Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland blog post

1: Analysis of the Book

Lewis Carroll’s enigmatic tale of a young girl’s adventures, Alice in Wonderland, and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, published about 1865, has confounded readers since its publication. Both works are considered classics and conundrums, having multiple interpretations and themes. Alice begins her adventures by following a white rabbit down his hole and falling head over heels into a confusing world called Wonderland. The characters she meets challenge her ideas of how the world is expected to work. Her interactions with other beings continually set her off balance as she tries to understand their obscure logic. To make matters even more problematic, her relationship to this world continually changes as she herself morphs from one size to another. One theme that is suggested by many reviewers of the original version is the idea of lost innocence, or the falling from childhood into the confusing and perilous world of adulthood. In this version, a significantly older Alice is rebelling from her family’s overprotective plan for her future and is ready to “make her own path.” Finally, some analysts consider that the entire story cycle is about consciousness and how it can be controlled and explored through mind-altering substances and experiences. Both the original and this updated version are vehicles for this interpretation.

2: Analysis of the 2010 Film

The 2010 Tim Burton adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is a very dark version of the classic book.  Burton filmed the movie with conventional cameras doing 2D shots during the initial production, and then the editing team transferred the movie to its 3D edition during postproduction. The special effects for this movie, particularly the use of 3D, are very distracting and are not spectacular. In fact, the 1951 and 1999 versions look better and are more internally consistent than this one. For example, instead of there being a lot of personal moments with such characters as The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, and others, Burton beefed up the story to make it less personal and more of an action movie.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

This version of Alice in Wonderland did not use the original book and adapt it into a movie. In fact, Tim Burton decided to use the book as only a jumping off point to start his movie. The movie also has a video game accompanying it, where players must guide, protect, and aid Alice on her journey through Wonderland (or Underland in this case). The game is similar to the movie in that it only has a tangential relation to the original story. Also, the game is mostly an excuse for unrelated combat play and is on a par of difficulty with the Batman games such as “Batman: Arkham Asylum”. Clearly Burton along with the Disney Company found it reasonably easy to exploit the Alice story with contemporary media.

4: Online Research on the Film

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/alice-in-wonderland-2010 – Roger Ebert, the recently deceased film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, writes his usual straightforward, intimate review of the movie. We feel that we are in his living room discussing the film over a cup of coffee. He shares his views while expertly discussing the artistic merits and disadvantages of the film, making us feel as erudite as he is in the process. His review helps us appreciate the brilliance of Tim Burton’s visual artistry while putting into context the disappointing battle sequence that dominates the end of the movie.

thatguywiththeglasses.com/blogs/latest/entry/alice2010 – This review is part of a blog of a film buff’s blog site. He discounts Burton’s version of the Alice story saying that the film does not even feel like a real Burton movie.

Newman,Kim and Mark Sinker,. “Go Ask Alice.” Sight & Sound 20.4 (2010): 32-34. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 27 May 2013.

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine – The British Film Institute in its magazine Sight & Sound also published a pair of reviews soon after the movie came out. Written by Kim Newman and Mark Sinker, their reviews give an elegant overview of the film and its relationship to other versions and influences. These two pieces (Ask Alice by Kim Newman, and Shades of Alice by Mark Sinker) give more substantial references to Burton’s filmography and the place this film has in it. Newman discusses how Burton’s film is yet another version of a familiar theme, the loss of an “Edenic” childhood. She also explores the Warrior-Princess aspect of Alice in this film as she models “Joan of Arc” armor and fights against the Bandersnatch. Finally, although she doesn’t emphasize the point, Newman clearly sees Burton’s Alice as a feminist heroine as she avoids a bad marriage and seeks her career abroad. Sinker explores Burton’s imagery and references Edward Gorey as the inspiration for Burton’s “look.” These reviewers draw upon a wide swath of literature and film knowledge to give the reader an educated perspective on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. In the end both agree that Burton’s effort is more of an entertainment loosely based upon Carroll’s original than it is an actual version of the well-loved story. 

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

War in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland functions to establish Alice as the hero capable of  subduing the Bandersnatch and eventually killing the mighty Jabberwocky. However, war as armed conflict does not belong in an adaptation of a children’s classic story. Since the Disney Company had already produced a fully sanitized children’s cartoon of Alice in 1951, it is redundant for them to produce something of the same ilk. Today’s youngsters need more meaning to go with their fantasy and a strong female heroine is just the ticket. The addition of a prolonged battle scene between the two Queens’ forces soon becomes tiresome and it does not further the theme of Alice’s inner development. Her heroism would be all the more powerful if it were won by her wit as a female rather than her triumph with a sword. Some evidence of how war like the movie has become is when Tarrant Hightopp, more commonly known as The Mad Hatter, nearly gets decapitated during the movie when he is brought to a trial, which Alice manages to infiltrate, and when she is discovered, he is ordered to be executed. At this point, Cheshire cat saves Hatter by using his shapeshifting abilities and his hat to disguise himself, which works.

A modern reimagining of Alice in Wonderland might be a wonderful vehicle for a strong heroine who defies social expectations and fights for a just cause, but a full-out armed conflict is not necessary nor uplifting for the contemporary audience.


6 thoughts on “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland blog post

  1. I agree that this film is “less personal” than prior versions of the story, as the strong focus on creating a visually dazzling world leaves the characters very underdeveloped. The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat could have been made into very intriguing characters if Burton drew on more elements of prior incarnations, but he opted to focus instead on effects and action sequences. The result is a very lifeless movie, which is fitting for how much of its content is computer generated.

  2. The well known critic Kim Newman happens to be male. He is particularly admired for his encyclopaedic knowledge of horror cinema and his accessible and witty though thoroughly analytical approach. Apart from his given name, were you confused as to his gender by the fact he notes a feminist aspect to Burton’s Alice?

  3. Anthony, this is a very good first try at the blog response post assignment. I have few complaints, except that the adaptation section seemed a little slight. That might be a good place, when you’re doing the assignment, of addressing some of the issues with the adaptation that I wrote about in my film essay or that the critics (the critical readings) addressed in their articles. 10/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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