Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland feels more like a tired retread rather than a revisionist retelling or inspired remake. Burton’s trademark visual style aside, the newest Alice story doesn’t go too far off the beaten path putting her against familiar foes in a drearier setting while confronting her most stubborn enemy — herself. It’s a girl-power film with a finish that’s so underwhelming, it feels less like an uppercut and more like a slap to the rear.
A young woman with great expectations, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself at her own engagement party. Unhappy with the circumstances of marriage suddenly being placed on her timid shoulders, she treks through the garden and follows a white rabbit into Underland, a familiar place she’s visited in recurring dreams. The curious inhabitants wonder whether she’s the Alice of prophesy or just a namesake, and Alice contends with the growing prospect that she is the only one capable of slaying the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky. Unwilling and incapable of killing anything, Alice’s challenge demands she gain the inner strength to slay the ferocious dragon, which she does with the help of a cast of strange characters.
Going straight to the point — The climax just doesn’t cut it. Feeling forced, clumsy, and unrealistic, the Jabberwocky she’s tasked with killing gets worked by a sworn pacifist who lets the sword do the cutting. Talk about a copout. Though Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter adds a little character to the story, even his acting talents can’t carry a poor script that feels artificial and abrupt in its attachments. Anne Hathaway’s dainty White Queen with wrist bent and elbow in the air seems out of place as would be ruler of Underworld, and the grotesque character designs are jarring — the exaggerated body shapes and outlandish makeup contrasts sharply with a story that bounces all over the place and yet seems to go nowhere. It’s a familiar take on an old story with a lot of style — but the character development, story progression, and disjointed journey feel like something’s been lost in the plot.