Revisiting the Reviled — Johnny Depp and Tim Burton Fell Down the Rabbit Hole of Self-Parody With ‘Alice in Wonderland’

VANAPHASE™ the Vanadium powerhouse!


Every week with Revisiting the Reviled, Sean looks at a film that was meant to appeal to geeks and failed, often miserably.

The careers of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are intrinsically tied. The two ascended the staircase of Hollywood royalty practically hand in hand. Working with Burton, Depp was able to shed the bad boy teen idol image that plagued him following his years on 21 Jump Street. Meanwhile, Burton found a leading man that understood his fantastical visions and affection for eccentric oddballs. Two of their collaborations – Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood – remain among the finest work that either have achieved. As they ascended together, the two stumbled down that very same staircase together into the depths of self-parody. Starting with Sleepy Hollow, which isn’t a horrible film, the two set out on a series of remakes and retreads with diminishing returns. Seemingly the only question that would surround a Depp-Burton film would be the size of the hat that Depp would don. It wasn’t a shock to anyone that Depp would the Mad Hatter in Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland for Disney. What would shock everyone is that Alice in Wonderland would be the biggest hit of Tim Burton’s career, though five years later, nobody has much of anything positive to say about it, let alone simply remember it.

Early 2010 was a different time. Donald Trump was just an asshole on television, and not a potential Republican nominee for President (though he’s still an asshole). Avatar was dominating the global box office, and it was given a healthy boost by the surcharges for 3D. As studios scrambled to post-convert their blockbusters into underwhelming 3D, there were few films ready to fill the demand for the burgeoning technology. Enter Alice in Wonderland. The film opened just about three months following the opening of Avatar and drew large crowds of audiences wanting to see more eye-popping spectacle fly right at them. Amazingly, Alice in Wonderland is, at the time of this writing, the 21st highest grossing movie of all-time worldwide. The only answer to its success, as it is not a good movie, is its fortuitous timing in coming when 3D was in demand, not just a tired gimmick that most audiences greet with scorn.


In adapting parts of its story from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton turned a story of limitless wonder and imagination into rather straightforward affair, employing the trite Chosen One narrative, where Alice is destined to bring peace to Underland, and concluding events with the requisite final action sequence. Of course, one can’t help but suspect that Alice has been transformed into a 19-year-old in this particular adaptation for the purposes of sexualizing her character, though I wouldn’t say that the film is explicit about such things.


The story of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has Alice, played by the reliable Mia Wasikowska, is a young woman about to be proposed to by an upper class gentlemen for whom she feels no affection. As he pops the question in front of hundreds of guests at his massive estate, Alice is distracted by the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen). Distracted, Alice chases the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and into Underland. In Underland, Alice becomes acquainted with Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), twin half-wits given an extra-creepy look due to some dodgy CGI, before she ends up encountering the Mad Hatter (Depp), a crazed-looking man that speaks in a manner that suggests he’s never far from an appearance on a sex offenders’ registry. The Mad Hatter used to live an idyllic life with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), but their happy days were laid waste by the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), the evil henchmen of the even more evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the ruthless ruler of Underland. Soon it is revealed, though it was never well-hidden from the audience, that Alice had visited Underland in the past, and is prophesized to destroy the Jabberwock, a powerful dragon that is the not-so-secret weapon of the Red Queen. But will Alice find the strength to overcome the powerful Jabberwock? If you think that’s ever in doubt, you, sir, or ma’am, are a moron.

Under most circumstance, one wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that a version of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton would be a visually lush film, flourishing with wild sights to offset any narrative deficiencies. But that’s not the case here. For the most part, the artistry of Alice in Wonderland was crafted in a computer, though that’s not to discount some interesting costume and makeup work on the characters. But CGI dominates practically every frame to the point where seeing two people photographed in the same shot is a complete rarity. Perhaps the closest cinematic relatives to Alice in Wonderland are the Star Wars prequels, where the concept of actual sets were mostly abandoned in favor of CGI backdrops. Films like these are why people gripe about CGI in the movies – the effects work is act the forefront, not dressing to enhance something already photographed. There’s also the simple problem that a person photographed and set against a synthesized backdrop will never be entirely convincing to the human eye because a computer cannot entirely replicate the lighting that was used in the photographic process – it’s why these scenes age so horribly. For all intents and purposes, Alice in Wonderland is an animated film sparsely populated with real life elements.


For a film that is intended to be full of eye-popping visuals, Alice in Wonderland is astoundingly flat. It’s still confounding that this film grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. But the secret of its success isn’t a mystery. It had a gimmick with the most fortunate timing, a brief moment in the sun before fading from the collective consciousness. Both Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have fallen so far deep into that rabbit hole that it seems as if they’ll never return to our good graces. If only there were some magical elixir to bring them back.

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Catcher Was a Spy
‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ Turns an Amazing True Story Into a Mediocre Movie

Being a baseball fan means that you’re keenly aware of the...

Is She or Isn’t She? Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Unsane’ Arrives on Blu-ray

All film lovers should be grateful that Steven Soderbergh’s self-imposed retirement...

Pacific Rim: Uprising
The Big Dumb Fun of ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is Unleashed on Blu-ray

Sometimes a movie just knowing what kind of movie it is...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
PowerA Xbox One
Up Your Game with New Enhanced PowerA Xbox One Controllers

Up your game and get ready for the upcoming Xbox Exclusive...

Skull Tales
Skull Tales: Full Sail! Voyage Far Passed Their Kickstarter Goal

Skull Tales: Full Sail! completely overshoots their Kickstarter destination with over...

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn Collector’s Edition Announced

How is Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn Collector’s Edition not gonna have...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Wrestling Writer Legends Bill Apter & Gary Morgenstein Announce, ‘The Last Wrestler’

To names that are synonymous with professional wrestling journalism and well...

thousand year beach
The Thousand Year Beach – Viz Media Debuts Acclaimed Sci-Fi Novel

“The Thousand Year Beach presents an idyllic virtual world, still running...

Action Comics No. 1000 gets a Super-Sized Deluxe Edition Release

From DC Comics – Burbank, CA – (April 30, 2018) –...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Out Of Space on Your Xbox One? Fantom Drives Has Your Back

Fantom Drives will ensure you have enough space on your Xbox...

New Toast Covers
A Toast to New Toast Covers, Now Covering More Than Tech

Raise your glasses for a toast to New Toast Covers for the...

UDOQ – The Perfect Gift for Dads, Grads, or anyone with Tabs

For families with multiple devices, for offices with the same, or...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Jeanie Buss & MGM TV Tags AXS TV to Broadcast WOW-Women of Wrestling Events

Jeanie Buss and MGM Television Tags AXS TV to Broadcast WOW-Women...

Kevin Belington Faces Martin Nguyen for the ONE FC Interim Bantamweight Title

From ONE FC – 07 June 2018 – Manila, Philippines: The...

Showtime to Air ‘Bipolar Rock ‘N’ Roller’ Mauro Ranallo Doc on May 25th

From Bellator MMA and Showtime – New York – April 30,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Cultural Junkdrawer – Season’s end: The Flash season 4


Adult Continuity Issue #13 – Avengers XXX – A porn parody

I review AvengersXXX and make masturbation jokes. Be smart with your Fapdollar(tm);...

Comics on the can – Black Panther (Priest run) Issue #46

Comics on the can muses about Black Panther during Priest's legendary...

Event News Event Reviews
Gundam Booth
Bluefin and Bandai Spirits Hobby to Host an Expansive Gundam Booth at AX18

Bluefin and Bandai Spirits Hobby is bringing an interactive Gundam Booth...

KLabGames Site
Official KLabGames Site Now Open and Will Have Booth at AX2018

KLabGames officially launches their site, and will be hitting AX2018 to...

Jurassic Park Screening
25th Anniversary Jurassic Park Screening at The Greek Theater

Monday, June 11th, before you see the next Jurassic World, 25th...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming. Related

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...

%d bloggers like this: