austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

No one ever loses and no one can ever win

Alice in Wonderland, as you probably heard by now, doesn't really adapt the Classic Original Stories, which is probably just as well since even people who never read them have soaked up all the relevant plot points by now anyway, even if the diehard Lewis Carrol fans insist there's never been an adequate movie adaptation of the books. But the Return to Oz-ish premise of an Alice who, years later, remains haunted by dreams of Wonderland is a viable enough starting point and also lets them avoid having to rely on a child actor for the lead.

The movie looks impressive throughout, and the sets and characters and staging were nicely captivating. Even the unattractive characters were charismatic, although we didn't really get a good enough look at the March Hare. The White Rabbit got better screen time and had a grand look and way of moving. About the first two-thirds of the movie has things going basically right, with a lot of scenes that seem to make just enough sense to give that strange enchanting air that isn't quite serious enough to suggest a nightmare but which has the sincerity to feel like it could be one.

Where things start to fall apart is the conclusion where the inhabitants of Wonderland, having seen in Glinda's Great Book of Oz that Alice will slay the Jabberwock, insist on her actually doing it. The starting point of the whole movie was Alice in reality-land refusing to marry the Upperclass Twit Of The Year that everyone says she Must Do. After an hour and a half of Alice declaring that she's going to make her own destiny --- and coming back to that in the conclusion --- having her go in for slaying the Jabberwock just because a magic scroll shows her fighting it suggests something coming from a wholly different movie, one that can support a traditional heros-and-villains narrative. Worse, she battles the Jabberwock by using the vorpal sword, rather than --- as the climax hints for a little while she might do --- using it as a prop while out-thinking the problem. She out-thinks the problem of how to get the vorpal sword away from the Bandersnatch; why can't she be cleverer than all of Wonderland in handling a Jabberwock?

We also ended up distracted by pieces in the movie which suggested that it, like every movie, was The Wizard Of Oz. Several of the reality-land characters used in the framing had obvious duals in Wonderland. Once that's put in, the temptation is to see how they all might be; but the matches just peter out half-completed. Maybe that's fair enough, although if Wonderland is supposed to in the narrative serve as a place where Alice can find in herself the solutions to the problems facing her, why isn't more of what she faces in Wonderland an echo of the framing story?

For an example of how this got distracting, the Upperclass Twit of the Year whom Alice doesn't want to marry is strikingly red-headed. You don't have to read literature like a professor to see that as a sign that he Doesn't Quite Fit In, and it suggested that there was some hidden secret --- that he'd be dual to a heroic figure in Wonderland, or that he'd turn out to have the sort of exciting adventurous personality Alice wants given the chance to show it. No dice. He's got red hair because he ... looks more like Upperclass Twittish that way.

And one point honestly irritated me, and I think bunny_hugger too --- ironically, one which did have a readable dual. Among Alice's relatives in realityland is her spinster aunt who's been waiting for decades for a prince that nobody else believes will ever appear. She clearly matches the Wonderland residents who've been suffering the depradations of the Red Queen for decades waiting for Alice to re-appear rather than getting on with their lives and doing something about the problem themselves. When Alice gets back, she tells the aunt that her prince is a fantasy and she should get over it. That's pretty cheeky talk for a person who's just had proven to her satisfaction that the thing she had assumed was a lingering childhood fantasy was cold, hard reality that might pop back into relevance at any moment.

It's easy to focus on the irritating things, of course. The setup of the movie is fine and many of the pieces in it are grand to look at and get lost in. It's just the closing pieces that need to be chopped off and rewritten to actually match the setup.

Trivia: The name ``refrigerator'' was coined in 1803 by Maryland farmer Thomas Moore, to describe his invention of a double-walled icebox. Source: Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876 - 1915, Thomas J Schlereth.

Currently Reading: Return To Earth, Buzz Aldrin, Wayne Warga. Not a library book sale book; I found it in my storage locker and couldn't swear that I'd read it. Internal evidence suggests I got it from the used book store opposite the K-Mart on the road from Troy to Latham.


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