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Alice in Wonderland (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 26, 2010 by  



“Alice in Wonderland” is a enjoyable, action-driven version of the characters loosely based on the original Lewis Carroll novel.  Gorgeous and creepy in visual presentation, director Tim Burton captures the feel of wonderland.  If you enjoyed the film, you will definitely enjoy the Blu-ray release!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Alice in Wonderland

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit), English 2.0 DVS,  Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Fantasy Action/Violence involving Scary Images and Situations and for a Smoking Caterpillar)

RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2010

Directed by Tim Burton

Based on the books by Lewis Carroll

Screenplay by Linda Woolverton

Executive Producer: Chris Lebenzon, Peter M. Tobyansen

Producer: Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Richard D. Zanuck

Co-Producer: Katterli Frauenfelder, Linda Woolverton

Associate Producer: Derek Frey

Music by Danny Elfman

Cinematography by Dariusz Wolski

Edited by Chris Lebenzo

Casting by Susie Figgis

Production Design by Robert Stromberg

Art Direction by Tim Browning, Todd Cherniawsky, Stefan Dechant, Andrew L. Jones, Mike Stassi, Christina Ann Wilson

Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara, Peter Young

Costume Design by Colleen Atwood

Starring:

Mia Wasikowska as Alice

Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter

Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen

Anne Hathaway as White Queen

Crispin Glover as Stayne

Matt Lucas as Tweedledee/Tweedledum

Stephen Fry as the voice of Cheshire Cat

Michael Sheen as the voice of White Rabbit

Alan Rickman as the voice of Blue Caterpillar

Barbara Windsor as the voice of Dormouse

Paul Whitehouse as the voice of March Hare

Timothy Spall as the voice of Bayard

Marton Csokas as Charles Kingsleigh

Lindsay Duncan as Helen Kingsleigh

Geraldine James as LAdy Ascot

Tim Pigott-Smith as Lord Ascot

Leo Bill as Hamish

Frances de la Tour as Aunt Imogene

Jemma Powell as Margaret Kingsleigh

John Hopkins as Lowell

Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice for a fantastical new adventure from Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton. Inviting and magical, ALICE IN WONDERLAND is an imaginative new twist on some of the most beloved stories of all time. Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19 years old, returns to the whimsical world she first entered as a child and embarks on a journey to discover her true destiny. Wonderland is a world beyond your imagination and unlike anything you’ve seen before. The extraordinary characters you’ve loved come to life richer and more colorful than ever. There’s the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and more. A triumphant cinematic experience – ALICE IN WONDERLAND is an incredible feast for your eyes, ears and heart that will captivate audiences of all sizes.

The film’s opening weekend made ALICE IN WONDERLAND the highest-grossing non-sequel opening weekend in history, the biggest March opening of all time, the biggest 3D opening of all time and the biggest IMAX opening of all time.

“Alice in Wonderland” is Tim Burton-lite but that will appeal to the young and old, without becoming overly dark or twisted.

The 2010 film directed by Tim Burton (“Corpse Bride”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Beetlejuice”) and a screenplay by Linda Woolverton (“The Lion Queen”, “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey”, “Beauty & the Beast”) is loosely based on the Lewis Carrol 1903 classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

Featuring a production by Team Todd (The Austin Powers films, “Memento”, “Across the Universe”), the 2010 Disney incarnation received a lot of buzz when the announcement was made that the film would feature a reunion of both director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp but the that the film would feature a cast tat would include Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman and many more.  The film would also receive buzz about the creation of the world of Wonderland and the extensive use of CG, especially with its steep production budgeted at around $200 million.

Despite receiving reviews that were 50/50 from film critics, there is no denying that a Tim Burton film would bring people to the theaters and in this case, the Burton and Depp mystique would help bring in over $996 million dollars in the box office.  The film would achieve the sixth highest grossing opening weekend of all time and the highest opening weekend for a non-sequel and also surpassing “Avatar” in the IMAX and is currently the highest grossing film of 2010.

The film revolves around a young girl named Alice Kingsleigh (played by Mia Wasikowska) who at a young age would have these unique dreams of talking animals and going to another world.  She would tell this to her father who would be open to hearing more about Alice’s dreams.

Flashforward to Alice at 19-years-old and she is taken to a garden party at Lord Ascot’s estate and finds out the party is actually a proposal party in which a young man named Hamish would be asking Alice’s hand in marriage.  But when she sees a white rabbit wanting her to join him, she goes after the rabbit and ends up falling into a rabbit hole and taken to another world.

In this world, she meets the white rabbit, the dormouse, a dodo and two bumbling twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  Each are debating if the young woman is “the right Alice” who has been documented as slaying the Red Queen’s dragon known as the Jabberwocky on the Frabjous Day to restore the power of the White Queen.

Of course, Alice doesn’t think she’s a fighter and thinks they have found the wrong Alice.  While the others debate on if Alice is the actual Alice or not, the Red Queen’s Knave of Hearts (played by Crispin Glover) and the Red Queen’s soldiers go to capture the white rabbit and others.    As everyone tries to escape, the Knave of Hearts finds a scroll and realizes that the girl who was seen running may be the Alice on the scroll who is planning to kill the Red Queen’s Jaberwocky.

Meanwhile, as Alice travels the Wonderland alone, she is greeted by the Cheshire Cat who brings Alice to the Mad Hatter (played by Johnny Depp), Doris the Mouse and March Hare.  As the Mad Hatter tries to figure out if Alice is the right Alice, he explains to Alice of how the world is not the same since the Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) has taken the crown away from her sister the White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) and how the Red Queen has had many good people killed or imprisoned and has ruled the area and making everyone fear of her.  But as he tries to explain to Alice of her path, Alice does not believe she is the person that can fight a dragon and refuses to believe that she is the one they are looking for.

The Red Queen has issued an order to the Knave of Hearts to capture Alice and with the help of Bayard the bloodhound, has them searching for Alice and leading them to the Mad Hatter.  With quick thinking, the Mad Hatter shrinks Alice and throws her on his hat to avoid being caught by the Red Queen’s soldiers but in the process of doing so, is captured by the Red Queen’s soldiers.  But feeling guilty over how the Mad Hatter has protected her, Alice now wants to infiltrate the Red Queen’s castle and rescue the Mad Hatter and her new friends.

Will Alice find the strength to save her friends?  And does she have what it takes to slay the Jabberwocky?

VIDEO:

“Alice in Wonderland” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1) and for the most part, “Alice in Wonderland” is a film that showcases a great amount of detail on Blu-ray but in terms of colors, for example, Alice going with her mother for a party, the color seem quite muted (like it’s overcast) and I looked at it as a way for the film to show the viewer how Alice was a bit disenchanted with her life.  When she falls into the hole, we notice a different, surreal landscape that was created digitally.

In fact, you will see in the special features that a large part of the film was created alongside a green screen, so for the most part, the film is CG-heavy and one can expect gorgeous CG graphics for Wonderland.  Blacks are nice and deep and scenes such as the Red Queen’s lair and the use of reds are quite vibrant.  And as mentioned, there is a good amount of detail.  From Mad Hatter’s hat to the tea party and more.

As for the DVD version that is included with the three-disc Blu-ray release, the DVD is presented in Widescreen 1:78:1 (enhanced for 16×9 televisions).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Alice in Wonderland” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit), English 2.0 DVS,  Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.  The lossless audio was very well done as the film is quite immersive.  From crowd ambiance, to the smallest noises created by the Red Queen’s servants to the thunder clouds approaching nearby, to the galloping horses, the march of the soldiers and more.   Dialogue is crystal clear through the front channels as Danny Elfman’s music utilizes the front channels while the surrounds utilize the special effects.  From Alice falling through the hole and hitting various objects to the various characters running from the Red Queen’s soldiers and more.

“Alice in Wonderland” may not be action-heavy but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA is no slouch either.  Audio is well done for this film and overall, a satisfying, immersive lossless soundtrack.

As for the DVD version that is included with the three-disc Blu-ray release, the DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and English 2.0 DVS French and Spanish.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Alice in Wonderland” comes with the following special features (in 1080p High Definition or 480i, Audio in English 5.1 or 2.0 and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish):

  • WONDERLAND CHARACTERS: (27:56)  This segment contains the following special features:

Finding Alice – The special effects, costume design and more.

The Futterwacken Dance – Futterwhat? Check out the making of the timeless dance called the Futterwacken.

The Red Queen – The creation of the Red Queen from start to finish, including early Tim Burton sketches showcasing costume designs, make-up and digital effects.

Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen – A short time-lapse piece showing Helena Bonham Carter as she gets her make-up done. A three-hour process can be watched in just a few short minutes.

The White Queen – An interview with Anne Hathaway, who plays Wonderland’s good queen, about her character’s journey throughout the process of the film.

  • Making Wonderland – (19:28) The following segment contains the mini-featurettes:

Scoring Wonderland – Composer Danny Elfman and Tim Burton discuss the music for the movie.

Stunts of Wonderland – A featurette highlighting some of the biggest stunts in the film.

Making the Proper Size – An inside look at the visual effects process of growing and shrinking Alice. See how filmmakers used different techniques to stay true to the storyline.

Cakes of Wonderland – Take a trip to “Cake Divas” where the creators of the EAT ME cakes provide viewers with details about how they made the smallest crumb to the largest cake in scale.

Tea Party Props – Tea cups, saucers, cakes and more. Prop master Doug Harlocker gives an overview of all the props used to bring the famous tea party scene together visually.

EXTRAS:

“Alice in Wonderland” is available via a single Blu-ray disc release and a 3-Disc release.  The 3-Disc release comes with a slip cover featuring artwork different than the main cover insert.  Also, the film comes with a DVD version of “Alice in Wonderland” and a Digital Copy.

Tim Burton was able to create a magical world of Wonderland with its characters with the heavy use of CG.  The film was literally filmed with a big green screen all around and people having to wear it while most of the work was then added via post-production in making sure the characters, the scenery and of courts the animals and inhabitants of this world are captured quite well in the film.  So, I had no doubt that the Blu-ray release would look good because mostly everything is CG-driven.

“Alice in Wonderland” is a film that was received 50/50 and for the majority of the critics who are familiar with the Lewis Carrol novel, the film was a major deviation from the actual story.  Whereas the novel was about a young Alice who ends up in Wonderland and interacts with the inhabitants of the land including the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the King and Queen and Ducchess and literally an adventurous experience of a girl in a new land.

As for the Linda Woolverton screenplay, the film is about a young adult Alice who faces adulthood.  Not knowing how to explain her emotions and being asked to take part in a marriage (in which she doesn’t love the man), she just wants to escape.  In Wonderland, this escape from reality is where Alice gets to know her true self and learn how to stand up for herself without anyone calling the shots in her life.  Call it a coming-of-age film, “Alice in Wonderland” deals with a young woman not knowing her true strength but when her life and her new friends lives are in danger, she is the only one that can defeat the Red Queen’s biggest weapon.  She may not think that it is possible but her brief stay in Wonderland will eventually be an incredible test.

Typically, I am a reviewer who tends to find CG-driven films to be quite banal of late.  Granted, “Avatar” was a film that was extremely well-crafted and as for “Alice in Wonderland”, I actually enjoyed the world that Tim Burton and staff was able to create. Wonderland may be lush but a CG film can only go so far.  It depends on the characters and its storyline.  And reading a number of reviews, the film was split 50/50 for critics who enjoyed it or those who felt the film was to astray when compared to the original novel or just more eye candy and an unappealing film.

Sean P. Menas, film critic for The Salt Lake Tribune wrote, “Burton’s overamped, visually frenetic and chaotically action-heavy adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” manages to be both too much and not enough of what a retelling of Alice should be.”

I have to agree with Sean P. Menas and that “Alice in Wonderland” is a film that could have been an amazing trilogy if given the chance.  As I pondered about the film, sure, images of “Lord of the Rings” came to mind but it would have been great if there was more to the story of “Alice in Wonderland” because 109 minutes did not seem enough.  And I felt that Tim Burton’s storyline was diluted by its pacing of trying to get from point A to point B so quickly that I found myself more in-tuned with Alice’s character and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter was just a creepy character that needed more time.  Even the Cheshire Cat which was so instrumental in the novel was left with very little in the film.

Michael Smith of the Tulsa World writes, “A disappointment on a massive scale canvas, Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is a beautiful, giant bore that’s almost comedy-free. It may be of some interest to adults, but kids will be bored to tears, unless they don’t listen to the leaden dialogue and imagine they are watching a new video game.”

Although, I didn’t find “Alice in Wonderland” as a giant bore, I found it to be entertaining and felt it was a film that had potential but in the end, making you feel it was OK or good but not fantastic.  I can’t call the film a disappointment on a massive scale, especially as it is one of the highest grossing films of all time.   I also feel that with the pairing of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, the films success was facile and if anything, their pairing would lead to financial box office success but I may not be an erudite when it comes to the original novel’s storyline but I do feel for the film, the story of “Alice in Wonderland” could have led to more sequels and stretch out the story to make us care for the characters and even Wonderland itself.

We are told that Alice has been to the Wonderland many times before, even painting roses for the Red Queen and this is where I find the biggest fault of the film.  The original novel would have served a better first film for “Alice in Wonderland”, taking her to adulthood and bringing her back as featured in this film as a sequel.  This would have made sense and a much more engaging film.

I did enjoy Mia Wasikowska as Alice.  She fit the part of a young woman trying to find herself and both Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway did a wonderful job playing the queens.  And Johnny Depp, he was wonderful as the Mad Hatter but for each of these three characters, once again, I just felt there was more storyline for these characters that could have been developed.  I felt there was too much emphasis on the glitz and the look of the world while watching a girl who was trying to find her inner strength.  Granted, that was the writer’s intention but for all these characters introduced, including the CG animated animals who play a major part in the film, it would have been great to see these characters explored a bit more.   If anything, making the viewer care enough to see them rescued or have created some emotional connect to them.  I just felt the pacing of the film was a bit rushed.

As for the Blu-ray release, there is no doubt that “Alice in Wonderland” is a beautiful film with tremendous detail.  The lossless soundtrack is very good.  A good amount of special features and you do get a DVD and digital copy for the 3-disc release.  So, as a total package, its a pretty solid Blu-ray release from Disney.  If you enjoyed the film, you will most definitely enjoy the Blu-ray release.

Overall, I was content with “Alice in Wonderland” and I’m sure that both parents and children may find the film entertaining.   Those who are familiar with the original story may feel the storyline’s deviance from Lewis Carroll’s work to be too much of a difference and for children, for the most part, this is a safe film with not much violent content until the latter end of the film in which Alice goes against the Jabberwocky.   Some parents might find the scene a bit too much for younger children and in that case, parental guidance is suggested.

But for me, I felt the film had tremendous potential but missed its target.  Sure, it was a box office success but as  I watched the film alongside with my seven-year-old son, after the film was done, the words that came out of his mouth was  “is that it?”   And like my son, I felt the same way about “Alice in Wonderland”… “is that it?”.

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