Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Review
Alice in Wonderland trades its brains for beauty...
Alice in Wonderland is not the umpteenth film retelling of the classic work of fiction by Lewis Carroll, but rather a sequel to the original tale in which a grown Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the world she visited as a child. The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) rules Underland (the movie supposes that Alice misheard the name of the world as Wonderland when a child, but for some reason holds onto 'Wonderland' in the title) with an iron-fist, chopping off heads left and right and enforcing her will through the tooth and claw of creatures such as the Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky. Her sister and true ruler of Underland, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), lives in her palace in virtual exile while the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) uses his madness as a cover for his role as leader of the resistance against the Red Queen. The world of Underland looks to Alice to be its savior, but before she's up to the task she somehow has to find her lost "muchness"...
You can view Alice in Wonderland in one of two ways. The first is that it is what it tries to be, namely a sequel to Carroll's works. In this regard the movie falls painfully short, and Carroll's fans and students of literature will certainly be disappointed. The film's writer, Linda Woolverton, brings back many of the familiar characters from the books but it seems that she was completely incapable of capturing their spirit, wit, and imagination. Carroll's skill with wordplay, logic, and mathematical concepts that created such a wonderful Wonderland in the first place are conspicuously absent in the screenplay, replaced by dialog and situations found in rather pedestrian fantasy fare. Woolverton undoubtedly read Alice in Wonderland, but it's apparent that she didn't quite 'get' Alice in Wonderland.
That being said, if you approach the movie in the second way, namely as Hollywood escapist fare, it does its job well enough. The Tim Burton take on the look of Wonderland and its denizens is entertaining and visually interesting, and fans of the director will undoubtedly be pleased by the look of it all. The story follows the well-worn reluctant hero saves the kingdom path - with a strong dash of grrrl power tossed in to keep up with the times - and it serves the movie as well as this archetypical story arc has served such films in the past. And of course everything culminates in the requisite CGI battle scene. In the end, though, the look of the film will impress you more than the story, and it will be the visuals that will bring you back for repeated viewings. It's mostly eye candy, with little more to feed the heart and soul.
The Blu-ray release of the movie features an excellent HD picture that captures all of the nuances of Burton's Wonderland. Any fears that the film's 3D theatrical release would somehow degrade the picture when it was released on Blu-ray can be safely laid to rest the picture is sharp and the colors are brilliant. On the other hand, the sound has not been mixed well, which is a rarity in a Disney Blu-ray release. Unfortunately this is one of those films that has to be watched with remote in hand because the action scenes are booming and the dialog delivered in relative whispers.
The version reviewed includes two additional discs, one with a DVD version of the film and another with a digital copy for download to PC. There are plenty of special features on the Blu-ray disc to keep fans of the film happy, as well as those curious as to the work that went behind bringing the film to life:
Transmitted: 9/17/2014 9:32:05 AM