Reviewed by: Angela Bowman
|Featuring||Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsley), Johnny Depp (The Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (The Red Queen), Crispin Glover (The Knave of Hearts), Anne Hathaway (The White Queen), Stephen Fry (The Cheshire Cat), Christopher Lee (The Jabberwock), Michael Sheen (The White Rabbit), Alan Rickman (Absolem, The Caterpillar), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee / Tweedledum), Timothy Spall (The Bloodhound), Barbara Windsor (The Dormouse), Amy Bailey (Hatteress), See all »|
|Producer||Walt Disney Pictures, Roth Films, The Zanuck Company, Team Todd, Tim Burton Productions, Tim Burton, Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Chris Lebenzon, Mark L. Rosen, Joe Roth, Peter M. Tobyansen, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Linda Woolverton, Richard D. Zanuck|
|Distributor||Walt Disney Pictures / Buena Vista|
“You’ve got a very important date.”
Those who are familiar with Tim Burton will not be surprised that the dark quality of his work carries over into “Alice In Wonderland,” along with his signature spiraling gothic landscapes, so much so that it appears too intentional. Regardless, and as expected, the richness in color and design make for a stunning view enhanced by 3D.
In this recent adaptation, Alice (played by Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland thirteen years after her first adventure, which she has considered a mostly forgotten dream. She begins her journey in a similar fashion that takes her back through the rabbit hole, but this time finds that she was summoned for a particular quest, so that the suffering inflicted by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) may come to an end.
Themes of being true to yourself, embracing your uniqueness and independent thought are woven into the story. The idea of the “best people” being considered “mad” to me means simply that the best people do not think like everyone else and perhaps even each person’s “madness” is the unique quality that separates him from the rest. Considering madness in a positive light, even the Bible says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), and many Christians are considered “mad” as they follow God in seemingly illogical ways. However, one must be careful to remember that we are never completely independent, and we must take care that it is truly God persuading us. We must be self-controlled and alert (1 Peter 5:8).
This movie is not suitable for young children. There is violence, frightening creatures, some blood and other elements that are not appropriate for younger audiences.
Swords and spears are used to prick, pull out an eyeball, and while not particularly gory, a head is cut off, as well as a tongue. Purple blood is collected from the head into a vial and given to Alice, who drinks it. She also drinks a potion made from various objects, including coins from a dead man’s pocket and buttered fingers.
Alice is chased and wounded by a large creature with many sharp teeth. Her wounds bleed, although not excessively, and appear to grow worse with time. There is a “war” in which two sides are fighting, and a large sinister dragon is called to fight Alice.
It should be noted for parents that the “card” soldiers are nothing like the characters in the 1951 cartoon version. They are sharply armored, and their eyes glow, making them appear quite evil. Various items are thrown, which if seen in 3D could also be scary for a child, and the Mad Hatter grows dark, both in appearance and in voice, when he “goes mad.” The Red Queen slaps Stayne multiple times. A woman comments that rabbits are “nasty creatures” and that she will enjoy setting the dogs on the rabbit that Alice sees.
Alice is called a “stupid girl” on numerous occasions, and the word “bloody” is used multiple times as an expletive. Alice threatens to tell the mother of two girls that they swim naked in a pond. The Red Queen refers to Tweedledee and Tweedledum as “fat boys,” and, as expected, there is a smoking caterpillar and multiple references and orders to cutting off heads.
One of the women in the Red Queen’s court is appropriately titled “Woman with Large Poitrine” (French for “bosom”), and it was apparently necessary to show cleavage to fit. Stayne accuses Alice of “unlawful seduction,” telling the Red Queen that she forced herself on him. As Alice’s size changes, her clothes do not, so in one scene she is apparently naked, however completely covered by garden shrubbery.
While there was an apparent occult-like feel to some of the elements, what I found most disturbing was something a bit more subtle, and I am curious how many others notice (or will notice) it as well. It appears that Alice is repressed, as most women were of her time, and so she rebels in small ways, such as not wearing a corset or stockings, which by itself seems minor enough, but there seems to be an overall lack of respect and courtesy, such as when Alice finally decides to stand up for herself. She turns down a very public marriage proposal, which in itself again is not a bad thing, but it is the way in which she goes about it, the way in which she asserts herself that is lacking.
There are other incidents, such as when Alice catches her brother-in-law kissing another woman at the beginning of the film, and, at the end, she chooses not to tell her sister, instead letting him know that she will be watching him closely and that he is lucky to have her sister as a wife.
Absolem (voiced by Alan Rickman), the Blue Caterpillar tells Alice, “Perhaps I will see you in another life.” The Cheshire Cat asks Alice if she wants him to “purify” her wound. And when the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), who has made a vow not to kill any living thing, sentences her sister, the Red Queen, to exile, she adds to that, that no one is to show her kindness or to speak to her. It seems to me it might be more merciful to order death. And regardless of the fact she is the “good” Queen, she is the one who concocts and gives Alice the potion and blood to consume.
Over and again, below the surface is found a want of emotion where it is needed most—that connection to (and for) the characters, the warm or satisfied feeling we are supposed to be left with at an apparently “positive” ending to any particular event, the closure one should feel when a task has been completed or a lesson learned. The only character that seems to display true and constant emotion is the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), but the extravagance of his appearance is negatively distracting, and he simply isn’t enough to fill the space beyond his particular role. While Tim Burton admits to his lack of emotional grasp of the story, it is difficult not to imagine that there is more to the absence of connectivity. Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—and these seem to be missing.
Despite the shortcomings, my first reaction was that this film was quite enjoyable. As the story has always been one of my favorites, perhaps it was bias or possibly it was due to the fact that with this type of movie one doesn’t have time to dwell on a particular offense or shortage before something new and different appears to distract and divert your attention. Externally, it has so much to offer that it is easy not to look in the kitchen or under the table until after you’ve had time to digest the meal and find that the meat was missing. So upon further reflection, the pleasure of the experience disappeared, and I couldn’t help but feel that I had eaten something very wrong. As Christians, we are to filter what enters our hearts and minds in accordance with God’s Word (Prov. 4:23 and 2 Cor. 10:5). Romans 12:2 says,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I found, in my folly, I had not taken the time to consider what was laid before me, and I would urge others to carefully examine—and then chew slowly—what is offered you, so that you may find out what is inside, before it is already in your stomach.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Response from reader—I am also responding to the viewer who said Lewis was on drugs. I was saddened to read that this rumor is still alive and well. Here is some more truth.
Pastor Charles Dodgson, or more famously known as Lewis Carroll, was a Godly man who was a friend of George MacDonald. Anyone who knows anything about children’s fantasy novels knows George MacDonald. MacDonald is well known to have been the mentor of C.S. Lewis. Here’s a short story of how the MacDonald family encouraged Lewis Carroll in his publishing of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
“In the early 1860s, as MacDonald began to discover his talent for fairy stories, he made friends with another minister, Charles Dodgson. Undecided whether or not to publish a story he had written about a friend’s daughter, Dodgson asked MacDonald to read the story aloud to his children to see if they liked it. MacDonald’s eleven children delighted in this new tale, his son Grenville declaring that he “wished there were 60,000 volumes of it.”
In this way, the MacDonald family played an important role in encouraging Dodgson (under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll) to publish Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.” Taken from a short biography about George MacDonald in the book, “The Princess and The Goblin” by George MacDonald. Pg. 205
Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4