Fighting with the Sky

Off With Their Heads

Posted on: March 6, 2010

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Alice in Wonderland.  Not only did I think that it was going to be an interesting retelling of the classic story, but it was also a Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp.  And it did not disappoint.

Warning: major spoilers.  If you have not yet seen the movie and plan to, please come back later unless you don’t mind spoilers.

I am only going to be looking at a few aspects of this movie, but there are plenty that could be examined.  One of many, for example, that I am not going to address in this post is the representation of mental illness, especially through the Mad Hatter.

In this Alice in Wonderland, Alice is now almost 20 years old.  She believes that her previous trip to Wonderland is a recurring dream and throughout the entire movie, she has to keep reminding herself that it is only a dream.  Alice is feeling pressured to accept the marriage proposal of the son of the man that bought her father’s company.  So when he proposes, she runs away and follows the rabbit down his hole and finds herself in Wonderland again.

Wonderland is different from her previous visit.  Since then, the Red Queen has taken over Underland (as it is properly named, Alice just called in Wonderland as a child).  The White Queen needs a champion in her name to stand up against the Red Queen’s champion.  It has long been foretold that Alice is said champion that will defeat the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen’s champion.  Alice is very hesitant to accept this destiny.  She eventually does accept it and defeats the Jabberwocky in an epic battle that restores the crown to the White Queen.

Before I start getting into my analysis, I want to say that I am probably a little biased because I did really want to like the movie, which probably made me like the movie and miss some of the problematic elements.

I was very impressed with the movie overall and with the message that the movie sent, especially to girls and young women.  Alice did not want the life that was being laid out for her; she didn’t like corsets and stockings, she didn’t want to marry the man that she had essentially been promised to, and she didn’t feel like she fit in because of her active imagination that she was not afraid to share with others.  But then she finds herself in Wonderland, where her life is also being laid out for her, but in a different way.  She is expected to be this hero, this savior that she doesn’t think she is capable of being.

Alice will not accept either of these lives that are being laid out for her; she wants to make her own path in life and isn’t afraid to do so.  While at first she does not accept that she is capable of being the White Queen’s champion, she later accepts this responsibility and finds the courage that she needs to defeat the Jabberwocky.

The movie also speaks heavily to believing in the impossible.  In the “real world,” Alice is often criticizing for believing in the impossible, yet she is hesitant to believe in the “impossible” world of Wonderland, trying to convince herself that it is only a dream.  In the end, it is believing in the impossible that gives Alice the courage that she needs to defeat the Jabberwocky.  Her father often told people that he thought of six impossible things before breakfast time.  So Alice listed off six impossible things that were proven possible in Wonderland, ending in her defeating the Jabberwocky.

In the end, Alice finds herself back in the “real world” where she refuses the marriage proposal of Hamish, tells people what she really thinks about them, and gains an apprenticeship at her father’s previous company after impressing the new owner (Hamish’s father) with her unconventional and imaginative ideas for expanding the company.

I am really glad that this movie was rated PG because I think it gave girls and young women a good role model in Alice.  Alice shows girls that you don’t have to accept what is being laid out in front of you if it is not what you want and that you have the power to choose what you do with your own life.  The movie also shows us that good things come from believing in the impossible and believing in yourself.

On top of the great themes and messages that Alice in Wonderland, there was some great acting and directing.  I’m a really big fan of Tim Burton’s work, ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas.  And this movie didn’t disappoint.  Johnny Depp was great as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter did not disappoint as the Red Queen in all her quirky, complicated goodness.  And Anne Hathaway perfectly portrayed the good-hearted, idealist White Queen.  And relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska was brilliant as the naive day-dreamer, Alice.  And anything that includes the voice on Alan Rickman (the caterpillar) is good in my book.

And I’d just like to say that I really want the wardrobe for Alice.  I would totally wear all those costumes if I could pull them off.

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