Tim Burton's latest effort is this take on "Alice in Wonderland", not an exact remake but a look at Alice's return to Wonderland as an adult. The picture is visually magnificent - a psychedelic, bold decent into the bizarre. Adults are likely going to find the picture compelling, as the picture often feels like an "Alice" geared a little more towards adults. In terms of children, older children will likely find it an imaginative romp - on the other hand, some very young children will likely be spooked by the picture.
This "Alice" opens with Alice (newcomer Mia Wasikowska) attending a function, much to her dismay. Set to be married to an unpleasant fellow, she spots the White Rabbit running through the bushes and signaling to her. When it comes time to walk down the aisle with the guy, she bolts after the White Rabbit and falls down a hole to Wonderland, which looks and feels more than a little ominous.
Confronted by the Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both Matt Lucas) and others, Alice slowly learns of her quest to defeat the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the equally evil dragon-y creature, the Jabberwocky (while also saving the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), too.) However, there are some doubts that exist among the creatures of the land that she isn't the correct Alice - Alice herself initially believes that it's all just a dream and doesn't quite recall her prior visit.
The picture is certainly "Burton-esque", with magnificent visuals (the Red Queen's card soldiers are particularly well-realized - like stormtroopers with a dash of color) and a tone that manages to be surprisingly eerie, even during some of the film's lighter moments. The movie does get a little bogged down on a few occasions by the tone (and again, while rated PG, this movie may give those in the mid-single digits bad dreams), but otherwise is well-paced.
The performances are fun, with Depp giving a very interesting performance as the Mad Hatter, giving the character depth beyond the wacky exterior. While not in the movie all that much, Depp still manages to make an impression. Bonham Carter also goes enjoyably over-the-top as the Red Queen, while Stephen Fry gives one of the film's best performances as the Cheshire Cat (the creature superbly done in CG.) Mia Wasikowska is fine in the title role, although everything else going on and the other performances do occasionally overshadow her efforts.
At the end of the day, this new "Alice" is a mostly engaging take - while a bit moody for its own good at times, the bold visuals are remarkable and the performances are top-notch.
This set offers a DVD copy, digital copy edition and Blu-Ray edition.
VIDEO: "Alice in Wonderland" is presented in 2.35:1 (1080p) by Disney and the results are quite beautiful. Sharpness and detail are terrific, as both the real (small facial details) and the surreal (the bold design of the heavily CG rest of the picture) are crisply and clearly seen.
Only a couple of slight hints of edge enhancement were spotted, but they did not create much of a distraction. No print flaws were spotted, as the picture remained pristine throughout the proceedings. Colors remained rich and pure, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The DTS-HD 5.1 presentation is terrific, boasting a sound design as imaginative as the film's visuals. Sound effects of all sorts spill from the surrounds and move around the room, immersing viewers in the environments of the film. The audio also sounds enjoyably transparent, as the audio has a fine feeling of depth. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp dialogue and moments of deep bass.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, no commentary is offered with the film - it would have been interesting to hear from cast, the director or some of the crew members that were behind creating the film's wonderful visuals. The featurettes are split into two parts: "Wonderland Characters" and "Making Wonderland". The former offers "Finding Alice", "The Mad Hatter", "The Futterwacken Dance", "The Red Queen", "The White Queen" and "Time Lapse-Sculpting the Red Queen". "Making Wonderland" offers "Scoring Wonderland", "Effecting Wonderland", "Stunts of Wonderland", "Making the Proper Size", "Cakes of Wonderland" and "Tea Party Props". The featurettes are fairly short (running anywhere from a couple of minutes to several minutes), but thankfully they do get right to the point and provide some good clips and behind-the-scenes insights. Still, I'd love to see a Collector's Edition at some point that goes deeper into the making of the film.
Finally, we also get a set of previews for other titles from the studio, including a third "Tinkerbell" film.
Final Thoughts: At the end of the day, this new "Alice" is a mostly engaging take - while a bit moody for its own good at times, the bold visuals are remarkable and the performances are top-notch. The Blu-Ray presentation offers terrific audio/video quality, as well as an array of smaller supplements. Recommended.
The Film B+