Movie Anti-Hype: The Onion’s A.V. Club is dreading another Alice movie

In regards to what we wrote below, that many writers have taken on the theme of “all those awful Alice movies” in anticipation of the imminent Tim Burton 3D one (in seven days!), The Onion’s A.V. Club lists Lewis Carroll’s Alice books in a series on movies that have been adapted to death. Allow me to quote liberally from “Put the book back on the shelf: Literary works that should never be adapted to film or TV again” (February 17th, 2010):

[…] The world doesn’t need a fifth Indiana Jones movie, or any more big-screen retreads of ’80s cartoons that weren’t that great to begin with. And it especially doesn’t need yet another weak reconceptualization of Romeo And Juliet, or yet another stuffy screen version of Pride And Prejudice to join the wave of them that started back in 1938. In fact, here’s a list of just a few of the literary works that have officially been done to death—and some recommendations for where to find newer, fresher stories just waiting on the page.

Book: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass

Adaptations to date: More than three dozen, notably including the 1951 animated Disney musical version and big-event 1985 and 1999 TV miniseries. Other countries have released their own versions as well; there’s a 24-episode Japanese animated adaptation, an Argentinean mime version, and nationalist versions like 1966’s Alice Of Wonderland In Paris and 1979’sAlice In Spanish Wonderland. Plus, of course, the upcoming Tim Burton sequel to Carroll’s original stories.

Definitive version: The Disney version is probably best known. While it has its own charms, though, it liberally diverges from Carroll’s text, like most Disney adaptations.

Why steer clear? The Alice books are simultaneously two of the most-adapted novels in history, and among the most habitually worst-adapted. Film and TV versions necessarily tend to elide over the original books’ densely packed puns and references, and instead concentrate on spectacle or on drearily plodding through a series of events that should be sprightly and disorienting, yet somehow not manic. It’s a difficult balance, and one that directors rarely seem to get right. What’s left behind is a bunch of creative, fun ideas that have had the creativity and fun leached out through repetition. How many times can we watch Alice grow, shrink, and boggle at it all?

What to adapt instead? Other Carroll works, including his novel Sylvie And Bruno and his poem “The Hunting Of The Snark,” bring in as much clever nonsense, wordplay, and episodic adventure, but are less line-by-line familiar.

Sylvie & Bruno!! How about that? The list continues with A Christmas Carol, The Bible, and other books that will by no means stop inspiring filmmakers in our lifetimes.


2 thoughts on “Movie Anti-Hype: The Onion’s A.V. Club is dreading another Alice movie

  1. Sylvie and Bruno? Are they kidding?

    Jabberwocky is awfully slight; how could it be kept from descending simply into sword ad sorcery? And there would have to be a love interest (oog).

    The Hunting of the Snark could make an interesting movie but the filmmaker would have to resist imposing a visual of the Snark on the viewer

  2. There is that Terry Gilliam movie of Jabberwocky, of course.
    The Onion A.V. Club probably didn’t realize there was a student film of Snark which came out in Queens in Nov. 2009, which we blogged about here.

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