April issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 10 years ago

It is hard to say where Tim Burton went wrong. His movies over the last decade have the same gothic style and madcap antics of his earlier, more successful efforts. But what is missing — especially in his latest feature, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland — is the heart and soul that was such an integral part of Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood.

Burton has, once again, cast his favourite actor, Johnny Depp, in the lead role as the Mad Hatter. Depp hams it up for the camera, strutting about in his scenery-chewing role. But as with everyone else in the movie, including Anne Hathaway as the Ice Queen, he is extremely impersonal in the role, adding nothing to the character first created by Lewis Carrol.

Burton has also cast aside Carrol’s sense of whimsy and playfulness, instead recasting the wonderland as the scene of a battle between good and evil. The actress playing Alice is particularly unmemorable and is lost amidst a host of fantastical characters like the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat.

What’s impressive about Alice in Wonderland are the special effects, which Burton has used to create a visually stunning make-believe world. Unfortunately, the CGI effects overwhelm the rest of the cast and thin plotting to such an extent that they become the true stars of a movie. And with an impressive cast that, apart from Depp and Hathaway, also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Fry and Crispin Glover, that is indeed a shame.

Ultimately, Alice in Wonderland belongs in the same category as other recent Tim Burton movies such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes — two other remakes he directed for no apparent reason. All style and no heart makes Burton a very dull director.

Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.