A Nightmare in Underland
First let me just say that I love movies and I love animated films. I wouldn’t classify Tim Burton’s version as an animated film or even what he does as animation exactly. To me there’s a difference between CGI and what I think of as more classic animation. I also love voice acting. I’m one of those people who knows that Jeff Bridges does the voice over on the Hyundai and Duracell commercials. Morgan Freeman does the new Visa commercials since the Olympics and Gene Hackman does the Lowes commercials. The list goes on and on and I’m a big enough of a nerd to recognize their voices in commercials and films. It’s always fun for me to watch a film or commercial when you know the voice behind it. Like Robin Williams as Genie in Aladdin.
I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of Burton either. I’ve seen all but one or two of his films and if nothing else they’re all enjoyable enough to watch and defiantly interesting.
So to the movie itself. To clear one key thing up. What exactly the movie is. Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and then Through the Looking glass and What Alice Found There as a sequel of sorts. Tim Burton’s film essentially combine’s both books into one and treats his film as a sequel. That’s the easiest way I can word it without giving too much away something of the films story. That being said the film essentially uses pervious situations, characters, etc. from Carroll’s novels and makes his own story, which is a bit faulty. My biggest complaint with the film’s story is how it’s introduced. The film makes the assumption that the viewer is familiar with the books. Burton just dives right into the story and doesn’t really bother explaining anything till maybe half way through. Even at that I think a lot of people won’t get the reference’s in the film from the books.
The films best attributes to me were the fact that it was visually awesome. There were a couple of scenes that I wish I could have seen on an IMAX because they had potential. The film looks like what you’d expect a Tim Burton film to look like. It’s dark and bleak and Burton does actually give an explanation to the reason Underland looks so dismal. Really there’s not much to say on the CGI because it’s done well. I think the technology works well with Burton’s visual creative side. The one negative thing I can think about this the look seemed similar to his version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Now to my favorite part of the movie; the actors! I love Alan Rickman. I have a man crush on him. He is a phenomenal actor and while he is amazing at playing a villain I actually enjoy his comedic roles much better (Blow Dry, Search for John Gissing, Bottle-shock) He also has an amazing voice which I don’t think I’ve heard anyone able to mimic. My love for Mr. Rickman being professed I have to say he is the best thing in this film. He plays the lovely caterpillar and while he has a small part in the film, he steals those scenes. The CAterpillar is also one of the characters I like in the book as well.
Another Brit by the name of Stephen Fry, another wonderful actor/comedian with a great voice takes on the role of the infamous Chesire Cat. Along side the Caterpillar this is probably one of the few role that felt true to Carroll’s original versions. Timothy Spall, another amazing actor that people will probably only know as Wormtail from Harry Potter does a lovely voice as a Bloodhound and Matt Lucas (amazing comedian) plays the voices of Tweedledum and Dee. Crispn Glover one of the best actors at playing creeps does this wonderfully as the Knave of Hearts and Helena Bohnam is wonderful as the Queen of Hearts with a large head. Also Martin Sheen (amazing) plays the White Rabbit.
Anne Hatheway is decent, but felt somewhat static and the next actor be brought up will probably upset some people. Johnny Depp. He is a good actor and does brilliant work at times. However I was disappointed in this film. If you’ve seen him play WIlly Wonka and Capt. Jack Sparrow than you’ve seen the Mad Hatter. The role is essentially a combination of those two previous roles with very little addition to the character. It works, but coming from Depp I expected a bit more. He also has a much larger role than need be.
In the end the film felt like Narnia. They took the source material which has plenty to work with, created a story that has potential and just through in a family action movie similar to Narnia.
On another note though the film to me wasn’t meant for children. I think everything would be over the top for most kids, including the humor. Burton makes it more of an adult film, but tries to maintain the childhood roots of the source material. I also don’t know if I’d take my child to see a film where a mouse gouges a CGI eye out and carries it around for most of the movie.