Alice in Wonderland (3D Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There are certain duos in Hollywood that just seem to, well, work. Scorcese and DeNiro (and more recently Scorcese and DiCaprio), Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe and the list goes on. I’d wager to say that one of the more profitable and successful director/actor duos is that of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Granted Depp’s biggest three movies have come under a different director, but commercially and artistically these two have managed to make an indelible impression on moviegoers. These movies date back to the late 80’s with “Edward Scissorhands” and, as of this writing, bring us up to “Alice in Wonderland.” Now “Alice in Wonderland” isn’t exactly new to cinemas. It’s a story that’s been told time and again, most notably in the animated 1950’s version. Still, Depp as the Mad Hatter had a certain allure and the role seemed just offbeat enough that Depp could (and did) make it work. Audiences and critics agreed as this film was a commercial success. But for those out there who might be a bit rusty on what “Alice in Wonderland” is all about, let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole, shall we?

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is set to be married to a stuffy son of one her father’s business partners, Hamish (Leo Bill). At a garden party, she becomes distracted by a white rabbit and decides to follow it. Coming to a hole in the ground, she continues to follow it and ends up in, you guessed it, Wonderland (or Underland) as it’s called here. Alice meets the cast of characters, the rabbit, Tweedle Dee and Dum, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and everyone else. It would seem that there was some confusion if Alice was “the” Alice, but we know that she’s the same Alice, only grown up. It’s not long before she encounters the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and realizes that her ultimate goal is to conquer the Jabberwocky and restore the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to power over the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, looking almost unrecognizable). Does Alice have it in her to save the world she’s in as well as that of “Underland” or is she doomed to failure?

“Alice in Wonderland” is just as the title suggests a classic re-telling of the children’s book by Lewis Carroll (who, evidently, was high on cocaine when he wrote it). Tim Buton has managed to create a very unique world and has been given full creative direction to pretty much do whatever he pleased. It worked. Just as it did with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” a few years back. While this storyline differs a bit from the more traditional animated story, it’s the same story that we’re all familiar with. The cast and supporting cast are exceptional in their roles and though you might not recognize some of the faces, there are some major stars at work here. “Alice in Wonderland” isn’t eerie enough to creep out little kids and it’s interesting enough to entertain adults as well. This, obviously, is the formula for commercial success. As for me, I pretty much like anything that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton do, so I was right at home here. Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

Disney has presented “Alice in Wonderland” in a 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer that is simply amazing. The film was shot digitally and there was a ton of post processing to achieve the look and feel of “Wonderland.” There’s so much in every frame that it’s hard to really tell what was intended and what was manipulated, but the level of detail is such that the transfer is nearly beyond words. The “flesh tones” if you can call them that, look as they’re supposed to, just a bit left of center. The white and red queen looks particularly pasty as do Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Depp’s Mad Hatter looks somewhat like a clown and his eyes were digitally enlarged by about 20%, so yeah?kind of creepy. Still, this movie is a joy to watch on a big screen and viewers won’t be disappointed in the least. It’s a sparkling transfer that I have absolutely no complaints about.

Audio: How does it sound?

There’s an unspoken third member to the Burton/Depp duo and his name is Danny Elfman. Elfman is one of the most noted composers in the movie industry and has been for nearly thirty years now. He almost always teams up with Burton and “Alice in Wonderland” is certainly no exception. Elfman’s score really sets the tone for the film. Dialogue sounds very warm and rich and I hope you like English accents, darling because there’s plenty to go around. The majority of the sound is in the front stage, but the surrounds are almost constantly humming away with some effect to keep your head turning. Truthfully this is a great-sounding track and again, one that won’t disappoint.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This four disc Blu-ray 3D edition is exactly the same as the 3 disc Blu-ray edition except for the addition of a fourth disc whcih contains only the 3D version of the film. Everything else is the same in regards to supplements. That said, “Alice in Wonderland” was released in a variety of formats and we review the three disc Blu-ray edition here. There’s a bevy of featurettes starting out with “Wonderland Characters” in which we learn a bit about Alice and company, the Red and White Queen and even the Futterwacken, the odd dance that Depp’s character did. Evidently Depp didn’t do any of the actual dancing, that was left to YouTube web sensation, David “Elsewhere” Bernal. We get a very good look at everything that went into making Helena Bonham Carter the Red Queen (four hours of makeup, anyone?) and see the final result as she’s digitally placed in the film. We then move into the more technical aspect of the film with “Scoring Wonderland” in which we get an interview with Elfman and Buton as they discuss how the theme was created as well as some of the other aspects of the film’s score. There’s a segment on the visual effects, aptly-titled “Effecting Wonderland”, the most alluring part of the film. We also get a look at the stunts of the film as well as the cakes (yes, really) and everything that went into that delightful tea party. The film is also BD-Live enabled with some tutorials for those that might be a bit challenged in that area. There’s also a standard DVD of the film as well as a digital copy of the movie for your portable devices.

As of this writing, there are only a handful of Blu-ray 3D titles out, so there’s not a whole lot of basis for comparison. There are some movies that are made for 3D and some that are somewhat retrofitted for 3D. This is one of the prior. As evidenced by the phenomenal transfer on the regular Blu-ray, the 3D version takes it a step further. While the 3D does make a difference in some scenes, it doesn’t add a whole lot in terms of look and feel to the film. In fact, there’s so much going on in the background and the detail is so finite, that I think the 3D takes away a little bit. I find, when watching a 3D movie, that I’m focusing on what’s coming at me or the little nuances that stand out (literally) from the background. You tend to lose a bit of this with a film of this nature. I won’t say that the 3D takes away from the movie, but I felt that I was concentrating on the foreground as opposed to the whole picture. Again, as I see more 3D movies, this might and probably will change, but for right now my preference would be the 2D version. Still, I applaud Disney for their efforts and as of right now, it’s really difficult to say if this will catch on or not.

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