Making the Grades
If you were one of the many left bemused and confused by Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland from 1951, the first thing you’ll be happy to know about this 2010 live-action/animated hybrid version is the existence of a real story! (If, on the other hand, you did find meaning in that "mad" production, then my hat’s off to you. Unfortunately, it just made my head spin.)
Under the direction of Tim Burton, little Alice has matured into a young lady (Mia Wasikowska) living in Victorian England. Obliged to accept the public proposal of a suitor she doesn’t care for, she instead runs away from the crowd and follows a strange rabbit wearing a waistcoat. Moments later, she’s down the rabbit hole and in a world she is certain she has visited in recurring dreams from her childhood.
However, Wonderland isn’t quite the slaphappy place it once was. Bumping into the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Alice soon discovers that her coming has been foretold as the one who will bring peace back to the land by slaying the Red Queen’s fearful Jabberwocky (a huge flying dragon) with the coveted Vorpal sword and restore power to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Of course the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) isn’t pleased with this prospect. She currently holds dominion over the land and guards the sought after weapon with her vicious Bandersnatch (some sort of hairy, toothy creature). Now she only wants to find the prophesied "Alice" and be "off with her head!"
Fans of Lewis Carroll will recognize Vorpals, Jabberwocks and Bandersnatches as being parts of his famous nonsense poems and stories of Alice. This new adaptation deftly integrates many of these original features, which pays homage to the classic author’s works, but likely won’t please purists. Along with reimagining the plot, the film offers a very 21st Century empowered woman—a conclusion that simply wouldn’t have happened in 19th Century England.
From a family perspective, parents will be happy to know there is hardly any sexual content or language, but violence will be an issue for younger viewers. Battles with swords and the explicit chopping off of a fantastical creature’s head are the most explicit of the many moments of peril and ghoulish images in this film. And, yes, for all those who were convinced the original Alice was nothing more than a drug fantasy, the hookah-smoking caterpillar is still puffing away—although the movie never mentions just what is in the device. (Hookahs may contain anything from hallucinogenic drugs to tobacco or benign spices.) While there is no evidence of the character being inebriated or "high," anyone conversing with a blue, talking insect could be accused of being in that condition.
Looking quite stunning in a 3D presentation and providing some creative answers to the questions of Alice’s first adventure in Wonderland, this new take on an old tale is surprisingly engaging. For older children and teens, it might even be worth jumping into the nearest rabbit hole to go and see.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Alice In Wonderland.
Why do you think Disney has opted to include a more conventional story and structure to this new version of Alice in Wonderland compared to their 1951 animation? Are movie-going audiences any different today than they were in the 1950s?
Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) is best known for authoring the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This movie borrows heavily from his poem Jabberwocky, which appeared in his second Alice story. You can find his novels (first published in 1865 and 1872 respectively) at your local library.