Alice in Wonderland (2010, Tim Burton, Disney)

I recently saw the new Alice in Wonderland. I enjoyed it, but found myself comparing it to various manga and anime that uses (or reinterprets) imagery from the book. Which is probably a somewhat odd way of looking at it, since this version of Alice in Wonderland is live action with CGI, not anime.

I also found myself thinking of it as “AU fan fiction” which is probably odder still. I think what particularly lends to this feeling/approach (as AU fan fiction) is the way that “Underland” is a darker and somehow more “young adult” fantasy world than “Wonderland.” It matches the more mature perceptions of the now teen-aged Alice who has grown up feeling somewhat constrained and unhappy because of the expectations and restrictions of Victorian society. (I think the urge to compare it to manga/anime is the not quite/almost romantic interaction between Alice and the Mad Hatter.)

In this movie, we see a nineteen-year-old Alice who has forgotten her previous experience in Wonderland, believing it only to have been a strange, recurring dream. During a formal garden party (which has a lot starts and stops as she discovers that among other things, her brother-in-law is having an affair, and that the garden party is actually an engagement party,) she glimpses a white rabbit in a waistcoat. Instead of accepting the wedding proposal (from the son of her father’s business partner) she runs after the rabbit, and falls down a hole into “Underland.”

After sequences reminiscent of both the book and animated film, Alice enters Wonderland where she meets various strange creatures who expect her to be able to help them slay the Jabberwock and defeat the Red Queen. (An event, which according to a scroll, is expected to occur on the “Frabjous Day.”)Since she believes her prior adventures to have been a dream, and because the Dormouse, Tweedle Brothers, and Dormouse (who has a very Reepicheep personality in this film, though she actually reminds me more of Surka, from the web comic Digger) misinterpret something said by the Blue Caterpillar, so they are no longer sure that she is the “real Alice.” The Red Queen’s forces break up this encounter and everyone is either scattered or captured, and the Bandersnatch attacks Alice.

After escaping the Bandersnatch she encounters the Cheshire Cat, who takes her to see the Mad Hatter, who is having tea with the March Hare and the Dormouse. There is some more debate about whether she’s the real Alice, the wrong Alice, or not quite Alice enough, and then the Red Queen’s troops catch up and the Hatter rescues Alice. Then Alice decides that she has to rescue the Mad Hatter, and things start to quickly move toward the day that she’s supposed to defeat the Jabberwock with the Vorpal sword. (Or, if you ask the Jabberwock, the day that it’s going to face its old enemy, the Vorpal sword.)

Alice is at first very reluctant to be the White Queen’s Champion, both because she is very resistant to doing what’s “expected” of her, and because she doesn’t believe she can face the Jabberwock. She changes her mind after conversations with both the Blue Caterpillar and the Mad Hatter, who both give her their own version of the “believe in yourself” speech. (As per the Hero’s Journey and Coming of Age story themes.) I really liked this movie, and will probably end up watching it again if it shows up at my library.

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