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“Have I gone mad?” asked the Mad Hatter. Alice replied, “I am afraid so. You are entirely bonkers. But I will tell you a secret. All the best people are.” The use of this quote in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ establishes a mystic atmosphere which gives the audience not only an idea about Underland but also about the adventures they are going to witness as the film progresses. Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney, 2010), directed by Tim Burton, is one of the best visual films out there.
Burton, with his crazy love for rabbit-hole alternative worlds is the perfect director to adapt Carroll’s legendary tale and make a memorable, zany-dark movie out of it.
Burton’s masterpiece is a visual landscape that uses a blend of different filmmaking techniques including visual effects to utilize the trope of friendship between Alice and other characters such as the Mad Hatter to achieve the freedom of Underland from the Red Queen, as well as lift each other up in the face of adversity.
When Alice falls down the rabbit hole, she witnesses a strange, underground kingdom full of peculiar characters such as The Queens, the Mad Hatter, Alice, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and presumably Tweedledee and Tweedledum are versions of humans; the others are animated, voiced with great zest by such as Stephen Fry (Cheshire), Alan Rickman (Absolem the Caterpillar), Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky), Timothy Spall (Bayard) and Barbara Windsor (Dormouse).
According to Festival De Cannes (2018), “So widely recognised is the creative genius and originality of Tim Burton, so potent the evocative powers of his universe, that his name has been turned into an adjective.
” Tim Burton’s universe of the film can be best described as poetic and grotesque. From euphoric skeletons to never-ending staircases, he has never failed to establish an otherworldly atmosphere, grabbing the audience’s attention from the beginning. Starting as an animator at Walt Disney, Tim Burton has found his way from channeling his emotions onto paper in the form of black-and-white cartoons to directing films full of colors and visuals. All of his films are ingenious and visionary, making the audience abandon their knowledge of the real world at the door and dive into the wonderful sphere of fantasy and mystery.
Edward Scissorhands (20th Century Fox,1990), Beetlejuice (The Geffen Film Company, 1988), Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney, 2010), and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros., 2005) are some his most well-known films. Tim Burton is the type of filmmaker who makes the audience feel dazzled by the character’s gothic dementia. He usually includes fantasy elements in his films and gives spotlight to marginal, solitary figures and so-called monsters. Tim Burton told Film Cannes that he has always had a soft spot for monsters, and believes that they are captivating characters who are extremely amusing to analyze. He is a wonderful director who has made many blockbusters, Alice in Wonderland being one of them. His direction has won him many awards including an Oscar as well as an Academy award. His wonderful film making impacts the Hollywood as well as our society in several ways. Every shot, every portrayal of character, has a gothic feel to it. His heroes are often neurotic, somewhat cowardly and bizarre yet also intelligent and highly moral. Ultimately, it’s Tim Burton’s fertile imagination that makes Alice in Wonderland the masterpiece it is today and paves way for the wondrous adventures.
The film starts with the classic disney movie intro of the Disney castle with fireworks. Next, the audience sees the grayish black night sky and the moon surrounded by the clouds with intense music playing in the background, foreshadowing the world full of mystery and fantasy. The Production’s name Walt Disney appears on the screen in Disney’s old style credit sequence photography looking as if it is made of gold. The next shot is that of the Big Ben showing that the film is based in England. The name of the film ‘Alice in Wonderland’ appears in the same Disney’s old style used for the production’s name. The font style used shows that the movie is going to be a delusional and a visual feast. It draws the attention from the beginning of the film. The camera pans over several dark houses, and finally focuses on a bright window of an old fashioned house. The audience is introduced to Alice’s father and the businessman (medium shot). Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) tells Charles Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas),of her nightmares of ‘Wonderland.’
He calls her mad and tells her that“all the best people are.” This establishes the an esoteric atmosphere, making the audience look forward to the adventures coming forward in the film. Wearing a blues dress with boots at a Victorian garden party, Tim Burton establishes her as someone who does not fit into the definition of a perfect woman in the Victorian society. When she falls down the strange, dream-like passage of the hole, the audience sees different images of cups, keyboards and other objects foreshadowing the events and the weird creatures that Alice is going to see in Underland. The audience can a tell a lot about the character just by looking at their costumes and expressions. For example, Mad Hatter’s attire changes with the change in his mood. White Queen’s expressions give the audience an idea that even though she appears to be sweet, there is actually a bit of darkness in her. When Alice visits the mystical world for the first time on her childhood, she remembers it as Wonderland.
However, when she visits it again, she discovers that its actual name is Wonderland. The audience can tell a lot about the characters by just listening to their voices. For Example, Red Queen has a propensity to scream for people’s head to be chopped off, showing her aggression. She uses fear as a weapon to maintain her control over Underland. She also gives off a vibe of being emotionally scarred which explains getting angry over trivial matters like a frog eating her cranberries. For the Rabbit, his tone of speaking shows that he is anxious and fussy and for him, nothing is more important than time. Ansolem asks Alice “who are you?” a couple of times in the film showing that he wants to help her find her true identity.
As said by Johnny Depp, clothes are the shell of the character. The main challenge with Alice in Wonderland is that it deals with two worlds – Underland and the real world. Hence, the costumes play an important role as they help the audience figure out the difference and similarity between the two worlds. The movie starts off with Alice in the classic blue dress for the the garden party. Blue is the essence of most of Alice’s costumes because it represents the classic Alice. It’s her color. Colleen Atwood, the costume designer, uses different materials to design Alice’s costumes to represent the situation she is in. Throughout the movie, Alice goes through changes in her size.
The ‘DRINK ME’ potion makes her shrink while the ‘EAT ME’ cake makes her grow. She loses her original dress when she shrinks for the first time and ends up in her under-dress. When she shrinks again at the tea party, the Hatter makes her a little six inch dress from her under-dress. This might be representative of how her actions pave the way for other situations. At the Red Castle, She eats the ‘EAT ME’ cake and grows to be around 8 ft tall. The Red Queen makes her an extravagant, puffy red dress.out of curtains. The dress is red and extra symbolic of Red Queen’s reign. Red stands for the Red Queen’s passion and aggression. It might also be foreshadowing the danger and troubles she will face in the later part of the film. As for the red queen, the focus is not only on the red, but also on the hearts. The red shows that she is very aggressive and dangerous. The red Queen is seen wearing tacky costumes foreshadowing her indecisive behavior. One of the costume piece she wears are gold metallic leather shoes with lace and heart on her soles. This is representative of her obsession of showing of her power and wealth as well as her obsession to put the hearts everywhere to remind everyone of her reign and that she is in control.
The White Queen, on the other hand, has a more glamorous look. She has a white dress made up of a lot of fabrics, snowflakes, and jewels. White might be symbolic of her purity and innocence. Colleen makes the queens’ dresses such that their shape have a resemblance, to represent their sisterhood and to tie them together. As for the hatter, his hat is made up of laser-cut, burnt leather of weird design. The burnt leather foreshadows the later scene in the film where we see what the fire caused by the Jabberwocky does to his family. The weird design gives a design to his name – the mad hatter. Hatter always takes his things with him – his thimbles and his rings. They make him look outworldly as well as real. Even though Colleen plays with various colors throughout the film, she comes back to the blue dress as it is the classic Alice. Every movie has its challenges. For Atwood, the major challenge was the growing and shrinking of ALice. They had to really think out how the costumes and shots worked out together, especially because Burton wanted to film them in the realest way possible. Conclusively, Tim Burton’s beautiful film making and Colleen Atwood’s ever-inspired wardrobe is what makes Alice in Wonderland such a wondrous and mysterious trip.
For a director known for inventing astonishing virtual worlds, Alice in Wonderland provided Burton with an opportunity to let his imagination run wild. WOnderland is so enchanting and mystic that you have to take a look at it twice to catch all the details.Using a mixture of visual effects techniques like CGI, shooting actors against green screen,, as well as 3D, “ALICE IN WONDERLAND” promises showcases Burton’s vision in a unique, richly detailed way. Tim Burton uses different techniques to give the film a unique look. He uses a wholly unique camera system to shoot film sequences that require increase in an element’s size. “To blow the Red Queen’s head up larger than normal size, we needed more pixels to get the same-quality resolution,” Ralston said. “We used a 4K Dalsa camera to separately shoot Helena’s head in every scene. That gave us a much bigger negative to work with.”For Example, Tim uses this technique to enlarge Red Queen’s head twice its size while keeping the body intact and unchanged. In the film, Alice goes through changes in her size. Increased sizes require more pixels.
Hence, the scenes are shots with a sophisticated camera system such that it provides additional lines of resolutions. The scenes are carefully shot and intricately adjusted. Burton also makes use of different props to film the tall character. For Example, Stayne, one of the tallest characters, wore stilts, a technique which makes it possible to have different size characters interact with him in the same spot. He also shoots all characters in one shot, also called master shot, to create a closer interaction. Tim Burton’s filmography helps the audience create parallelism between the Underland as well as the newly emerging modern world, where everyone is babbling to no one but themselves. “The whole movie is based on the fact that we’ve got to make you believe this world of insanity,” Burton says. “Therefore the audience needs to believe Alice’s interactions with the animated characters, the actors, the characters we shot a month after we filmed Alice that we had to blend in later — plus the environment she wanders around in.”
To achieve this effect, Burton films the entire film with 2D cameras and converts it to 3D in post production. The wonderful cinematographer Ralston and his team make use of a massive injection of CGI to package the actor’s performance in front of the green screen into a 3D fantasy land. Burton blends a lot of different types of techniques which gives the audience a very unique look for the film. He focused maily on what the environments needed to be to best tell the story, and what the characters would look like to best tell the story. “The film provides a very exciting experience in the 3D . Burton puts the audiences right in the middle of the weirdness and let the characters take them on the wondrous journey of Underland.
Every critic has a different opinion about the film, but the main focus of their articles lies in the visual elements used in the film. Michael Rechtshaffen is a film critic for the Los Angeles times, longtime contributor to The Hollywood Reporter, as well as a member of the L.A. Film Critics Association and is one of the best critics in the game. According to him, the movie becomes a visual feast when when she “opts to take off after a pocket watch-clutching rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), giving 3D glasses their first major workout as she plunges deeper and deeper into Underland.” Rechtschaffen praises the technology and the 3d effects used saying that 3D effects brilliantly present the characters of Underland such as the rotund Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the disembodied Cheshire Cat, and the fearsome Jabberwocky and calls the film a visual feast worth everyone’s watch.
Similarly, Roger Ebert was probably the most well-known film critic on the planet, praises Tim Burton’s film Alice in wonderland and the elements of cinematography used in the film. He compares the original disney movie to 2010 live-action film and shows how the characters are more grotesque and mature. He praises how the peculiar characters were played by humans, others are only voiced by them. For Example, “The Queens, the Mad Hatter, Alice, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and presumably Tweedledee and Tweedledum are versions of humans; the others are animated, voiced with great zest by such as Stephen Fry (Cheshire), Alan Rickman (Absolem the Caterpillar), Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky), Timothy Spall (Bayard) and Barbara Windsor (Dormouse).”
On the other hand, critics like Owen Gleiberman and Colin Covert believe that Burton’s 3D effects is what dwrenched the actual story of the Alice in Wonderland. Colin Covert is an American critic and journalist who has worked for for the Star Tribune for more than 30 years. According to him, If Burton had scaled back the muchness, he might not have smothered the lovely fairy tale underneath. Likewise, Owen Gleiberman compares Underland to the demented, joyless version of Wonderland and says that it looks like a CGI head trip gone postapocalyptic. Owen Gleiberman is an American film critic who wrote for Entertainment Weekly, from 1990 until 2014. All critics have different opinions on the film but all critics are mainly focused on the visual aspects of the film. Rechtshaffen and Ebert thin that the 3D effects are what makes the film a visual feast. Whereas, Covert and Gleiberman believe that CGI and other visual editing take away from the plot. These opinions from each of the critics reflects a side of the public opinion. Even though the public mostly feels negative towards the movie (considering the low rating), there is still a percentage that enjoyed it, including its visual uniqueness.
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