Despite clearly having sold out a very long time ago, Tim Burton has a remarkably untarnished reputation. He still gets 'from visionary director Tim Burton' in all his trailers and his name still pulls quite a bit of weight in the taste of indie girls and boys. But I submit to you that this guy is done. He's been done for the best part of a decade, relying on former glories whilst taking studio project after studio project, each glossier and more vapid then the last (with the possible exception of Sweeney Todd, depending on your feelings on that particular film). He still injects the occasional moment of dark humor into his films, but mostly they just exist to make money now.
Alice In Wonderland is certainly no exception. The same wondrous and glossy surface barely covering the sheer abyss of needlessness and emptiness. Everything comes and goes, we go from one miraculously designed setting to the next all the while not giving a shit of any kind. Much like Tim Burton to be honest, who certainly didn't say yes to this film on the basis of the script. Which acts as a pseudo sequel the the seminal Lewis Carroll novel. It takes that world's awesome acid trip for kids concept and shoehorns it in to your standard fantasy heroic adventure, in which there's chosen ones, sword-fights and battles with giant CGI monsters. So basically it takes Carroll's genius, exploits it and exports it into a much blander, much more despicable story. How is the director of Ed Wood OK with this? It reeks of apathy and paycheck driven film-making.
The film is just about saved from being an utter, horrific disaster by the actors. Burton's stalwarts Johnny Depp ( whose career is really starting to get stalled by his continual presence in shitty Burton films) and Helena Bonham Carter are as good as you would expect. Depp, who at first seems like he's just rolling out a less impressionable version of his Willy Wonka character, gives it more heft when incorporating a darker Scottish accent when the Mad Hatter is going all Psycho, which makes the performance occasionally darker and more interesting. Still not a patch on what Depp can do though. Bonham Carter seems to be channeling Miranda Richardson's Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder, but in a good way. There's the same notion of the entitled, spoilt little woman-child, and the same glee in saying off with someone's head. I also enjoyed, much to my surprise, Anne Hathaway's White Queen. Hathaway seems to have injected some knowing irony in regards to her character's ethereal knowing, and very subtly manages to be more then a plot point. As for the awesomely named Mia Wazikowska's Alice however, not so much. She's a promising young actress if her work in HBO's In Treatment is anything to go by, but here she's a little stilted and awkward, perhaps concentrating more on the accent then the delivery.
But my main gripe is with Burton, who has cannibalized a great work of literature for the sake of what looks good on a happy meal box. Sure it looks good, but I'm tired of that being enough for people. It certainly wasn't for me. I'm at the point now where Burton has to win me back over, as I go into every film he makes expecting crap. This time I got what I wanted. It did not feel good.