16 November 2009

Down a Hole

Several people have asked me to comment on this.

These are people who know that I am a minor expert on All Things Alice (no, really. it is something that I legitimately know a lot about. That is what happens when you write your undergraduate and Masters theses on the same thing. And then become a bit of a collector.) AND also a pretty big Tim Burton fan. (Although I wouldn't necessarily call myself an expert.) I think that these well-meaning people are thinking that I am excited about this film.

I am not.

Don't get me wrong. I will have to see it as soon as it comes out (March 5, 2010). But I have low, low, low expectations. It's going to be amazing looking. Burton doesn't make anything that isn't. This is why I love his films. But, generally, and boy does it pain me to say this, I would just as soon watch his films with the sound off. Because Tim Burton has NO talent for storytelling (Edward Scissorhands notwithstanding). Seriously. He ruins just about every film he makes by not being able to pace or satisfyingly conclude narratives. I don't necessarily hold this against him. He's much more interested in creating something visual than he is in storytelling.*

But I actually care about All Things Alice. And I do not need to see Burton reconceive Alice as he did Sleepy Hollow (which, again, was beautiful, but certainly made Washington Irving turn in his dark, dank, gothic-y grave).

My fears have NOT been allayed by this trailer, because if I am reading it correctly, it looks like Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter might be narrating the film. This does not bode well. First of all, the Mad Hatter is the most annoying and over-remembered character Lewis Carroll created. (The Doormouse really steals the unbirthday tea party scene, after all.) Also, I, for one, am somewhat tired of the Burton/Depp lovefest. Johnny Depp is not the best actor to play every character that Burton has ever wanted to feature. He wasn't the right choice for Willie Wonka. NOR Sweeney Todd. And certainly not Icabod Crane. (He was, certainly, the right choice for Edward Scissorhands, and was an inspired casting choice as Ed Wood.) I anticipate hating this character.

That said, the visuals will make it watchable, as will performances by Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry (! YAY ! As the Cheshire Cat!) and Crispin Freakin' Glover.

*This is actually something that a lot of my favorite directors have in common--an overriding interest in one aspect of filmmaking that leads him (usually him) to under-develop most other aspects. SO, for instance, Kevin Smith is so much more interested in dialogue than almost anything else that his movies tend to look like crap. Strangely, this does not make me like him any less.


Old Man Duggan said...

Is this real? Are you actually sort of blogging again?

My problem with Johnny Depp is that he hasn't played a grounded character in about 20 years. I imagine him walking around his French palace like a gay pirate Keith Richards full of self-pride for being utterly disconnected.

Only being able to play weird is not a skill. It just means you're weird, Johnny.

James said...

I think you're right about Tim Burton not being a good storyteller. I always forget what happens in his movies about a minute after they're over, except for certain images. It's sort of like being under hypnosis for an hour and a half (not that I've actually been under hypnosis, but I've seen it on Hawaii 5-O and Fantasy Island, so I can guess what it's like). The only exception I can think of is Pee Wee's Big Adventure, but I'm guessing that's the only movie he's ever made that he didn't have total control over. Also, making something like Alice in Wonderland seems like too much of a contrived "risk" on his part. In interviews, he can say things like, "Well, lots of people told me that it was crazy for me to do such a beloved tale, but I was all like, 'Skip that noise! I'm doing it in spite of you naysayers!'" but really, it's the most predictable thing he's done.

By the way, there's a Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA this winter. http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/313