Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. They go together like Soderbergh and Damon, Scorsese and Di Caprio, Eastwood and Eastwood… Burton and Depp have worked together on six different feature films, and Burton’s latest, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland will be the seventh.
Why do Burton and Depp work together so frequently? Tim Burton is well known for the gothic style of his quirky, dark fairy tale type movies. Johnny Depp has the right look, certainly, and many of the same sensibilities. He is so often the perfect foil for Burtons ideas and themes.
Mia Wasikowska plays Alice. It is ten years on from the last time Alice visited Underland, or Wonderland as the inhabitants call it. At an unexpected party thrown for her by her sister and mother, Alice meets the man she is expected to marry. Alice however doesn’t fit in with the ideals of the Victorian society she lives in, and doesn’t want to be married off to a stranger. It is during this party that Alice notices the White Rabbit. Following the rabbit, and her curiosity, Alice once again stumbles into Wonderland, though has no memory of it, or the events that occurred a decade ago. Mia Wasikowska is a relatively unknown actress, probably best known for recent parts in Defiance and Amelia. Alice in Wonderland is probably the 20 year old Australian’s biggest role to date.
In Wonderland, Alice again runs in to the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. Depp is known for playing a variety of mad, out there characters over the years. For Burton, Depp has played Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd and Ichabod Crane. More recently Depp has become a firm A-list, box office draw with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the fourth of which is currently in development. Depps unique style will give life to the Mad Hatter, and add some much needed substance to the character. Depp has stated he is not playing the part as simply a mad man, but as one who has many layers.
Things have changed since Alice’s last visit to Wonderland. The Red Queen is trying to take total control. The Red Queen is an amalgamation of the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s original stories. Helena Bonham Carter, another frequent Burton collaborator, is playing the role of the Red Queen. Burton’s partner, Carter is well versed in period drama and roles involving royalty. In her early career she was known as the queen of the corset. More recently, as well as her work with Burton, she has become known for more modern roles as in Fight Club and Terminator: Salvation.
Alice joins the Mad Hatter, along with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the March Hare (Michael Sheen) the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) in their attempt to try and save Wonderland from the grip of the Red Queen. Hathaway has experience playing royalty in the Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted, but recently has become better known for romantic comedies like Bride Wars and Valentines Day. Sheen has carved out a niche for himself playing real world characters like Tony Blair and Brian Clough. Stephen Fry’s previous voice work has included the voice of the book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Also starring are Matt Lucas as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, and Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar.
Alice in Wonderland is an extension of the Lewis Carroll stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The story is set after these tales, it is not a remake or straight adaptation. Burton said he wanted to tell a story with a much more cohesive narrative structure. Previous adaptations have been very much a journey with Alice moving from one situation to another like a series of sketches. Burton wants his story to have much more flow.
Alice will be the first major film to be released in 3D since Avatar’s big success story. It wasn’t shot in 3D, but was converted in post production. It was claimed that there would be no difference in look, though James Cameron has slammed the move. There is much complex computer effect work in Alice. Carter’s head has been tripled in size for her part as the Red Queen, and Lucas’ Tweedledum and Tweedledee is part live action, part animation. Frequent Burton collaborator Danny Elfman composed the score.
Burton is very adept at quirky, fantastical adaptations. His work has been so diverse as to include fantasy, comic book adaptation, animation and musical. He is considered by many to be the perfect director to bring Lewis Carroll’s stories to the big screen. He will provide the right ethereal aura to the work, with a good mix of humour, fantasy and darkness. He has surrounded himself with actors from his frequent stable, many of which have experience with period movies. The cast he has put together looks very good, and Alice in Wonderland should appeal to viewers both young and old.
There has been controversy surrounding the release of Alice in the UK. Disney’s decision to release the DVD/Blu-Ray 12 weeks after the cinematic run rather than the usual 18 weeks has caused some consternation amongst the cinema chains, with Odeon choosing to boycott the movie. This would have had an impact on the UK box office figures, with not enough screens spread around the other cinemas to cope with demand. However, Odeon have now reversed that decision. As yet, no US cinemas are boycotting the movie, and at this stage probably won’t.
With a well known director, a bankable star in the shape of Johnny Depp, and the universal appeal of the classic stories, Alice in Wonderland should do very well at the box office. The success of Avatar has created an increased demand for 3D movies, and with the extra revenue this provides there is potential for Alice to be the highest grossing hit of the year so far. $300 to $400m dollars sounds possible to me, with no major competition at the theatre for the first few weeks at least.
You can read Jon’s review of Alice in Wonderland here.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann