Monday, 14 June 2010

Follow the White Rabbit

When I was a smallish child I grew up in an old house filled with a vast array of victorian books including very old copies of Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking glass. I loved those books, the heavy smooth paper, the wonderful binding and although the text with its small archaic type face was too far beyond my young years to decipher, the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel , a political cartoonist and illustrator were fascinating. There was something corrupted and wicked in them and to my mind quite terrifying and threatening and I could never understand why anyone thought it a sweet childs tale, and thought I was the only one who saw something evil beyond all the flamingos and eat me cake until that is I saw Tim Burtons movie last weekend. To me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the looking glass held a dark depth which no one else seemed to pick up. Tim Burton obviously agreed.

The boys had seen the movie in the Uk and raved about it but I was dubious and did not pay much attention so when someone gave us a copy of Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland to watch I wasn't expecting much more than a sanitized version of the orignal story with very little more than a cursory nod to the original text or illustrations. I was somewhat suprised to hear Johhny Depp was doing Alice but then he has kids so perhaps I thought he wanted something cute and white rabbity for them to watch. Frankly I suspected Burton and Depp had sold out to Disney. How wrong I was.

After the beginning of the story which was to my taste is a trifle too sweet and threatened to become something akin to a BBC childrens period drama, I was relieved to find it was no sugar coated bedtime tale but that it was scattered with the potential to descend into dark drear tale of my childhood memories .

Not only did the appearance of the characters stick closely to the original illustrations, the playing cards could have walked off the pages, but he preserved for me what was its very essence of the creeping unpredicatable events and pointless cruelty of the action. There has been a lot of criticism of the production, it isnt as witty perhaps nor as vicious as the book can be and admittedly the red queen was far from ugly( but then how could Helen Bonham Carter ever look ugly?) and her appearance owed more to the Duchess in the book than the red queen but you beleived her when she screamed off with their head, ok well you got the general impression it was a possibility that someone may well lose a head without going so far as to need to cover your eyes in case they did.

There were plenty of references that Lewis Carrol would have recognised although some were a bit muddled, it is the Duchess not the Red Queen who has the pig ( her baby changes into one) and the Duchess too has an oversized head but to an audience who are not overly familiar with more than the bare bones of the story then it works well. Alice follows a white rabbit falls down a Rabbit hole and discovers a world turned upside down.

I am not sure that for my taste the end is not too neat and a little heavy on modern mantra that as long as one is true to oneself then all will be well but it is certainly a movie that the boys want to see again and again and is worth watching if only for the wonderful visual spectacular treats that Tim Burton delivers. see this trailer and let me know what you think

Incidently did you know that Lewis Carrol suffered from severe Migraines and it is thought that the weird and strange plot is a result of those rather than a drug induced haze... mind you on the other hand the blue caterpillar does smoke an opium pipe so who can say....

I think its one to watch and has the makings of a Disney Classic....but then it is my kind of madness and I am quite partial to a world turned upside down.