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Alice in Wonderland 3D(2010)
19-year-old Alice returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and of course, the Mad Hatter. Alice embarks on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen's reign of terror.
For more about Alice in Wonderland 3D and the Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray release, see Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Michael Gough
Director: Tim Burton
» See full cast & crew
Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray Review
All that's wondrous are the amazing visuals.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 9, 2010
It's only a dream.
No filmmaker makes it easier to pick his or her films out of a lineup than the master of the truly insane as art, Tim Burton. Burton's films -- whether live action, animated, or somewhere in between -- have fascinated audiences all the way back to Pee-wee's Big Adventure and on through to movies like Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and Sweeney Todd, all of them existing in some richly-realized fictional world where up always seems down, where right always seems left, and where flamboyant color and dense shadow collide in some kind of modernist collage of weirdness that more often than not works as some appealingly perverse but generally, in some form or fashion, family-friendly fašade, if that family happens to be named Adams, anyway. With that in mind, Alice in Wonderland seemed the perfect story for a Tim Burton movie. Here's a world -- based on Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- where sometimes up really is down, where right really is left, where bright colors and dark shadows converge, and where nothing is as it seems or as it should be. Wonderland -- or "Underland" as the case may be -- is just that, a playground for both Burton's awkwardly creative eye and the mesmerizing special effects that are the results of the wonders of modern technology. Still, for as good as Burton's final film looks, it lacks, well, something that didn't quite make it down the rabbit hole with good old (and in this version, "old" isn't a bad descriptor) Alice.
Young Alice (Mia Wasikowska) seems destined to lead a stuffy English life, a prospect that has her dazed and confused and spying glimpses of a rabbit in an overcoat dashing around Lord Ascot's garden estate. When she's publicly confronted with a proposal for marriage, she dashes away and tumbles into a hole that takes her to the Underland, a land of mystical creatures, topsy-turvy friends, deadly foes, and a destiny for which Alice wants no part. It's not long before a now-minuscule Alice (she drank from the bottle that commanded her to "drink this!") meets several of her Underland allies -- Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a dodo bird, a dormouse, and that running-late white rabbit -- who inform her that she's the one they've been waiting for, the young girl who, as it's been foretold by a compendium known as The Oraculum, will slay the evil Red Queen's (Helena Bonham Carter, Planet of the Apes) Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature that ferociously breathes out a reign of terror over all the land. The foretold date of her victory is Frabjous Day, but concerns over Alice's identity lead the gang to a smoking caterpillar named Absolem (Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest) who doubts Alice's identity as the chosen hero of Underland. Nevertheless, Alice -- convinced she's existing in a dream world of her own making -- faces danger on her journey back to consciousness and, with the help of the Hatter (Johnny Depp, the Pirates of the Caribbean films) and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry, V For Vendetta), learns that she may indeed have the strength to save Underland from the head-obsessed Red Queen and her reign of terror.
Burton's vision of Alice in Wonderland seems pretty spot-on considering both the source material and the director's own patented style. It's certainly a far cry from the Disney animated movie of the same name from decades past or even the "Star Trek" episode Shore Leave; Burton's modern adaptation is aided immensely by countless and seamless special effects and a budget just this side of the national debt. Visually, the picture is equal parts foreboding shadows and nearly neon hues while also juggling a balance that pits the ordinary against the extraordinary with just about every person, place, and thing looking and sounding anywhere from normal to drastically but almost comically disfigured and disproportioned or, in the case of many of the film's characters, existing in a state of impossibility given the rules of the real world. Hence, "fantasy," and Alice in Wonderland is one of the most fantastical stories ever told and, now, retold by one of the modern world's most gifted crafters of the fantastical. It's no surprise, then, that Alice in Wonderland is Burton's most daring picture yet in terms of sheer visual prowess and excess; the latter in particular seems to be the film's real raison d'etre. In Alice in Wonderland, Burton seizes the opportunity to go all-out without having his peculiarities challenged; after all, it's a modern updating of a tale older than his great-grandfather, written in what is an occasionally nonsensical style meant to both engender humor and further shape a fictitious world where everything exists within some tangible, real space and time and identifiable by readers and, with this film, viewers at a base level but not necessarily at a logical one. Talking caterpillars, vanishing cats, playing cards-as-soldiers, and other oddities shape and define the story but offer ample opportunity for not only fantastical gibberish but visual delight. Stylistically, Burton has unequivocally succeeded in translating Carol's oddball world to the screen, but is there anything beyond the sights and sounds of Underland to make his version worth more than its technical prowess?
Unfortunately, Alice in Wonderland's visual delights dwarf whatever semblance of thematic relevancy is to be found in the movie. Alice plays as little more than a humongous chocolate easter bunny, dressed in the brightest and shiniest foil wrapping but turning out to be hollow beyond the first layer of chocolate. Sure, it looks good and tastes even better, but there's just not as much there as one might be led to believe. Alice in Wonderland is a lightweight where it counts, the movie devoid of much meaning beyond serving as a frame for Burton's genius eye and Carroll's imaginative fantasy world. The picture's plot is incredibly thin, disguised by lavish production values but minimalist nonetheless, beginning as a bad Jane Austen-inspired sort of movie and ending with Johnny Depp suddenly turning into Michael Jackson for a fleeting few seconds, with some generic and far-too-stretched-out hybrid story about a girl destined to slay an evil dragon under the control of a grossly resized, slathered-in-makeup, and practically unidentifiable Helena Bonham Carter whose body shape resembles Mr. Mackey and who manages to annoy her way to the heights of villainy. Off with her head! Worse, the remainder of the characters are as unsubstantial as Burton's take on the story, and none have much value beyond helping what plot there is move from beginning to end. Burton standby Johnny Depp is flamboyantly excellent as the Mad Hatter, a character who, oddly enough, graces most of the promotional materials for a movie in which he's not even the title character. He's almost unrecognizable under the excess makeup and orange wig, but he and fellow Mary Kay model Anne Hathaway exuberantly overact and seem to have a blast with the material, unlike poor Bonham Carter whose character is far too lost in makeup, special effects, and screeching commands to matter all that much and do little more than act the part of the side show. Mia Wasikowska turns in a take-it-or-leave-it effort as Alice, looking appropriately dumbfounded here and like she's ready to be cast in the next Narnia movie there. The cast is generally fine but their characters are flimsy at best, and Burton's visual tour-de-force simply crumbles under the old adages that say that neither "too much of a good thing" nor "too little of a good thing" are always good. Balance, my dear filmmakers. Balance.
Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Alice in Wonderland's Blu-ray 3D transfer is incredibly impressive considering the film was shot natively in 2D and later converted to 3D. It certainly fares much better than either of the current poster children for subpar 3D conversion on Blu-ray, Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender, so much so that it's hard to imagine Alice not being a native 3D film. It takes its cues from Blu-ray 3D's best, Avatar, by offering up an incredibly steady 3D image that offers good depth that's oftentimes realistic but never forced. The image is perceptibly deep only when it needs to be; shots out into a crowd at the beginning as Alice is confronted with her marriage proposal show almost countless rows of people stretching back into the depths of the television, and of course the many visual splendors around Underland offer up the opportunity for some great 3D imagery as various trees and foliage appear perfectly layered one against another while grandiose throne rooms and other visually rich locales seem to stretch on and on. There are also a handful of neat little effects, such as when a tea cup comes hurtling towards the audience or when fire appears blasts forth from the front of the television, but such occurrences flow naturally from the story and don't seem at all gimmicky. "Ghosting" is also only minimally intrusive when the film is replayed on Panasonic's first-generation Blu-ray 3D hardware.
Alice in Wonderland also features a wonderful color balance that handles Tim Burton's unique scheme rather well. The image is suitably dark where it needs to be and bright when the occasion calls for a splash of the film's many exquisite hues. Any scene in Underland is as good as any other to critique, but take, for instance, Alice's arrival into Underworld as she leaves the cramped room a smaller person and meets her friends; the dreary overcast sky, gray pathway, and other assorted dark corners of the image are perfectly balanced by several extraordinarily bright flowers. The image finds a wonderful harmony between light and dark throughout, and colors never seem diminished when watching through the 3D glasses as compared to the standard 2D presentation. Alice in Wonderland does look a bit soft at times, but almost deliberately so, it seems. Alice's face and skin always appear just a bit on the smooth side, almost giving her something of a slight otherworldly feel. Otherwise, detail is quite strong and sometimes borderline exquisite in clothes, buildings, digital characters (particularly the Cheshire Cat), and other assorted elements scattered about the film. Blacks are quite good, never veering too far into a debilitating, detail-destroying shade, but instead, for the most part, serving as a fine compliment to the movie. All told, Disney has done a remarkable job with Alice in Wonderland; one can only wonder what went wrong with the 2D to 3D conversions of the aforementioned films and what went right here. Please note that all screenshots were captured from the 2D Blu-ray included in this package. Also, note that there is no pop-up menu during 3D playback, and scene selection is limited to pressing the chapter skip button on the remote.
Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Alice in Wonderland dazzles in the audio department with its faultless DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman provides the picture's magical score, and every note is precisely and vividly realized; Disney's lossless presentation spreads the music out perfectly, with every note both high and low and light and potent seamlessly spilling from the entire soundstage, with the bulk of the musc handled up front but the back channels carrying their fair share of the action. Alice in Wonderland is also packed with extensive sound effects, each and every one properly balanced and perfectly integrated into the 5.1 experience. With its more subtle elements like the rattling and creaking of a horse-drawn carriage early in the film or environmental ambience in the form of rustling leaves and chirping birds that play as a bit more pronounced than normal within the confines of Underland, Alice in Wonderland consistently plops the listener into the middle of Tim Burton's magical world. On the flip side, more pronounced sound effects -- the roar of powerful beasties or the general din of dangerous hand-to-hand combat at film's end -- are spaced and focused just so to create a seamless 360-degree wall of sound that, along with the track's prolific bass, delivers a consistently immersive experience. Indeed, everything from the most ear-piercing highs to the most destructive lows are handled with the precision and accuracy reserved for the finest tracks. Dialogue, too, is focused and impressive, remaining tightly up the middle save for those occasions when it effortlessly bounces around the walls of the Red Queen's cavernous throne room. Disney's done it again with Alice in Wonderland, delivering a faultless listening experience that, even considering this package's strong 3D presentation, proves the highlight of the entire four-disc set.
Please note that audio and subtitle listings above are for the 3D release only. Please refer to the Blu-ray.com listing of the original 2D only release for details on what it includes.
Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alice in Wonderland's supplemental package consists of primarily two extras -- Wonderland Characters (1080p, 27:56) and Making Wonderland (1080p, 19:29), both of which break down into several morsel-sized extras with, generally, self-explanatory titles. All extras are included on the 2D Blu-ray disc; nothing is included on the 3D platter.
Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Alice in Wonderland is an overpowered and underdeveloped but nevertheless intriguing and generally fun film that's got it halfway right. Tim Burton's take on Lewis Carroll's make-believe world of Wonder(Under)land is lavishly realized down to the finest detail, but there's still something missing from it all that leaves the movie as devoid of meaning as a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth in a 14-1 ballgame. The film's visual excesses can't mask the underwhelming plot, the well-acted but poorly-scripted characters, and a long middle stretch where not much happens on the way to the predictably inevitable special effects climax. Alice in Wonderland is Burton's most visually arresting film, but it lacks the spirit of Batman, his finest movie where strong characters, a great story, and a pronounced yet balanced noir style all worked to cinematic perfection. Disney's four-disc Blu-ray 3D release of Alice in Wonderland offers up a strong 1080p 3D transfer, an even better lossless soundtrack, and some extras on the 2D Blu-ray disc. As a 3D release, this one's quite good considering all the bells and whistles, and it comes recommended for those who liked the movie well enough to buy it a second time in 3D.
Alice in Wonderland: Other Editions
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Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Alice in Wonderland 3D Blu-ray Wide Release - December 2, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced that on December 7, it will re-release Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in a four-disc Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's classic had previously been released ...
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