Alice in Wonderland posterBy staying true to his form, Tim Burton has taken a classic children's tale and turned it into a movie that's probably too scary for the story's original target audience. It's starting to seem like every new adaptation of a classic children's story that comes out these days seems to have been made a little too scary for younger audiences, most recently in A Christmas Carol. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. I loved A Christmas Carol, and few things could be so dangerous to the success of a Tim Burton film than by making it for little kids. This is part of the reason Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was such a disappointment. But considering that this movie is a book adaptation but consists mostly of invented material, Burton's version is surprisingly good.The movie takes place years after "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." Alice is now 20 years old, suffering from recurring nightmares of her trip to Wonderland as a little girl, and struggling to live in the oppressively proper atmosphere of a young lady in Britain, where her imagination and sense of individualism simply don't fit in. When an unimpressive suitor asks for her hand in marriage, she finds the passing White Rabbit much more interesting and follows it through the woods, ultimately falling down the rabbit hole. Here similarities to the plot of the book take a sharp turn, although the movie still feels faithful to the original material.Mia Wasikowska as Alice This time, when she arrives in Wonderland, it's the same place but also years later (time passes in Wonderland just like here in our world, kind of like how we dream in real time), and all of Alice's old friends remember and miss her. But the evil Red Queen has taken over control of Wonderland, while the White Queen is exiled and powerless. The Hatter and the March Hare are still having their strange tea party, but life has completely stagnated without Alice's presence. When we first see the Hare and the Hatter about 30 minutes into the movie, the Hatter is snoozing at the tea table with his chin on his chest, and we can almost feel the life flow into him when he sees Alice.A lot of people have complained about Johnny Depp's performance as the Mad Hatter, but the biggest problem for me about the movie was nothing more than an overabundance of battle clichs. Alice's task in the movie is to slay the Jabberwocky - which you may remember from the curious poem in the book - in order to restore power to the White Queen and put the wonder back in Wonderland. The Red Queen and her henchman.Unfortunately, like so many special-effects-heavy movies these days, this one also dissolves in the third act into uninteresting action sequences which are almost entirely devoid of any freshness, despite the talent involved in creating them.It should be noted, however, that there is almost never any sense of disappointment that the movie doesn't adhere very closely to the original stories, which is a testament to the quality of the filmmaking, and of Burton's unique vision. There isn't a frame of it that isn't thoroughly recognizable as a Burton film, which is what makes this such a perfect story for him to adapt. Since Alice has been gone, as the Hatter explains, the Red Queen has taken over and spread chaos all over Wonderland, and Burton is exactly the man to show us a world that used to be breathtakingly beautiful but is now twisted under the burden of darkness. Mia Wasikowska as Alice, in Wonderland.In the book, Alice looks through a tiny door and sees "the loveliest garden you ever saw." Here, she sees something straight out of a Tim Burton movie, and she immediately knows that Wonderland is in trouble.Ah, and of course something must be said of the characters. The March Hare is mad as a hatter, as they say, flinging teacups at everything and everyone in sight, and is nicely presented. Alan Rickman lends his infamous drawl to the caterpillar who sits smoking a hookah on the mushroom and making bizarre statements (he's probably most of the reason why there are so many rumors that Lewis Caroll was on drugs when he wrote the original stories), and while he never sounds like anything other than Alan Rickman, the character comes across well. Tweedledee and Tweedeledum, however, are thoroughly strange creations. Their clever playing on words from the books is sort ofTweedledee and Tweedledum preserved, but they are now just a couple of freakishly fat British kids with cockney accents who I think far underplay the energy of the original characters. The Cheshire Cat, however, possibly the most famous character from the stories, is outstanding in both voice and animation. His appearances and disappearances are exactly what I imagined while reading the book.Depp's performance as the Mad Hatter is the most famous one in the movie, and the one that will probably receive the most complaints. I'm not always a fan of Depp's roles where he plays a character with a bizarre personality (I thought his turn as Willy Wonka was among his least impressive performances of his career), but here I don't think that he was at all over the top or annoying. Anne Hathaway as the White Queen in Alice in WonderlandI was worried he might come off as sort of a Jar-Jar Binks character, shooting for energy and eccentricity but just coming off as irritating, but I was pleased to see he was able to restrain his energy and give the Hatter just the right level of strangeness. Indeed, he seems like exactly the kind of person that one might grow up to be, living in Caroll's Wonderland. But Anne Hathaway as the White Queen seems like a mistake to me. She just doesn't look right.But yeah, those battles at the end of the movie were just not my thing. Nicely rendered and animated and everything, but it's too bad to see a movie overflowing with an almost uncontrollable level of creativity descend into a clich of a battle right at the end, although this did give Depp several opportunities to show a different side of his character, which was welcome. Crispin Glover as the Knave of HeartsThere is a dancing scene with him at the end that feels like a strange homage to Michael Jackson, but the problem is that it comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere, like it was just dropped right into the movie simply to distract the kiddies from the sad and scary scene that immediately preceded it.But all in all the movie was good, I'll even admit even though Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, I didn't think the movie would be as good as it is. I just kept having bad feelings from memories of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for which I had enormous hopes but which I just ended up hating. Mia Wasikowska gave a wonderful performance as Alice, she's exactly what I would have imagined Caroll's Alice to be as a young woman, and when a film can match what you imagined when you read a book it's a pretty impressive thing. Definitely a movie that I would recommend seeing in 3D while you have the chance!The Bean MeterThe Man. [caption id="attachment_73401" align="aligncenter" width="638" caption="Come on in..."]Come on in...[/caption]