By Andy Lauer | Indiewire February 26, 2010 at 4:1AM
The first reviews for Tim Burton's hyper-hyped "Alice in Wonderland" are trickling in following its premiere in London last night. What to anticipate when the film opens in the US next week:
"Not that there was any doubt that, when it came to restaging the 1865 Lewis Carroll classic for a 21st century sensibility, Tim Burton would be the man for the job," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen. "But even the filmmaker's trademark winsomely outlandish style doesn't prepare you for the thoroughly enjoyable spectacle that is his 'Alice in Wonderland.' A fantastical romp that proves every bit as transporting as that movie about the blue people of Pandora, his 'Alice' is more than just a gorgeous 3D sight to behold."
"'Alice in Wonderland' whisks 3D live action with animation, antique storybook illustrations with the aesthetics of an 80s goth video," reports Xan Brooks in the Guardian. "Does it amount to anything more than a dizzy whirl? Well, possibly not. Here is a film in which the art direction eats the magic cake and swells to giant proportions, while the script drinks from the magic vial and shrinks away to insignificance. But no one ever looked to Burton for nuanced human drama and stately character development. Instead, we turn to him for flamboyance, spectacle and a benign whiff of madness. 'Alice in Wonderland' provides all that in abundance."
The Independent's Geoffrey Macnab: "Burton's Wonderland is not cosy in the slightest. It's a gothic netherworld inhabited by shape-shifting and threatening creatures. Initially, at least, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), with his clown face and shock of orange hair, seems genuinely deranged. Tweedledum and Tweedledee (delightfully played by Matt Lucas) look as if they might have slipped out of some avant-garde Czech cartoon. The visual style, pitched somewhere between animation and live action, is both creepy and ingenious."
"'Alice in Wonderland' brings the best out of Burton, one of Hollywood’s greatest fabulist-imagists, but it also underlines recurrent weaknesses in his work," writes Emanuel Levy. "Always a master of brilliant visual set-pieces, Burton, no matter who he collaborates with as a scribe, is not a narrative storyteller in the conventional sense of the term. There's almost always a gap between the astounding visual and the dramatic level of his movies, as was clear in his first mega-successes, 'Batman' and 'Batman Returns.'"
"Quite like what one would expect from such a match of filmmaker and material and also something less, this 'Alice in Wonderland' has its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement," observes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years."
The Telegraph's Mark Monahan: "Prior to Alice's fall, you almost forget that you are watching a 3D movie, but that's deliberate. It is only once she loses her footing that Burton ('Beetlejuice,' 'Edward Scissorhands,' 'Corpse Bride') unleashes his full bag of digital trickery, and the experience – as you hurtle down, down, down with her – is amazing."
"Commercial considerations have also made Alice 19 years old, for the all-important teen market," notes Kate Muir in the Times. "Burton lets her break the Victorian mould and become an empowering, feminist figure as she puts on some Joan of Arc armour, grabs the vorpal sword and roars 'off with your head' at the Jabberwock. In all, a fantastic film that gets curiouser and curiouser."
The BBC covers the film's premiere while the New York Times' Mekado Murphy reports that Disney and the Odeon cinema chain have resolved their dispute and that Odeon will no longer be boycotting the film in its theaters. Watch the trailer for "Alice in Wonderland" on YouTube.