Blu-Ray Review: Alice In Wonderland

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“I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast.” We all think of impossible things throughout the day. Why I have already thought of four just writing the first line. It’s all part of our imagination. I can only imagine how many, may have thought this film to be impossible, even mad to make. This film has worded my thoughts the best way, “all the best people must be” mad. With that said, Tim Burton (Sweeny Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Walt Disney Pictures have taken what many of us have beloved with the creative “madness” of a stellar cast of characters and amazing artisans, created a world full of that impossible imagination and brought it to the screen in “Alice in Wonderland”.

Along the way we see the characters that make up this land of imagination. The ever expressive and crazy Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Public Enemies).Playing Alice who is lost  in her thoughts of what to do in each world, Mia Wasikowska (Amilia, Defiance). Red “Off with their head answer to everything” Queen is played by Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter series, Sweeny Todd). The elegant of elegance, yet at times unrefined, White Queen is Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries). Crispin Glover (Charlie’s Angels, Willard) plays Stayne-Knave of Hearts, the companion and commander of the Red Queen’s card army. “Rounding” out the humanly played cast is Matt Lucas (Shaun of the Dead) as the ever rhyming and nonsensical Tweedledee and Tweedledum. This is by no means the end of an eclectic and brilliant supporting cast of voices who bring the rest of Underland’s colorful characters to life. Stephen Fry (Bones, V for Vendetta) as the, always out for himself, Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen(Frost/Nixon, New Moon) as the watch tapping White Rabbit, Alan Rickman (Harry Potter series, Love Actually) puffing his way through this life as the Blue Caterpillar, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series, Enchanted) as Bayard the trusty bloodhound, Barbara Windsor (EastEnders UK) as the lovably heroic Dormouse, veteran UK actor Paul Whitehouse (Finding Neverland, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) as the caffeine deprived or maybe over stimulated March hare, and Sir Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings series, Star Wars I-III) is the ominous and forbidding Jabberwocky.

In the end, Alice In Wonderland is a lightweight confection that will not make you groan uncontrollably, but you might feel you’ve being scoffing someone else’s indulgence.

The movie played in 3D as well as traditional theaters, and there’s a sense of 3-dimensionality everywhere. Some of the sequences in the fantasy world are deliberately grainy, as when the Mad Hatter recollects how the White Queen was deposed, or when Burton decides to burnish a scene with a golden-brown or blue wash. But for the most part, the AVC/MPEG-4 (48kHz/24 bit) transfer to 50-gig disc appears to be a good one. Colors are bold and bright in some sequences, and Burton-dark in others, depending upon the mood. Black levels also vary according to the sequence. But the level of detail is generally strong, and you never for a minute think that the shifts are anything but deliberate. “Alice in Wonderland” is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, “enhanced” for 16×9 televisions.

There are around an hour and 50 minutes of bonus features that are organized into two sections: Wonderland Characters and Making Wonderland. Character segments are Finding Alice, The Mad Hatter, The Futterwacken Dance, The Red Queen, Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen, and The White Queen. The common denominator here is enthusiasm. All of the actors are enthusiastic about the collaboration with Burton and the room that he gave them to interpret their characters. With Depp, for example, it was a historical take. It turns out that the phrase “mad as a hatter” came about because hat-makers or “hatters” were exposed to high levels of mercury in the materials that they used, and it really did turn them a bit mad. The features are all quite short (the longest is six minutes) but the actors are so engaging that they draw you in.

The Making Wonderland section features segments on Scoring Wonderland, Effecting Wonderland, Stunts of Wonderland, Making the Proper Size, Cakes of Wonderland, and Tea Party Props. The Cake Divas who were called upon to produce the pastries clearly were star-struck, and their segment is fun to watch because they’re outsiders working suddenly inside Hollywood. But it’s fascinating to see all the stilt work and wire work that went into this film, and how often Alice had to be seated higher or lower against a green screen than the others.

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