“Alice in Wonderland,” directed in 3-D by Tim Burton, is a wonderful story and Tim Burton is a great director, but something is missing here.
Maybe it’s that Alice appears not as a child, but as an adult. She now faces an impending proposal from Hamish (Leo Bill). Her would-be fiancé is a mama’s boy with a weak stomach. He does offer money and title, but she does not want him or what he offers. With the appearance of the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Alice goes down the rabbit hole.
In Underland (because they do not call it Wonderland in the movie), Alice discovers that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has control and is repeatedly shouting, “Off with her head.” The moat around her castle is filled with the heads of her victims.
Alice is needed in Underland to defeat the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee). The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) believes Alice can, but Alice has a problem. She thinks she is in a dream because she believes her childhood adventure in Underland was just a bad dream. Add to this that she does not believe herself to be the Alice needed to defeat the beast. This flies in the face of the scroll that declares the history of Underland, even history yet to be.
We watch Alice’s quest for the Vorpal sword, which she needs to defeat the Jabberwocky. She goes from the mad tea party to the castle of the Red Queen to the White Queen’s castle. And all along the way she grows in her belief in herself, so much so that she is transformed into a modern woman.
And by modern, I mean just that. Alice moves from being a quirky, awkward girl into a confident woman. That is laudable, but as I watched the story unfold, I was upset by the means in which Alice is empowered.
The seeking of the sword smacked of taking a heroine and turning her into a hero. The story implies that the way of becoming fully woman is to become like a man. Yes, in the battle scene Alice looks like Joan of Arc, but what the story does is masculinize this young woman, when that is not necessary.
Alice has dreams. Why not allow the dreams to empower her? Why not allow her adventure to be her slaying the dragon, not by a sword, but by use of her wits? Why does the writer take her and make her hold a phallic symbol as a means of empowerment?
But on to the issue of 3-D, which requires a surcharge on the ticket price: It’s not worth it here. It was shot in 2-D and converted to 3-D, and the conversion doesn’t add a thing to the movie visually. The color palette seemed washed-out, and the movie suffered because of it.
Tim Burton is a great director, but he is like any director: He needs a story on the page for it to be seen on the screen. He wrings from these pages all that can be wrung – but it’s just not enough to make this a good movie.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations and for a smoking caterpillar.
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Linda Woolverton (based on characters created by Lewis Carroll)
Cast: Mia Wasikowska: Alice; Johnny Depp: The Mad Hatter; Helena Bonham Carter: The Red Queen; Anne Hathaway: The White Queen; Crispin Glover: The Knave of Hearts; Stephen Fry: The Cheshire Cat; Michael Sheen: The White Rabbit; Christopher Lee: The Jabberwocky.
The movie’s official Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.