Alice in Wonderland
From our guest poster Bonnie Norman comes this look at the newest Tim Burton flick...
Disclaimer: I didn't see this in 3D because those glasses give me a major headache, so I may not have gotten the full experience.
Set 13 years after the events of the original Alice in Wonderland, we are once again introduced to Alice Kingsley, a pale blond English girl of about 19 years of age. Alice constantly questions why things must be done a certain way, such as wearing corsets or adhering to societal norms. With the times being very proper Victorian England, Alice has many expectations weighing on her from all sides. She manages to escape them, though, when she tumbles down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, as she did when she was a child. There, she learns that she is the only one who can free Wonderland from the Red Queen's tyrannical rule, and slay the foul Jabberwocky.
Visually speaking, Alice in Wonderland is just beautiful. Bright colors, bizarre and fascinating landscapes, and of course the many interesting creatures that make up this story. Being directed by Tim Burton has done wonders for this movie. The landscapes are dark and gritty, the creatures sufficiently strange and terrifying, and the overall feeling is of a child's fairy tale turned adult and mean. Alice has returned to a Wonderland ravaged by war.
One of the best things about this movie, in my opinion, is that it's about women. The main heroine is Alice, the villain is a woman, and the one Alice champions is a woman. Getting to see Alice ride to battle in full shining knight armor, without even a special "female shaped" breastplate to spoil the scene, was seriously cool. It also passes the Bechdel test quite easily, with most conversations between women revolving around the upcoming battle and what Alice will choose to do. One memorable scene takes place between Anne Hathaway's character, The White Queen, and Mia Wasikowska's character of Alice. Alice asks the Queen why she doesn't fight the Jabberwocky herself, and with a very tongue in cheek attitude, The White Queen answers that it is against her vows. A nod to the ridiculous twist in logic needed to justify one woman being able to fight like a man, but not another?
Alice herself is a very interesting character, with much emphasis placed on her intellect and courage, as well as her ability to do what no one else can. She is meant to physically fight and slay the Jabberwocky, which is another rarity. Generally, the girls are meant to fight from a distance or outwit a monster, not go at it with a sword. The fact that Alice carriers her new-found confidence with her back into the Real World is a big plus, but also predictable.
However. The Red Queen's character in particular very much bothered me. Much is made of her oversized head, as though deformity automatically means depravity. If only she were beautiful like her sister The White Queen, she wouldn't be evil. It's a commonly held prejudice, that those who look different must somehow be wrong or evil, or that their difference somehow excuses or explains their behavior. "Well of course she's bad! Just look at her (skin color, face, ableness, etc.)!"
Another point against the movie; there are absolutely no characters of color in the entire film, either in Real World England or in Wonderland. Considering it is Victorian England and at an upper-class event, the lack of diversity is understandable. But Wonderland is an imaginary world populated by fantastical creatures and characters of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They've got singing flowers and mice with swords, but not a single POC? That's what I call a race-fail.
Overall, I liked this movie, but I didn't love it. It's a big blockbuster, so pushing the boundaries is not usually going to happen. Even with the couple of awesome female representations, there are just too many things missing from the movie for it to be truly great, including anyone not white or an anthropomorphized animal or plant. I'd call it progress in the form of an unusual heroine, the proper English girl Alice, but it doesn't try hard enough in other areas. I give it 2 stars: So Close!