Friday, May 07, 2010

Alice, where art thou?

OK, been there, done that. Just have seen "Alice in Wonderland" (still have red traces upon my nose from the polarized spectacles). And what could I say, as a summary? One word: nauseating.

Obligatory warning: if you still want to see it for yourself, be informed that the rest of this article might contain spoilers.

 First of all, there is almost nothing left of the original story, apart from some main personages and a handful of plot threads. As a compensation, there is a lot of the stuff which the author of the original book, I dare to think, would never put in himself. A Galsworthy-made-bigger-than-life kind of society; two stories melt together into one (imagine a first and a second course in one bowl);  bits and peaces of fantasy from the previous years that the public has already gobbled down, so the risk of indigestion was probably estimated as low; and on top of all,  in the afterglow of the story, a mention of the "wonderful" idea to open a business in China (with Alice and A Serious Guy peering at Maps of Real Wonderlands  - was that the idea?). Surely one had to kill a Jabberwock to get to that? Did the Chinese have some share in this franchise? 

One light spot in all this was Johnny Depp, of course. He just can't play in a boring way, and Mad Hatter is one of the roles which is almost especially tailored for Mr.Depp. So no complaints here. I can imagine that when the movie was finished he was murmuring to himself: "I was again the best actor in that bleak crowd, especially when the magic voice of Alan Rickman was not interfering with my aura". So be it.

But but but, where is the spirit of Lewis Carrol story in all this? Where is that world with the laws which are both like and unlike the laws of our own world, as if seen from more than one completely different angle at once? Where is the discretion and the subtleness, where is the reality seen as a giant playground rather than a battlefield, as we are so often learned to believe by so many other movies? (And utterly, with the one in question, too). Where are the paradoxes and the silly rhymes?

Some of that did survive, of course, but so strongly vinegared with "life-motivating" quotes and images ("It's only your choice to go to battle..." , the good white queen looking to much like a stuffed Galadriel, cherries in blossom - why don't I remember anything of that in the original books? - and some other cliches which I am too tired to mention).

Thinking about what I just wrote, I could finally summarize it thusly: the original stories written by Lewis Carrol didn't have any moral. At least, the moral was not spelled with big flashing letters on every page. In the film, it is. (I can even understand that - who would finance the movie with a high risk of being misunderstood and therefore financially unsafe? Mass culture, like a fairy tale,  has some rules to obey.)

Not sure if I will even want to watch anything Tim Burton will do after that. Especially if he will again decide to tackle the classics. I am afraid for my digestion, you know.

1 comment:

Anna Nachesa said...

As my son has put it: "Star Wars for Alice". Very well said.