All questions of quality aside, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film grossed shocking amounts of money at the box office globally. We have noted previously that Disney was already planning the inevitable sequel, and Johnny Depp was rumored to be returning as the Mad Hatter. Rolling Stone magazine has now confirmed that both Depp and Mia Wasikowska (Alice) will reprise their roles in Alice in Wonderland 2. Burton, however, will not be directing this time around. That job will fall to James Bobbin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords).
The exact details of the plot for the sequel have not been divulged by Disney, but given the mischmasch screenwriter Linda Woolverton made of the two Alice books in the first film, it’s anyone’s guess what the storyline will be for the second film. A prequel? One long tangent off the first movie? One can only wonder what Lewis Carroll would have thought of Alice as a sword-wielding superhero. I suspect he would have strongly questioned (as do I) whether putting a sword in a young woman’s hand and making her a slayer was really the best way to “empower” her. Let’s hope the sequel is truer to at least the spirit of the original works. Otherwise, why use Carroll’s characters at all, why not write an original story? (Oh, right–the sheer convenience of instant character recognition and endless marketing potential of all things Alice.)
Still, Depp and Wasikowka are both always well worth watching (if you haven’t seen the latter’s version of Jane Eyre, she’s wonderful in it). So here’s hoping Disney somehow comes up with a frabjous script the second time around. And if Disney is really smart, they will find a way to persuade Helena Bonham Carter to reprise her scene-stealing turn as the Red Queen, too. That was the performance in the first film that really made people lose their heads.
From the “knock me over with a tea tray” department comes news reported by one of our faithful Mimsy Minions: Johnny Depp is set to return as the Mad Hatter in Disney’s inevitable sequel to their shockingly successful 3D Alice in Wonderland. The new film, tentatively titled Into the Looking Glass, will be directed by James Bobin rather than Tim Burton. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton is again on board, so we can probably expect more of the same. But as she already used a number of Looking-Glass characters in the first film, it’s not clear what the cast of characters or plotline will be this time around. For more information, click here.
In case you hadn’t already heard, regardless of what many Carrollians may have thought of Disney’s Tim Burton/Linda Woolverton Alice in Wonderland 3D flick, the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide, so of course a sequel is in the works–penned yet again by Ms. Woolverton. Apparently the sequel will be “inspired” by Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Given that Ms. Woolverton has already shown her version of Alice “empowering” herself by slaughtering the Jabberwock (and drinking its purple blood, in true warrior style) in the first movie, one wonders what acts of violence Alice will be called upon to perform in the sequel to prove that she’s an “empowered” woman, with that pesky Jabberwock already out of the way. Perhaps she’ll actually carve the mutton? Perhaps she’ll carve up everyone in the banquet hall while she’s at it, for good measure. Or maybe the Jabberwock’s female partner will make an enraged appearance for the finale? One wonders whether Helena Bonham Carter will be asked back to fulfill the obligatory “evil Red Queen” role; she certainly was a highlight of the first film. And given that the second book includes the character of “Hatta” we can almost certainly count on seeing the wacky countenance of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter again. It would certainly be nice to have Mia Wasikowska back in the lead role; she lent considerable grace to the first effort. Let’s hope that this time around, Ms. Woolverton will at least entertain the possibility that Alice can take charge of things without drawing blood. You know, the way Lewis Carroll’s original Alice did. We can dream, can’t we?
Star-studded photo from the White House 2009 Halloween Party
Mad Tea Parties and politics are in the news again, but this time thrown by the Democrats. President Obama’s 2009 Alice in Wonderland-themed “star-studded” Halloween party is central stage in a mini-scandal, coming to light because of details in a new book called “The Obamas” by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times. Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing criticizers of the President are claiming the party was secret and extravagant. The White House has responded that the party was for military families and not at all secret. From the Huffington Post article “Limbaugh: Media Helping Obamas Cover Up Secrets“:
“The Obamas,” by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, has already prompted a fierce response from the White House to its stories of infighting between Michelle Obama and her husband’s staff. But the media has latched onto another story in the book. Kantor alleges that the White House deliberately downplayed a lavish, Tim Burton-designed Halloween party held in 2009 so as not to appear out of touch with economically struggling voters.
Though they did not mention the details of the party in official briefings at the time, the White House has pushed back on this story as well, saying that the news of the party was mentioned in a Tennessee paper and on a Johnny Depp fan website.
Kantor writes (via the NY Post) that Burton made up the room “in his signature creepy-comic style… He had turned the room into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies… Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton’s own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character.”
George Lucas, the book says, sent over the original Chewbacca costume for the occasion. Kantor also writes that the President and First Lady’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, and their friends were entertained with a magic show in the East Room.
Local children and military families were also invited.
According to the Wikipedia, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is now behind only two James Cameron films, the final Lord of the Rings movie, & another Disney Johnny Depp flick, as the highest grossing movie world-wide (of all time, partly adjusted for inflation.) They discuss the difficulties of calculating these figures meaningfully (inflation, ticket-price inflation, population and distribution, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)
In comparison, in their “List of Highest Grossing Films in the U.S. and Canada: Not Adjusted for Inflation”, Alice in Wonderland is merely 20th, just above Forrest Gump. It is still the highest grossing film of 2010. Not bad for a movie sort-of based on a Victorian-era children’s book with no linear narrative. And also, a bit of an Alice-redemption for the Disney Corporation, whose 1951 version received sour reviews and box office disappointment.
When Lewis Carroll published a few thousand copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, with no hype or buzz, it received some mixed reviews. That’s one of the few things Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has in common with Carroll’s original stories. The critics were out this week, and occasionally perceptive. As of this morning, the “top critics” that Rotten Tomatoes tracks average at about 59% (between rotten tomato and ripe tomato), with the general masses giving it about 53%. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, one of my favorite critics to disagree with, had some interesting insight into the Alice Paradox in movies:
Dark and sometimes grim, this isn’t your great-grandmother’s Alice or that of Uncle Walt, who was disappointed with the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.” “Alice has no character,” said a writer who worked on that project. “She merely plays straight man to a cast of screwball comics.” Of course the character of Carroll’s original Alice is evident in each outrageous creation she dreams up in “Wonderland” and in the sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass,” which means that she’s a straight man to her own imagination. (She is Wonderland.) Here she mostly serves as a foil for the top biller Johnny Depp, who (yes, yes) plays the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Burton’s bright and leaden whimsies.
Her conclusion, however, is vague and baffling:
This isn’t an impossible story to translate to the screen, as the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer showed with “Alice” (1988), where the divide between reality and fantasy blurs as it does in dreams. It’s just hard to know why Mr. Burton, who doesn’t seem much interested in Alice, bothered.
The great Roger Ebert, at the Chicago Sun-Times, admits he didn’t care for the books growing up, which possibly explains some of his strange tangents:
This has never been a children’s story. There’s even a little sadism embedded in Carroll’s fantasy. It reminds me of uncles who tickle their nieces until they scream. “Alice” plays better as an adult hallucination, which is how Burton rather brilliantly interprets it until a pointless third act flies off the rails. It was a wise idea by Burton and his screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, to devise a reason that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now a grown girl in her late teens, revisiting a Wonderland that remains much the same, as fantasy worlds must always do.
Burton shows us Wonderland as a perturbing place where the inhabitants exist for little apparent reason other than to be peculiar and obnoxious. Do they reproduce? Most species seem to have only one member, as if nature quit while she was ahead.
How could he not develop that shocking exposée? Who was the Duchess’s baby daddy? Is there a Mrs. Mock Turtle!? I wish Carroll was around to explain the laws of dream procreation.
One more quote, I’ll give Elizabeth Weizman of New York Daily News my highly coveted Saying Nothing Award:
“Frabjous” may be a word Carroll invented, but Burton knows just what it means, at least in his own mind. He’s clearly excited to invite us inside, and as long as you’re open to so much muchness, you’ll be very glad he did.
This parsing of critics possibly to be continued… In the meantime, I have several questions:
-How come no one has discussed the influence of Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth I from BBC’s “Blackadder II” (1986) on Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen?
-Why was the Dodgson-esque figure named Charles at the beginning Alice’s dead father? What?
-Did the bizarre Chinese trade-route plot-line at the finale, which was guided on by the blue butterfly (née Caterpillar), have anything to do with opium (i.e., the possible contents of the Caterpillar’s pipe)? I know it was 2am and I had a headache from two hours of drinking wine in an IMAX with 3D glasses, but I think I may be onto a possible explanation for the otherwise unexplainable China thing.
Tonight is the world premier of Exposure Time by Kim Merrill at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, New Jersey. Is this the first time a work of drama has centered on Charles Dodgson the photographer? Merrill’s play won the 2009 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. Here is some of the blurb from the press release, “Alice Through the Camera Lens”:
While Johnny Depp portrays the Mad Hatter on movie screens around the world this winter, Lewis Carroll, the conflicted creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, will be on stage at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, fighting passionately to be known not as a
children’s author but as Charles Dodgson, the greatest portrait photographer in the British Empire. Standing in his way is the larger-than-life and now tragically forgotten Julia Margaret Cameron, who was the Annie Leibovitz of her day and a constant thorn in Dodgson’s side. The real Alice will be there as well, trying to sort out her complex relationship with Dodgson, along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian Idol of a society that worshiped its poets like rock stars. The world premiere of Exposure Time runs from February 11 through March 21, with an Opening Night performance and High Tea on Saturday, February 13.
A magical journey into the literary heart of Victorian England, Exposure Time is a perfect play for young teens and above. Schools are invited to contact NJ Rep to discuss booking special discounted matinee performances that include lesson plans and post-show discussions with the actors.
Discounted previews are Thursday and Friday, February 11 and 12 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m., with selected Sundays performances at 7 p.m. as well as Thursday and Friday matinees by prior arrangement for students and other groups. Tickets are $40; $35 for previews; $60, opening night; $36 for seniors and students (except opening night); with discounts for groups of ten or more.
Do we have any readers in Vancouver? Near Vancouver? I don’t know, but if we do they should go to Vancity Theatre – the Vancouver International Film Center – on Sunday to see a rare screening of Norman Z. McLeod’sAlice in Wonderland from 1933. See Cary Grant as you have never seen him before – totally concealed inside a giant mock turtle suit!
From the Vancity Theatre website:
“Extravagant all-star assaults on the work of Lewis Carroll – like the forthcoming Tim Burton-Johnny Depp movie – are nothing new, as this rare item from the vaults of Paramount Pictures goes to show. With a screenplay by Joseph L Mankiewicz (All About Eve) and designed by William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind), this has considerable pedigree even before you check out the cast list.
“But what a cast it is! WC Fields steals the show as Humpty Dumpty, but underneath splendid (if uncomfortable-looking) costumes you may also recognize the voices of Cary Grant as the mock turtle, Edward Everett Horton as the Mad Hatter, Gary Cooper is the White Knight, and Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen. Curiouser and curiouser, it has never been released on DVD or VHS.”
Alice in Wonderland, Sunday, January 10th, 2.30pm. All ages.
Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 3M7
Blogger Elizabeth Snead reports at The Dishrag that “Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ press kit is a trip in itself.”
The lucky recipients got “a very large box” containing “a large faux antiquarian book of Alice in Wonderland.”
Inside the first book with drawings/photos of Tim Burton and the Lewis Carroll is another a delightfully smaller book with illustrations of locations and sets.
Inside that book is another smaller book with illustrations of the characters, Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), etc.
Inside that book is another smaller book containing a heavy metal key. And there’s a note that needed a magnifying glass to read it that says: The USB key will take you beyond the gates of Wonderland and unveil the many secrets that await you.”
We were kinda hoping for one pill that would make us larger, but whatever.
Anyway, breathlessly, we stuck the key in my computer and….
On the USB key is a cool new trailer and three photos from the film.
Leave it to Disney to make their “Alice in Wonderland” press kit as exciting an adventure as Burton’s adaptation of the classic tale promises to be.
The rabbit hole has never been like this.
Thank you Ms. Snead for the images and description. Now, how do we get one!?