Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alice in Wonderland IMAX 3D

My car was in the shop getting a new air conditioner condenser and dryer so I had time to kill in town. Mama wanted to go see a movie, but I don't like the theater near her house. She says if you want to see the good movies you have to go to the sticky-foot theater. It's true they are showing An Education, which we wanted to see, but I just can't do the sticky-foot theater. It's not the stickiness so much as the weak projector, stained screens and improperly equalized audio that bothers me. So I made her go with me to see Alice in Wonderland at the AMC IMAX 3D theater. The reviews online gave it a C, so I had low expectations.

But it was good! Never did I squirm because of some logical or continuity problem like I did in Avatar. I suppose since it was SUPPOSED to be make-believe it's easier for me to suspend disbelief.

At the very beginning Mama had an issue with something though. Alice asked if anybody else saw a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat, and she pronounced it WAIST-coat. Mama exclaimed, "How do they NOT know it's WESS-ket!?" Also, a waistcoat is a vest. What the rabbit is actually wearing is a frock coat with a waistcoat underneath perhaps, but it's mighty hard to see that as he's jumping through the rose bushes.

The thing that annoyed me more than saying WAIST-coat was the dog with his eyes on the wrong plane of his head. Dog's eyes are sort of on the sides of their head. This dog's eyes faced forward. Why change that? Mama says it was to make him look stupider. Makes sense. Humans eyes face straight ahead.

But just the same, the filmmaker had good taste. No papyrus font. I think my favorite part might have been the end titles. I was surprised people got up and left so fast. Maybe they didn't notice that internally lit mushrooms and primroses were growing on the metal grate in the foreground. Or maybe they didn't appreciate the sunset sky in the background. I suppose they already knew the names of all the actors that were being displayed in a lovely gold font in the middle ground. I think the end titles sum up the whole movie. It was just well balanced like that. The story was simple, but the characters were multidimensional. The costumes, makeup and scenery were extravagant, yet there was enough empty space to not jangle the eye.

The acting was excellent. I never quite got a bead on what the changes in accent meant as Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter went from a Scottish brogue to putting on airs. But the White Queen had affectations that came and went as well, so I presume it was on purpose. Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was no Johnny Depp, though. And no Helena Bonham Carter. Man, the Red Queen MADE that movie. She was horrible, but at the same time she got such pleasure from her horribleness you had to kind of envy her. She wasn't your usual insipid queen, spoiled yet unappreciative. She DEMANDED that treatment and savored the  entertainment value of her slaves. Being queen was no mere privilege, she had to work to keep her slaves obedient.

Whoever played Alice did her job perfectly as well-- nondescript. She was really only an observer right until the very end when she decided that she would participate in her life and not just go along with other people's plans for her. Of course she displayed this decision by going along with the White Queen's plans for her, but that was the last time!

The voice actors were very good too. I couldn't help thinking of Love Actually whenever the caterpillar spoke. Alan Rickman may remind you of Snapes in Harry Potter, but for some reason in this role he reminds me of his character Harry in Love Actually. A similar character really, in that you're never sure if he's on the right side or not. And Stephen Fry voicing the Cheshire Cat, well, I just love Stephen Fry. Play PG Wodehouse's Jeeves once and have my heart forever. Crispin Glover actually appeared as a whole person yet I still couldn't help seeing him as George McFly from Back to the Future. His character wasn't that crucial though -- it wasn't important for him to transcend my mental typecasting.

So overall I give Alice in Wonderland an A. A for absence of sentimentality. There was no Celine Dionesque soundtrack like Avatar, no dancing love scenes like Up (which honestly I only saw in Steve Job's iPad presentation but it was so horrible I dare not see the movie). Even the violence was balanced by the reaction of the characters who were obviously grossed out by the blatant gruesomeness of it. Right up until it meshed with their own quirky personality layers.

It's better than the trailer. The trailer made me worry that the extreme makeup would distract from what was actually going on. But it was really just interesting to look at. And the fact that Alice had no makeup at all was part of the symbolism. (She wasn't very interesting.)

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