It’s been fewer than three months since I saw the new Disney Alice in Wonderland in the theater. My opinion of the movie, which was mixed, hasn’t significantly changed, but I did appreciate watching it again knowing what to look for.
I didn’t notice any problem or differences with the 2-D home experience compared to the 3-D theater. And I had a much greater appreciation for the wonderful Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar when his glorious tones were rolling through my living room. I also very much liked Mia Wasikowska as Alice.
Mia Wasikowska with director Tim Burton
I recently reread The Annotated Alice, and I think that Tim Burton got it backwards, or at least gave his movie the wrong title. Alice’s journey in the film is about learning to grow up and make adult choices. Alice in Wonderland is Lewis Carroll’s paean to childhood, and his desire to remember their glorious golden afternoons without a care in the world, but that became impossible to convey once the movie Alice was made a young woman about to be married. The movie’s insistence on whether this girl is the “wrong Alice” is also backwards from the book Alice’s early concerns that she’s become some other girl, the boring Mabel, because after so many weird occurrences, she doesn’t feel like herself any more. The theme of reversal is stronger in Through the Looking Glass, and that’s also the book about growing up, as Alice advances to become a queen.
Those aren’t the only mismatches. In the movie, Alice is running away from something, instead of being fascinated by something unusual and following it. The six impossible things that form such a theme in the film are quoted in Through the Looking Glass, not the first book. So are the White Queen and the briefly seen living flowers and the Jabberwock and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. That’s not a horrible wrong; most people confuse the two books, anyway, and I don’t think there’s been an adaptation that didn’t do this kind of mixing. Most don’t include quite so much of the adaptor’s own inventions, though, like the Bandersnatch’s much increased role and the ridiculously dumb dance (although I guess it can be considered a remote cousin to the Lobster Quadrille) and the wholly invented talking bloodhound. The Alice stories are all about cats, instead, with Dinah and her kittens driving a lot of the early parts of both books.
I miss the baby turning into a pig (just because it’s cute) and the silly poetry (although all the references are long forgotten) and a King to apologize for the Red Queen (what happened to him is one of many signifiers that Burton intends this to be a much darker tale). Someday, I wish that some adaptor handles the Lion and the Unicorn, which are mostly forgotten. Overall, I miss seeing a fantastic exploration of a creative new world instead of a quest adventure. Ironically, it speaks to a certain lack of imagination, I fear.
The three-disc set has the Blu-ray (with all the special features, including nine featurettes exclusive to the format), a digital copy disc (for iTunes or Windows Media Player), and the regular DVD. The bonus features on that standard DVD are:
* Finding Alice — The general “making of”, about six minutes long, with comments by Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), and Tim Burton. Comments are the usual short statements of what they think the movie’s about and their aims, some of which is telling you what you just saw in the film. There are a few quick glimpses at the extensive green screens used (since so much of the movie was computer-created instead of filmed). I found that most fascinating, seeing how little of a setting these actors had to work with.
Burton and Depp against the green screen
* The Mad Hatter — More in-depth (another six minutes) with Depp’s vision of his character, plus some of his watercolor sketches of the Hatter and others talking about his performance.
* Effecting Wonderland — How live-action, CG, and motion capture was blended to make the characters, in seven minutes. Favorite line “you have your traditional CG characters”… oh, are computer effects “traditional” now? I didn’t fully realize that the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) was supposed to be so tall until I saw him being recorded striding around on mini-stilts in a bright green suit. I’m impressed he could move so naturally.
* “Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-Ray Is Suite!” — Two kids from some Disney Channel sitcom pitch the studio upsell for five minutes or so. In addition to better picture and louder sound and being all-around “cooler” (which seems to be the main message of the ad), Blu-ray has exclusive interactive games, which is considered a major selling point. Another major point: you only need one cable to connect it to your HD TV. This is considered a significant distinction? This ad is going to look so dumb in a few years, when the format has been superseded by something else and no one has any idea who these kids are.
* Instructions on how to use the digital copy. Wouldn’t anyone interested in a digital copy already be familiar with this? Maybe there’s some super-secret message included that I missed because I didn’t bother to watch it.