“Alice in Wonderland” (2010). Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry (voice), Michael Sheen (voice), Alan Rickman (voice), Barbara Windsor (voice), Paul Whitehouse (voice), Timothy Spall (voice), Christopher Lee (voice), Marton Csokas, Lindsay Duncan, Mairi Ella Challen, Leo Bill, Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James, Jemma Powell, John Hopkins, Frances de la Tour, Eleanor Gecks, Eleanor Tomlinson. Director: Tim Burton. Screenplay: Linda Woolverton. Source Material: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” by Lewis Carroll. http://adisney.go.com/disneypictures/aliceinwonderland/.
Remaking a cinematic classic is always a risky proposition, especially when it involves beloved characters who viewers feel they know like family. The ante gets upped further if that remake involves changing the characters or the story in unfamiliar ways, a move that can easily prompt audience alienation. So it’s no small feat when a director is able to circumvent these potential pitfalls and pull things off successfully, as is the case with the latest edition of the time-honored favorite, “Alice in Wonderland.”
Director Tim Burton’s take on this epic childhood fantasy is every bit as captivating as the material on which the film is based, yet it plumbs territory of the title character’s life never before explored. As the movie opens, we briefly meet Alice as a child (Mairi Ella Challen), a bright young girl whose wildly imaginative dreams take her to a strange place with outlandish characters, including a talking rabbit in a waistcoat, a hookah-smoking blue caterpillar and a smiling cat with the ability to disappear. She’s troubled by these vivid dreams, fearing her mind’s “going around the bend.” But Alice’s adventurous, consoling father (Marton Csokas) assures her they’re nothing to worry about, that they may even be a great source of unconventional inspiration—advice that proves valuable for what’s to follow.
Flash ahead 13 years, when we meet Alice as a 20-year-old woman (Mia Wasikowska). She and her widowed mother (Lindsay Duncan) attend a high-brow garden party on a ritzy English estate, a social affair Alice approaches with an undefined but undeniable sense of uneasiness. Her fears are confirmed when she learns that the soirée is being thrown to announce her arranged betrothal—an agreement she knew nothing about—to an insipid young aristocrat (Leo Bill), a sheltered simp she can barely stand. Alice’s impulse is to flee, and she gets that opportunity when she unexpectedly catches a glimpse of the dapper rabbit from her childhood dreams. She casts aside logic, social conventions and thoughts of hallucination and impulsively chases the fleet-footed creature through the garden to a hole at the base of a mighty tree, where she promptly falls in and descends to a magical land that’s both peculiar yet eerily familiar.
Before long, Alice realizes where she is—the land of her long-ago sleepy time fantasies. Once reacquainted, she becomes immersed in an adventure with all her old companions, some of whom are nice, such as the rabbit (Michael Sheen), the caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the Tweedle twins (Matt Lucas), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and some of whom are positively vile, such as the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), Stayne (Crispin Glover) and the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee). Alice is ultimately called upon to save her friends from her foes, a task that requires her to rediscover her “muchness,” her innate senses of feistiness, self-assuredness, independence and courage—qualities she once freely exhibited but has since apparently forgotten—that will not only prove useful in helping her survive her Wonderland ordeals but also her aboveground real world challenges.
The story’s primary message—how to connect with our sense of inner strength and self-worth—is undoubtedly an important lesson for kids to learn. But given that this version of the Alice saga involves our heroine reconnecting with those qualities, it’s a lesson that’s equally important for adults, especially those who feel they’ve lost their own “muchness” and want it back. Being able to draw upon our capacities for facing fears and courageously living our lives with personal integrity is essential not only for becoming proficient in conscious creation/law of attraction practices but also for surviving everyday life, and this picture casts a brilliant light on these ideas for children and grown-ups alike. Tapping into such qualities is particularly critical when the odds are seemingly stacked against us, when our personal power and individual freedoms are on the line, as one might contend is very much the case in today’s challenging social, political and economic climates, themes that are less than subtly portrayed in the film. So it’s in all these myriad ways, then, that “Alice” truly is a rich, articulate fable for our time.
Seeing how our inner world is reflected outwardly—the basis of how conscious creation works—is another of the picture’s strengths. The visual parallels between Alice’s “real” life and her Wonderland existence are mirrored poetically, showing the many ways in which our internal thoughts and beliefs create the reality that surrounds us. We thus get to see what the looking glass truly reflects back to us, a concept depicted here with a great sense of fun, whimsy and playfulness, an approach we should all employ to get the most out of the law of attraction.
I liked virtually everything about “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s technically brilliant in areas like art direction and special effects, and it features exceptional performances by many of the players, especially Bonham Carter, Depp and Hathaway, all of whom are perfectly cast. In fact, about the only thing I didn’t like was the film’s title, which may account for the dissatisfaction of some viewers. Those expecting a faithful retelling of the original tale may have been a little disappointed by the variations in the story line, perhaps seeing the title as misleading. Calling the picture something like “The Further Adventures of Alice in Wonderland” may have been more accurate, but that shortcoming shouldn’t deter audiences from thoroughly enjoying this story or this picture.
Parents of small children should exercise caution with this film if their tykes are on the sensitive side, as the picture can be rather intense at times (it is Tim Burton, after all). But, if nothing else, parents (and adults of all kinds) should see this movie for themselves, for this modern-day fable may be just the tonic needed to help them grow big and restore their own muchness, as well as to reconnect with the sense of wonder that comes from everyday living in this magical place we call existence.
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics (with an emphasis in law of attraction/conscious creation principles), free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com, available in soft cover and Kindle formats). His additional writing credits include contributions to www.beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution, Sethnet Journal and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com, which includes listings for the internet and broadcast radio shows on which he frequently appears as a guest. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.