MIA WASIKOWSKA

So Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” opened in London, and Chris Tookey of the Daily Mail says it’s long on visuals and short on story. Tookey’s take — get it? — is that Linda Wooverton diluted the project with her attempt to write a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books instead of re-telling the original stories — or, at least, one of them. So everybody — including Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen — looks great, but has nowhere to go.

“The story becomes a very different beast from the ones Lewis Carroll created,” Tookey writes. “It’s a tale of feminist empowerment, with an entrepreneurial, pro-capitalist ending that is unlikely to endear it to readers of the Guardian.” In other words, it’s a 3-D version of the health-care summit.

Sir John Tenniel's drawing of the Jabberwock

According to Tookey’s account, a central issue  in this tale is that the Red Queen has enlisted the Jabberwock, the Jubjub Bird and the Bandersnatch as enforcers in her reign of terror. In Carroll’s dream within a novel, of course, these were characters in a poem, not “real” creatures. Alice reads about them in a looking-glass book, which means a book in which the print is backwards so that one has to hold it up to a mirror in order to read it.

This poem, which Carroll meant as a parody of overblown poetry and pointless criticism, has been subject to so much serious study that it’s a shame Carroll didn’t live to see it. G.K. Chesterton remarked on this in 1932: “Poor, poor, little Alice! She has not only been caught and made to do lessons; she has been forced to inflict lessons on others.”

“Jabberwocky,” incidentally, is a particular challenge to translators who want to make “Alice” available to the non-English-speaking world. There’s a French version that begins: Il brilque: les toves lubricilleux / Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave …. A German translation begins: Es Brillig war. Die schlichte Toven / Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben ….

Chris Tookey’s review of Tim Burton’s film is at THIS LINK.

Advertisements
JOHNNY DEPP

JOHNNY DEPP

I have my reservations about the upcoming Tim Burton film based on Lewis Carroll’s novels, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.” Of course, I’m a stick-in-the-mud where this subject is concerned; I think filmmakers should be original and stop appropriating the classics. As I have written here with respect to Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol,” I have some patience with producers and directors who try to faithfully transfer a classic tale from print to the screen or stage, but they seldom do that without succumbing to the temptation to change what the author wrote.
Already Burton has changed the beginning of the story. He has replaced Carroll’s image of Alice lapsing into a dream while her sister reads to her on a summer day to Alice running away to avoid an anticipated marriage proposal. The young, wide-eyed Alice of Carroll’s story — and the real Alice Liddell who inspired the character — is now a sophisticated 17-year-old girl played by a 19-year-old actress, Linda Woolverton.
LINDA WOOLVERTON
LINDA WOOLVERTON
What makes a person like Tim Burton think he can tell Lewis Carroll’s story better than Carroll told it?
I am interested in the casting of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Burton seems bent on capturing the dark undertones — including insanity — that Carroll employed in his stories, and Depp is well equipped to bring to life one of  the most insane characters of all. This aspect of the books has  been explored before — for example in the 1985 film “Dreamchild,” a fanciful recollection of Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ visit to Columbia University in 1932 for an observance of Carroll’s centenary.
ALICE LIDDELL

ALICE LIDDELL

As did other tinkerers before him, Burton also combines Carroll’s two novels into the one production, as though each did not have its own integrity in Lewis’s mind and in fact.
It disappoints me that a generation of children — along with much of the generation that gave them birth — will see Burton’s film and accept it as a fair representation of Carroll’s work — missing out on all the satire and word games, tortured philsophy and twisted logic that made the Alice books the standard by which all such books would be measured.
But I suppose that’s less an indictment against Tim Burton than it is another sign of how time has passed me by.
THE MAD HATTER

THE MAD HATTER