Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Mia Wasikowska
Extras: Featurettes, DVD version, Digital Copy
When Tim Burton touches a movie project, it is practically guaranteed to have a very distinctive look and feel and also to be outside the realm of what most people would call traditional. When he tackled the classic C.S. Lewis story "Alice In Wonderland, " there was no doubt in my mind that Burton's creative imagination would blend masterfully with the original material. Now available on Blu-Ray, I was eager to take a look.
Alice has grown up and forgotten all about her childhood trip to Wonderland. On the day of her engagement fear of throwing her life away kicks her imagination into overdrive and a surprise visit by an old friend, the rabbit with the watch, whisks her off to the magical world of Underland once again.
Underland is in trouble, as she finds out very quickly. The Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) is ruling the lands with an iron fist and has not only done away with her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), to illegitimately seize the throne, but is also using her army to keep everyone in check. According to the prophesies only Alice can save them – but Alice just doesn't know how. When she meets the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) she finally begins to understand the gravity of the state of affairs and slowly begins to take things into her own hands. A face-off with the Red Queen becomes inevitable.
I've never been a huge fan of the original "Alice in Wonderland" story. Somehow it never struck a chord with me, but this somewhat more mature version of the film did appeal to me quite a bit. Whether it is Tim Burton's distinct visual style with its powerful colors and somewhat twisted characters, or simply the maturity of the material at hand, I am not entirely sure. It might be the combination of both, presenting "Alice in Wonderland" less as a child's fairy tale and more as a fantasy story.
Relying heavily on his visual trickery and style, Tim Burton created a signature look for the film. From the Mad Hatter with his huge, almost feline, eyes to the Red Queen with her bulbous head, every frame of the film presents viewers with a uniquely skewed version of the material that is so distinctly Burton's. With every frame, character, backdrop and prop heavily tweaked by computer-generated imagery, the film becomes an intriguing blend between an animated film and a live-action movie. Unlike many other films, it never becomes cartoonish, though, or colorful for its own sake. More than once I thought to myself that "Alice in Wonderland" is actually what "Avatar" wanted to be but couldn't – a movie experience filled with an otherworldly flair and seemingly breathing characters.
Presenting the film in a 1080p high definition transfer, one couldn't ask for a better presentation. The word pristine comes to mind and clearly, this is a reference quality transfer without any defects or blemishes. Boasting incredibly rich colors with hues that are leaping off the screen, the picture is also displaying a level of detail that is simply staggering. Black levels are absolutely solid, giving the image incredible visual depth that helps bring the magical world of Underland to life like never before.
The release features a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that is modern and powerful. Making aggressive use of the discrete surround channels as well as the dynamic range the format offers, the audio presentation on this disc is every bit as mesmerizing as the look of the film. With a low bass extension that rumbles the woofer quite solidly, the track also features clear high ends, giving the track a nice, balanced clarity throughout. Danny Elfman's score is also presented magnificently, adding to the overall tone of the movie.
The release is filled with bonus materials, such as an incredible variety of featurettes that take a look at virtually every aspect of the movie's production. Examining each of the main characters more closely in the "Wonderland Characters" section, the featurettes found in the "Making Wonderland" section cover things such as the music, the effects, the stunts, and countless other production aspects.
On the second disc of the set you will find the full DVD version of the movie, complete with a few of the same bonus featurettes, while the third disc in the set offers up a digital copy of the movie for use on your computer or mobile device.
"Alice In Wonderland" is every bit that magical journey I had expected – and more. Having a much firmer grip on the storytelling aspects of modern day computer supported moviemaking than James Cameron's vastly overrated "Avatar," this movie is absolutely stunning and enchanting from start to finish.