********Alice in Wonderland Spoiler Review********
Full disclosure - I probably qualify as one of those fervent Alice in Wonderland admirers. As evidenced by the fact that I memorized Carol's lengthy The Walrus and the Carpenter poem and performed it for my storytelling seminar in college.* But I’m not AIW obsessed. My interest is not at all comparable to Erin's, who has an Alice sleeve, or to Jess', who owned a respectable collection of books and images relating to this subject and who produced her own AIW-inspired art. So my qualms with the film were not entirely purist based.
I feel one reviewer put it best when s/he wrote something to the effect of, “I think it is time that Burton and Depp started seeing other people.” Had I never watched one of their joint projects before (much less nearly every single one repeatedly), this movie would probably have been much more satisfying for me. However, each time Depp was filmed with that defeated, hangdog look, I thought “Edward Scissorhands.” So I had no tolerance for more than one sad Hatter scene.
Furthermore, what the fuck is up with a sad hatter anyway? He was a MAD hatter. When he surrendered to the fully nutty in the film on his walk through the woods with Alice and began reciting the Jabberwocky poem - THAT was the stuff that I could appreciate. THAT was the real meat and marrow of the story, for me. Dark, ominous, out-of-control muttering is, in my estimation, the true epitome of the Mad Hatter character.
Similarly, the scenes at the tea party were quite wonderful–the completely nonsensical, surreal, deranged stuff. I mean, if you can’t play, if you can’t be phantasmagorical and harebrained** in Wonderland, where can you be?
Hmm...wait a minute, maybe I am a purist!
In addition, I enjoyed the sly Cheshire Cat vignettes (he got better and better as the movie progressed). Those were some of the most visually spectacular pieces, too. Then again, I haven’t seen Avatar, so maybe I don’t have any real understanding so far as three dimensional cinematography is concerned. But I did see Coraline and I maintain that AIW blew that film out of the water pictorially.
Still, I do so want to like this film. When Burton was at the top of his game and working his strange Gothic magic, I sat rapt before him, literally leaning forward and perched on the edge of my seat. Truth be told, I’ll probably watch AIW another three times in IMAX before it completes it’s run in the theater.
Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
One of them might be that I can somehow cultivate an undying love for this film.
*Granted, this was from Through the Looking-glass, but Burton freely intermixed the stories/characters so I think it relates.
**All puns intended.