Thursday, November 25, 2010

Try not to become a brand

I watched Alice in Wonderland, mostly because Firecracker wanted to. The trailers looked atrocious, and Burton's disappointed me with everything after Mars Attacks!

That's around the point Tim Burton went from being a creative director and became a brand. It happened to M. Night Shyamalan, too. He made interesting movies like Unbreakable, which flopped, so he had to become Mr. Twisty Guy. Burton flopped with the hilarious spoof on invasion epics, so he had to switch to making Hot Topic friendly remakes and reimaginings of known properties. Next up is his & Depp's take on the cult TV horror favorite, Dark Shadows.

I don't care about that- seems right up their alley- but I've been a fan of Lewis Carroll's twisted little children's tales from a young age. I've read the Annotated versions, where every possible interpretation is in the margins, and find the obvious retellings with the innocence removed rather boring and banal. What makes the books so endlessly amusing is how they ignored convention. The problem is, Gothing things up to appeal to teenagers is conventional now. So is turning it into a fantasy action movie, down to Alice reciting an Arnie one-liner as she beheads the Jabberwocky (sic).

I'd have loved to see what Julie Taymor could have done with this concept and budget. The under-appreciated Across the Universe was much more exciting and interesting than this video game cut scene put to film. Backstory kills mystery, and I didn't care for any of it. Alice should be any clever girl who feels out of sorts because she doesn't act like she's expected. That's all the story you need. They turn the Dormouse into Reepicheep from the Narnia films, Depp's Mad Hatter is like watching 90's-era Robin Williams in drag, and the rest of the excellent cast is truly wasted, and not in a good way.

Yes, they call the draconic beast the Jabberwocky, and not the Jabberwock. Not sure why. The Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in one of the few amusing roles) is actually the Queen of Hearts from the stories. But the goody good in "Underland" as it is now called, is the White Queen, so her enemy must be a queen as well. This leads to a climactic battle of playing cards fighting chess pieces, and the rest of the fantasy world is as jumbled as you can imagine such a battle being. Logic and proportion don't fall sloppy dead, they come and go by the whims of the script.Which makes for 2 hours of cotton candy. I don't know about you. I can eat a peach for hours, but cotton candy gets a little boring.

There's even a blessedly brief dance number at the end. But it's Disney after all; you can't expect them to take risks anymore. They became a brand long ago.

© 2010 Tommy Salami


Andrew Wickliffe said...

I don't think I've seen a Burton movie since Sleepy Hollow and however much of Planet of the Apes I watched before stopping it.

I've heard good things about Big Fish and Sweeney Todd and terrible things about everything else...

Though I'm mildly curious about Dark Shadows, depending on who they cast opposite Officer Tom Hanson

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