A Comparison of Some “Wonderland” Films

If you could not notice from the title of this blog, I am a bit of a fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass I have read both books too many times to count, and memorized the Jabberwocky Poem by heart. I’ve done some research on Alice Liddel & Rev. Dodgson as well to get a history of the people who wrote and inspired these books. So when it comes to films I am a bit of a harsh critic for those who want to take on the worlds of Wonderland and Looking Glass.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

This is probably the first film adaptation of Alice that I can remember seeing. Although it’s called Alice in Wonderland it actually is a mix of both books. Many characters are left out of this book, but there are so many between the two I cannot blame them for this fact. As a children’s movie, I enjoyed the songs and colorful images. The portrayals of the main characters I feel play close to the characters in the books. Alice is curious, with bits of fear and stubbornness through her journey. The Queen of Hearts gives of false charm and polite manners while also throwing her temper about, etc. Overall I would suggest this as an enjoyable movie for the young audience.

Alice in Wonderland (live action) 1999

Directed by Nick Willing, this was the first live action Alice in Wonderland I can recall seeing. Am I the only one who thought Whoopie Goldburg’s Cheshire Cat was super creepy? This is another one that throws in some Looking Glass, and has some significant changes from the Wonderland book. Instead of being beside a riverbank with her elder sister, Alice is in her room. The basis of this story is Alice’s fear of singing a song “Cherry Ripe” in front of her parent’s guests. The guests at the party are also main characters in Wonderland giving a Wizard of Oz effect (dream-reality connection with people she knows). There are also toys in her bedroom that are characters in Wonderland. “Cherry Ripe” constantly shows up in this film, since it is the challenge she is supposed to overcome. You see more characters and oddities from the book here you don’t get in Disney’s version-such as the baby that turns into a pig. You also meet the Gryphon and Mock Turtle from the book. Instead of bringing down the house of cards, Alice just realizes she is confident and is sent back to her world to sing her song. I do enjoy other Looking Glass elements here, but the “Cherry Ripe” and how it is all about her being confident was not my cup of tea. I felt it pulled away from Alice’s childish imagination and exploration of Wonderland bringing wonderment and a rounded character of Alice. It’s an alright movie, but not one I would watch often.

Syfy’s Alice 

This is a two-part “mini” that Syfy put out back in 2009. This is for a more adult audience, so I am going to view it differently then the previous two which were aimed at younger audiences. I absolutely love this adaptation (and grew a fan-crush on Andrew Lee Potts from this as well). Alice is an adult woman who teaches Judo. Jack, her beau gives her an expensive looking ring and says some mysterious things about his family. Giving the ring back, Alice feels that he is trying to move their relationship forward-too quickly for her. Jack leaves, and Alice realizes he slipped the ring back to her pocket. Upon rushing after him, Alice sees Jack getting kidnapped and subsequently ends up in Wonderland. The plot of this movie is set about 140 years after the original Alice showed up in Wonderland. This also changes my perception of judging the movie since it is not set in the original world of Alice. Again Looking Glass is used here-and rather figuratively. Many recognizable characters are seen here with creative and quirky twists. Many reminiscent traits of the original characters are there, however there are wonderful and interesting changes in the characters as well. This future of Wonderland has to deal with another Alice (who keeps getting asked if she is “the Alice”). Five stars, two thumbs up, the original story mixed with wonderful creativity makes this very enjoyable to watch.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

This adaptation of Alice also deals with an adult Alice, however this is the original Alice grown up to age nineteen. She believes Wonderland was something she dreamed as a child and all but forgotten. Although near an adult, Alice still acts very childish in some ways as we are introduced to her in the first part of the film. There are some more subtle elements of Looking Glass here, most notably the White Queen (who is totally different from the book version in personality). Confronted with a marriage proposal she does not want and the expectations of her high society life, Alice runs away from a garden party and goes into Wonderland. Here the Jabberwocky is said to only be able to be slain by Alice, which will overthrow the Queen of Hearts. All the characters who met Alice as a child remember her, some like the Mad Hatter deeply hurt at her leaving and not remembering. I had high hopes for this movie but felt wanting more. Visually it is beautiful and colorful, it also has a great score of music. However, I feel as if all the characters are on steroids and overly dramatic in noneffective ways. The Mad Hatter was always an eccentric character, but here is mood swings and quirks seem so overblown I feel it detracts from him as a character. Most the the characters I felt were more flat then rounded, and the story line while interesting the build up to the climax and the climax itself fall flat. It felt more looks instead of emotion, weirdness instead of engaging story line. I only saw this film twice (tried to give it a second chance) but don’t recommend it for Alice hardcore fans.

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One thought on “A Comparison of Some “Wonderland” Films

  1. Pingback: Fairy Tale Films (Good, Bad, Upcoming) | Jabberwocky Warrior

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