I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland last week. If I was doling out stars, this would receive one out of five, for the special effects. Strictly speaking, I should deduct that star because the Jabberwock does not wear a waistcoat but I'm feeling generous (relatively speaking).
Where to start? If you haven't seen it, you need to understand this film is not based on Lewis Carroll's books. A few characters and ideas are riffed upon by ... who exactly? I see in this film, the dead hand of a team of script writers with all eyes fixed upon audience expectations.
I re-read the Alice books a few years ago and what struck me about them, something I didn't notice as a child, is how bad tempered all the characters are. Including Alice, there is not one sympathetic character; both books are whirlwinds of intemperance. Carroll's characters are also funny and memorable. They are probably how adults seem to children. All except Alice, who is the intemperate child trying to make sense of the misperceptions of the adults around her.
All this is entirely absent from the film, which takes the same old, same old walk through sentimentality on the one hand and violence on the other. Carroll's characters are either not violent or their violence is comical. Whatever we think of the Queen of Hearts' 'Off with their heads', it feels as if she doesn't really mean it. It is her ill temper speaking.
Burton's Alice is an adult and has stumbled upon a Manichean world, bearing a striking resemblance to Hollywood's finest insights into the human condition. There are good characters and evil characters. A few characters journey from one pole to the other but all in the timeless tradition of the American Imperialist worldview.
In Carroll's universe everyone is united in their bad temper. In Burton's, there is no we, 'we' are divided into good (white of course) and bad (red like communists). So, the script clunks along in a sub-C S Lewis kind of a way. Alice gets her suit of armour and it feels like Hollywood's Narnia (this was not C S Lewis' best outing into popular culture, Aslan sounded like every American's dream of what God sounds like).
So, Burton has taken out the humour (that waistcoat is important) and substituted violence. Poor Alice would have been better off marrying the man lined up for her in the surrounding story, than spending five minutes in Underland (yes, that's its real name apparently - is this ground to demand my money back?).
I am at a loss to know why actors such as Mat Lucas and Stephen Fry took part it in. Didn't they read the script? Why did they lend their name to such tosh? The actress who plays Alice at least gets to wear some decent costumes (one star for that) until we get to the suit of armour (lose the star).
Does it matter? If you watch the film as an exercise in identifying America's imperial agenda, this film is worth watching. But we have to say to the world's number one Christian nation, where have these ideas come from? Even the most radical atheist in Europe can see this is propaganda. It isn't wholesome entertainment for children. It is patronising and radically misleading about the nature of good and evil.