Hello everyone and welcome back to another Movie Monday. Seeing as next Monday will be the start of spooky season, I decided that I would watch another classic Disney movie before moving onto a month of thrillers, horrors, and cult classics – Hocus Pocus I’m looking at you.
I’m really looking forward to the month of October because the spooky nature of the month especially as we get closer to Halloween, really lends itself to so many movies, books, short stories, and more. Today though I’m easing us into spooky season with Tim Burton’s live action, dark fantasy adventure Alice in Wonderland.
This movie was released in 2010, and I still remember the day I saw it in the cinema.
Let’s dive into #moviemonday.
This movie follows the now grown up Alice Kingsley as she runs away from the suffocating society she lives in and finds herself back in Wonderland after falling down the rabbit hole. In this version, Alice is nineteen and she thinks that Wonderland is a figment of her imagination. She knows the place because she’s had reoccurring dreams about it, but as she wanders deeper into Wonderland, and faces the dangers that lie there, she learns she is not dreaming after all. Alice must face her fears and find herself if she wishes to survive the dangers of Wonderland and get back to her real life – but there’s dangers waiting for her there too, and in Wonderland, Alice learns that she can face them.
Our main protagonist is obviously Alice Kingsley. Alice is a dreamer, she is adventurous, and she struggles with what is expected of her – to be ladylike and to marry well. She greatly misses her father and due to several hints, we learn that Alice is very much like her father as she has the same inquiring mind. Alice is independent and strong-willed. She is kind and she is a quick-thinker. Most importantly, Alice is curious which is why she does so well in Wonderland. She does not dismiss the wonder of the place, she does not scoff at imagination, she is open to exploring and that is why she is the ‘right and real Alice’ – if you know you know, and if you don’t – watch the movie.
In Wonderland, Alice meets an ensemble of characters, the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledee and Tweedleduum, and most importantly, the Mad Hatter. I would suggest that the Mad Hatter is the most important person Alice meets in Wonderland, followed by Absolem, because the Hatter is the person who believes in Alice the most. He has been waiting for her to return, and it is he who fills Alice in on the dangers that are lurking in Wonderland. It is him who tells her that she must face the Red Queen and defeat the Jabberwocky, and it is his friendship with Alice that helps her remember that she has in fact been in Wonderland before, in fact she is the one who named it Wonderland when she was younger.
Our last protagonist to be introduced before we move on to our antagonist is the White Queen. She is beautiful, and gracious. The White Queen has been robbed of her power, and all of Wonderland is suffering because she is no longer queen. Alice must face the Jabberwocky on her behalf, she must be the White Queen’s champion because the White Queen has sworn to never harm a living creature. She is wise, she is patient, and she knows that she cannot force Alice to be champion, the choice must be hers, and even though her fate, and all of Wonderland depends on it, the White Queen will not force Alice to fight.
Our antagonist is the Red Queen. She is the White Queen’s older, evil sister. She is loud, and obnoxious. She rules with fear. Anyone who displeases her will lose their head, and she keeps the citizens of Wonderland inline by sending out the Knave of Hearts to terrorise them. The Jabberwocky is her champion, and even though it is a vicious creature, she is scared of Alice’s return because Alice has beaten the Jabberwocky before, and the prophecy shows that she will do it again, so the Red Queen is determined to capture Alice in order to ensure that she does not lose her throne.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favourite texts. I love the book, I love the Disney animation, and I love Tim Burton’s live action adaptation, which is of course the version I am discussing today however the themes of this story remain the same no matter which version you are discussing. I think one of the most prominent themes explored in Alice in Wonderland is the idea of growing up, and the loss of childhood.
Something that is important to note is that in the original story, Alice is a child. Alice navigating Wonderland as a child, in my opinion could be said to represent how a child views the adult world. Alice is unprejudiced, and innocent, she is curious, and open – as most children tend to be. She sees the rules of society and what is expected of her, and she asks why? It is a really good and valid question, why do we do the things we do? Why are there so many rules that come with adulthood? In this version, Alice is nineteen but she has not lost her childhood curiosity. She still asks why? She is open to ideas, and to wonder, and she is open to things that other people in her society dismiss as nonsense.
I would say that in the original version, Alice’s journey through Wonderland could be said to represent the journey from childhood to adulthood. It is confusing. When we are young we are filled with questions, and wonder, and we are innocent and unaware of the injustice that exists in the world, and then as we grow up, we have different experiences, we face trials and tribulations, as Alice does, our beliefs, and all we have been taught are questioned, we may change our minds, we may adapt to new things, we accept that certain parts of childhood must be left behind because existing in adult society does come with certain rules and the physical shrinking and growing that Alice experiences due to the ‘eat me’ and ‘drink me’ potions, represent the emotional growth she is experiencing – some parts of her are getting bigger while others get smaller.
In Burton’s live action, I would argue that the message is slightly different. Alice still questions why she must do things a certain way, just because she is a woman. She wishes to think for herself. She is curious, and when she is in Wonderland, she does grow and shrink, and solve riddles, but this time she is not growing from childhood to adulthood, she is learning about who she is as a person and I also would personally argue that this version relays the message that while yes, we must grow up and face our fears, we also must not entirely abandon wonder. We must not entirely abandon our childhood innocence and sense of magic. We must leave room for the impossible, because the impossible or should I say the six impossible things that one can achieve before breakfast – again, no spoilers, watch the movie – that sense of wonder, and Alice’s ability to embrace the impossible is what enables her to survive in Wonderland, and it is also what enables her to change her life for the better when she returns home.
There are other themes that are explored in this movie, to restate what I’ve said above in much more simple terms, I would say that logic vs wonder is a theme. Good vs evil, justice and fairness vs tyranny are themes that are explored through the differences between the White Queen and the Red Queen, and of course, there is the theme of knowing oneself.
Alice cannot survive in Wonderland until she accepts that Wonderland is real, and she remembers who she is. She is Alice, the right Alice, and it is only when she realises who she is, and what she actually wants, that she is able to assert herself, both in Wonderland, and when she returns home.
So there are many nuanced and complex themes that can be explored in Alice in Wonderland, but I would suggest that the key theme is the idea of facing the fact that we must grow up, but we must not abandon our childhood wonderment entirely, because we will always need that, even when we are adults.
I would say that the pacing of this movie is steady. It is nearly two hours long but I don’t think it feels too long at any point. There are a lot of moving parts to this story, and I like the fact that the movie gives us time to ensure that we understand what is happening, without spelling things out to us. I really like how different characters, especially the Hatter and Absolem, give Alice, and in turn the audience, information about Wonderland. Doing this adds to the exposition but because they don’t tell Alice everything, the movie is not spelling things out for us, and in my opinion, part of the fun is attempting to solve the riddles with Alice. ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’
The movie is a always moving towards the final battle at the end, every riddle, everything Alice learns along the way, everyone she meets and helps, all she does leads up to when she must face the Jabberwocky, and when this battle finally arises, it feels important. I feel that the movie did a really good job of preparing the audience for this moment because it is not overdone, and it does not feel overhyped. This battle is important, and there will be no spoilers here but the fight with the Jabberwocky is one of my favourite scenes as I think visually, it is brilliant to watch.
My final thoughts are that this is a really entertaining movie. It is funny, it is action packed, the stakes feel real despite us being in a place of fantasy. Wonderland is a vivid, and fascinating place and I think that the movie does a fantastic job of suspending disbelief. The score is beautiful, the special effects are well done. The costumes are beautiful and eye catching. Most importantly, the story is compelling, and all of these elements come together for a very entertaining watch. I’d highly recommend it, and even though I do love the animated version and think it is very charming, I would say that I prefer Tim Burton’s live action, and I think this is easily my favourite version of Alice in Wonderland.
This has been Movie Monday. I hope you all enjoyed it. I hope you all have a great week.
Here’s to wonder and curiosity.