Remember what the dormouse said

Alice In WonderlandI, too, can believe 6 impossible things before breakfast.

1) One can enjoy a film for its own merits, and not simply because of its use of fancy new 3D technology.

I’ll confess being a snob on this one, but from Avatar (my brother calls it Blue People) on, I have been unable to take 3D films seriously. 3D is a gimmick which distracts from the reason we truly enjoy cinema … you know, things like characters, umm plot… little stuff like that.

2) A story written with none of Lewis Carroll’s original wit and verve can still manage to be decently compelling.

I’ll admit it: when I first read that this was not to be a remake but a continuation of Carroll’s work I had trepidations. Would this be the doomed threequel? the Matrix Revolutions of the Alice sagas? And although much of the dreamlike logic of the originals is lost, and it plays suspiciously like real life, my nightmares did not take shape.

3) The White Queen can be played as a “punk-rock vegan pacifist”.

Quite simply: after Rachel Getting Married I believe in Anne Hathaway like some people believe in God.

4) Matt Lucas can surpass his performances in “Little Britain”.

The first time I was shown this sketch, I thought, no way. This is it. This man is brilliant, and this is the perfect role. This is the pinnacle … of … of … of everything. And then he played Tweedledum. And at that, he also played Tweedledee. And I changed my mind.

5) Roger Ebert is fallible.

Ebert’s review of the film ends with this complaint.

Why does Alice In Wonderland have to end with an action sequence? Characters not rich enough? Story run out? Little minds, jazzed by sugar from the candy counter, might get too worked up without it? Or is it that executives, not trusting their artists and timid in the face of real stories, demand an action climax as insurance? Insurance of what? That the story will have a beginning and a middle but nothing so tedious as an ending?

Sure, Rog, the action sequence was a bit overwrought. My friends and I even giggled when the Jabberwock’s head came — dare I say “gallumphing” ? — down, and down, and down the stairs. But I wouldn’t peg that as a real ending, but rather the foreshadowing of a second, real-life ending. After all, Alice is adamant the entire time that Wonderland isn’t real. The battle is symbolism of the most obvious order, a coming-of-age story in which Alice proves she is truly her father’s daughter. In that case, the business meeting in which Alice becomes not a daughter-in-law but a business partner to the pompously-named Lord Ascot is the real-life counterpart to her beheading of the Jabberwocky, and may perhaps be read as an alternate climax.

A note: Ebert doesn’t really seem to be too picky about getting his minutia straight. In his review, he refers to a “wedding scene,” which, if you watch the film, is merely the most public proposal ever. This reminds me of his review of Marlowe, in which he refers to Bruce Lee as the “japanese karate expert.” Sure, these mistakes make very little narrative difference to the movie. But really?

6) Feminist fantasy films exist.

We’re used to fantasy films either ignoring women or placing them in clearly defined categories. Even filmmakers’ concessions to feminism — the foregrounding of Arwen and Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, for example — are limited by the traditional conservatism of fantasy’s gender roles. And sure, these recur in Alice. The Red Queen (read: female villain) is irrational, rage-filled, unstable. The White Queen (read: damsel in distress) has delicate, Hummel-figure poses and has taken a vow of non-violence. But mediating between these two figures is that of Alice, who must embrace her role as hero, donning armor to fight the Jabberwock. And who can forget the spunky Dormouse, who in this version is a swashbuckling, sharp-tongued little thing — a far cry from Minnie, y’all. (Good job on that one, Disney.)

I’m not saying it was perfect. The preponderance of “3D moments” where one is jerked out of the diegesis to notice, oh wow something was supposed to look as if it flew past my head there — pure annoyance. And, as few fantasy films can escape, Alice builds to a largely stereotypical end. It is testament to Burton’s skill that these elements didn’t kill the magic. On my part, I would have liked a little more of the Carroll-style dreamlike wandering, but, like childhood, all good things must come to an end, and Alice must grow up.


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