Saturday, 1 May 2010

dearest alice; through the unlooking glass

as some may well know, i am a big fan of alice in wonderland, and generally of lewis carroll's work, as examplified by this post. true to this (or untrue, considering how long i've postponed this), i finally rewarded myself today by watching the recent film, alice in wonderland. now, one may question the devotion to the title with such procrastination, and i have recently seen the stereotypical 'i was into it before it was cool' arguments far too many times to even go there, here. so let us forgo all this nonsense, and talk about the movie, at least as much as how i have enjoyed it.

for starters, i was always hoping for a dark and twisted dystopian alice, much like the american mc gee's game i had played before. seeing the trailers, however, had prepared me for no such thing, and i am happy to say, an elated and technicoloured alice suits me just fine.

the introduction, left me hanging for the longest time, and i can go as far as to say that i thoroughly did not enjoy the director's choice of making alice a young adult, and much less the introduction of an aloof-but-disturbed persona. the stereotyping of british 17th century culture, as epitomed by what's-his-face-potential-groom for alice was just sad and overplayed, and the other characters during the introduction were underdeveloped and unnecessary. suffice to say, i think the whole thing should have been omitted, but, i guess, it does give leeway for those interesting in lending some sort of background to alice, as well as letting the director cast a more mature alice in the role.

moving on, to wonderland. yes, i am happy with this. the initial easter eggs of having rocking-horse flies, and dragon-flies zipping around the scene was a minor plus. all the character design was up to expectations, though i had hoped it would exceed the cliches in my head; that being said, i do like how the deck-of-card footmen were played out, as well as the caterpillar being much more to my liking than in other renditions (they gave him a name, though! oh dear, i think it was absolom). the bandersnatch was meh, though, and nothing like what i had in mind. but that's just me. cheshire cat was. whoah. thank you for blowing my mind.

anyway, there's loads more stuff to nitpick character-wise, like the bird that snatches tweedledee and -dum (i thought a big black crow was more associative, instead of a jub-jub) and oh dear, alice herself (how could i have forgotten?); well, let's save these things for another day and age. onward with the critique of other aspects of the film!

i like how the plot is not stereotypical and, unlike how i had expected, was totally divergant from the book! thank god. in some way, it has served to preserve the innocence of the novel, while still making the movie contemporary and relevant. extra points to the scriptwriter (although the dialogue is somewhat bland and totally not carroll-ian, especially when it comes to alice. i guess she's grown out of her old habits :( ).

the design of wonderland and related scenes was satisfactory - as you may have heard me critique (and critic) avatar for its excessive use of cgi, i find it refreshing that a movie of this magnitude actually toned it down such that it was impressive but did not detract from the other movie elements. in many scenes, the cgi was sub-par, though and it might have done the film some justice to smoothen out these wrinkles but, in all honesty, that was fine. cinematography was on the ball, too, no shaky-camera (effects) or awkward angles. sometimes you just lose yourself thinking you're really a 3rd person observer, and sometimes you feel like you're in the midst of the action. well choreographed as a whole, but this isn't something particularly hard with all the generated imagery. still, props to whomever is responsible.

it comes with all good critiques (though this is not one) that one scrutinises the stars of the film. johnny depp (though i am already a big fan, this could be biased) does his role very, very well. nothing less than expected, and the mad hatter is indeed how i would picture him given the circumstances (none of that disney cartoon fancy-pants-ary here, thank you). helena carter (who apparently played bellatrix in the harry potter series. lolwut) is ideal for her role, whom i must confess, reminds me of the character she plays in fight club. crispin glover, whom i only remember from the horrendous film, beowulf (not to be linked here, thank you very much), plays the introduced character of stayne, knave of hearts (totally had to imdb that one), and though his portrayal is apt, i think the character in itself thoroughly lacks depth and exposure such that much of his agenda in the film is left wanting. but, so do other characters, and i guess this will be the bane of many movies adapted from other sources, especially those which try to reach out to the fan-base by trying to fit in every character they can (notable examples, lotr, x-men).

what else. oh, yeah. epic fight scene. well, i guess it was okay. everyone's a fan of these and the jabberwocky is pretty much text-book so no complaints there. except that he's supposed to be in looking glass, not wonderland. but the director's not been consistent since the beginning, anyway, so who gives a toss (i realise at the ending credits, now, that tim burton credits both alice and looking glass as the bases of his story, so alls well that ends well!). oh, and followed up by epic dance scene (lolwut) which was... interesting.

i promised to not to on about the characters but, it just struck me, i don't really like the white queen :/ i mean, anne hathaway is hot sauce and everything but really. ugh. nevermind.

and to the ending. well. i am sorely disappointed, just as i was when it all came tumbling down. alice coming back to the real world is how a high wears off, is how a horrible reminder that escapism cannot last, is how dreams are only fleeting even in their worst moments. kudos on having some feminism / female emancipation lesson at the very end. but really, was this all necessary? just like with the introduction, i think this should be left severed from the story, and just as the red queen would aptly put, off with its head.

all in all, a good watch. wouldn't make my top ten movies of all time, even given that i'm a fan and whatnot. but that's just me.

t'was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the slimy and lithe badger-corkscrew-lizards;
did rotate and make holes in the area around the sundial:
all miserable and flimsy were the mop-birds;
and the lost, green pigs were whistling a peculiar sound.

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