May 31, 2010
No fear. I will not - and can not - reveal story spoilers. The plot is so convoluted that a synopsis would lull you (and me) to sleep before it could tarnish the luster of the film.
Alice in Wonderland is more about the magic of dreams punctuated by entertaining appearances of director Tim Burton's ubiquitous entourage of actors, like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
And then most of us know the story of Lewis Carroll's books: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Well, truth be told, there is none.
Lewis's preteen Alice goes down a rabbit hole for a walkabout in Wonderland, while Burton's adolescent Alice escapes down Underland from a garden party in Victorian England. A coming-of-age trip without the romance. That's it.
Are male movie goers the reason that Burton chose the pubescent Alice instead of Carroll's real life lassie who the writer found fondly seductive at age nine? Since Alice is not really for or about kids, maybe Carroll's hint of pedophilia made Hollywood uncomfortable.
Suffice to say, Lindsay Lohan and her antithesis, Amanda Seyfried, lost the lobbying for the role to Australian Mia Wasikowska. (Wow! How did Burton resist those two freaky possibilities? Maybe because either Alice would make Red Queen Helena and Mad Hatter Johnny look perfectly normal.)
And why does everything have to degenerate into a battle? 'Cuz no guy would go to a movie about an Alice without at least one bloody free-for-all - between cerebral chess pieces, no less. (I don't consider that info as a spoiler. The battle was its own spoiler.)
The film combines digitally enhanced characters with animated ones. The three-D that you saw at the movie theater is a latter addition, so the result is less compelling than Avatar. But being an old fashion fan, I prefer the prefabbed fabulous color to the muted post-applied third dimensionality.
(Editor's note: This Blu-ray is not in 3D. I assume that Disney will release a 3D version later this year.)
Thank-you for the Features. (I am referring to my disappointment with the Avatar Blu-ray that had nothing Extra to say.) When I purchase a Blu-ray, it's the alluring appendices that lure my loot.
So throw yourself back on the couch for more viewing.
Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton seem an ideal marriage of creativity. Who better to transliterate Carroll's quirky words into variegated visuals than Burton?
And who best to actualize Carroll's madcap wacky whackos than Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter? (Both thespians are veteran Burton players: Johnny is on number seven and Helena, number six.)
When the story is about a world populated by bizarros, each kookier than the next, the challenge is to make each character uniquely daft. The results were a melding of input and merging of ideas from a pool deep with creatives.
The Extras treat us to interviews of Director Burton and several actors. (Among them are Depp, Carter, Wasikowska, Chrispin Glover and Anne Hathaway.) Each actor covers the evolution of their crazed character, their cracked comportment and their crazy costumes.
You learn that the expression "mad as a hatter" derives from the insanity provoked by the mercury glue used by milliners to make those elaborate Victoriana hats.
And while you probably know Burton's precocious beginnings as artist and film maker, you now can see watercolors by the multi-talented Depp.
CG, green screens, motion capture and the live action combo are discussed and illustrated by the skilled craftsman, all of which prompt viewers to plop down on the sofa one last time to re-view Burton's lavish extravaganza.
So, in short, the Bonus Features cover the behind-the-scenes show-and-tell how-to's of make up, stunts, costuming, music, set dressing and visual effects. Even pastry chefs discuss baking the tea party tidbits. Worth the price of the DVD.
The most engrossing featurette was David Bernal (an Internet discovery) who dances the Futterewacken as the Mad Hatter. This time, the live action outshines any conceivable generated effects. Be sure to see David do his thing. Priceless.
(Editor's Note: The Blu-ray package reviewed was a three disc combo pack that includes the Blu-ray of the movie as well as a standard definition DVD and a code to unlock a digital copy that you can download on to your iPad or other digital player.)
For those Underland linguists in the crowd, Klotchyn! Here is a primer:
THE GLOSSARY OF UNDERLAND
A creature under the control of the Red Queen
4 o'clock in the afternoon...the time you begin broiling things for dinner
The central land of Underland
"Down with the Red Queen" the slogan of the Resistance
To be in a high place or to go up
Farewell. "May you travel far under fair skies"
The day Alice slays the Jabberwocky and frees Underland from the oppression of the Red Queen
Filthy with a very bad smell
A dance of unbridled joy
The day Alice will return to Underland
A thief's backend
A dangerous swamp of thick viscous mud
The day the Red Queen took control of Underland
A deadly creature, the Red Queen's ultimate weapon
A flying creature under the control of the Red Queen
Head's up or pay attention
An empowerment from within. Inner strength and fortitude
NAUGHT FOR USAL
"It's no use in trying"
Go low down
Don't go, not now or wait
A Calendar of all the days of Underland, each day having its own title and illustration.
To the left
An untamed land to the west of Witzend
An old language spoken only in the Outlands adopted by the Underland underground resistance as a secret code in the revolution against the Red Queen
A potion that makes one shrink
A land to the east, but not in the least
The following day after Alice returns
A wise person of poetry and vision
A port city where the Red Queen lives
Excrement - Eww!
To the right
A thick wood where Alice meets the Jabberwocky
The real name for the place Alice calls Wonderland
Cake that makes one grow
The only sword that can kill the Jabberwocky
Rude or dirty words of the most foul meaning
The western land where the Mad Hatter and March Hare were born
Far away - "Way-yadder-beyong-the-Crossling-in-Snud"
A warning to 'look out behind you!'
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, Crispin Glover, Timothy Spall
Length: 107 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
DTS-HD Master Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, French, Spanish