinema itching to shout from the rooftops: "What a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious piece of work!"

Mind you, I am NOT deliberately trying to be contrarian.

True, the first hour was a painful plod (Pacing CAN be improved).

I did have a hard time swallowing this grown-up Gwyneth-lookalike galumphing around in a state of deshabille (or close to it - her off-shoulder dress threatens to fall dangerously any moment).

Then she falls into the rabbit hole and Tim Burton hurls a fast and furious volley of characters and special effects ... ok, I'll let the eloquent Dana Stevens finish the job:

" .. the CG effects start coming so thick and fast that neither she nor we have time to experience much wonder at all. Look, there go Tweedledum and Tweedledee (voiced by Matt Lucas)—but before we've had a chance to witness their unique sibling dynamic at work or hear a single line of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" (the recitation of which was one of the high points of the 1951 Disney version), Alice and the egg-shaped twins are being chased through the animated underbrush by some sort of giant saber-toothed beast as Danny Elfman's score throbs and swoops. The feeling, in this movie, is always that of being frantically rushed to the next thing: the Mad Hatter's tea party hasn't even gotten truly barmy before it's broken up by invading soldiers led by the menacing Knave of Hearts (a digitally stretched-out Crispin Glover)."

Uh huh.

Too much muchness, Tim! How can we appreciate the genius of your imaginative if warped mind if we don't even understand what's going on?

I was all set to lie back and drift into an afternoon siesta when Helena strutted into the scene, her giant orb of a head abobbing.

Helena totally PWNED it, in netspeak.

From thereon, my attention was held in a vice-like grip.

Whatever bone I might have to pick with the plot or pacing evaporated quickly. Mind you, I'm not a blind idol of either Tim Burton or Johnny Depp. I thought the latter's turn in Pirates 3 was too hammy to be effective (too much muchness again), and I didn't like Public Enemies. (one big snoozefest. The characters didn't engage me).

But here, Johnny was sublime. Well you could say that he can probably sleepwalk through these custom-written characters by now but what made it more interesting was the development between the hatter and Alice. As unlikely, and even faintly disturbing the whole idea might seem at first, I like how Tim prepares the audience for it, by easing us gently into the realization so that the development feels utterly natural.

Tim has taken liberties with the script, yes, but these are reverential liberties.

Beyond his attention to visual detail and how "pulled together" the palette looked, he really is a sympathetic storyteller who knows how to create characters that we can care about.

A pivotal scene which captures the zeitgeist of the entire movie (SPOILER) takes place when Alice gazes at Hatter in wide-eyed wonderment (yes!!!) and breathes, "You must be real."

In the end (ANOTHER SPOILER), it wasn't just the mad hatter's heart which broke when Alice decided to go back to Upperland (well if one's Under, logic dictates there must be an Upperland right??)

*Sighs and melts*

Bottomline, they felt real. The blue caterpillar, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Red Queen's smarmy right-hand man, even the annoying dork who gets shanghaied at the gazebo ...I love how Tim Burton invests every character, even those with limited air-time, with such complexity and compassion. I could actually feel sorry for, and yes, understand why the Red Queen ends up so bitter and vengeful. It could happen to any one of us *gulp - reminds self*

Or maybe it's just me.

As long as I remember, I've always been able to relate better to the outcasts and misfits who tiptoe on the fringe of so-called normal society.

After the movie, I walked into Borders and headed straight for the children's literature section.

Enough said.

1 comment:

TMBF said...

You might be giving Burton a little too much credit there. He's an amazing visual stylist, but he's never been known for good storytelling. Linda Woolverton wrote the script. :)


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