Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New Alice film

I've been distressed by the unavoidability, in some media settings, of ads, previews, feature articles, etc., that bring to mind the forthcoming film based on Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Part of the problem is its reminding me of my distress when, during a long airplane flight, I watched the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland.  (And I usually like Tim Burton.)

The Alice books are on a very short list of my favorite books ever.  I first read them as a child, have done so many times since, and still love them, reflecting how profound they are, not to mention how audaciously radical (not, of course, in a political sense),  But I understand that books and movies are different sorts of creatures, and that one should generally view the latter as wholly separate works.  I actually rather like the Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland, although obviously this requires not holding it even remotely to the books' standard.

So what bothers me about the new film adaptations of Alice?  I think it has to do with their making the Mad Hatter a lovable snuggle toy whom Alice must try to save, and the Red Queen a figure of evil whom the heroes must vanquish.  To me, this grotesquely gets the books wrong, and in a way that particularly stupidizes them (to coin a word).

As to the Mad Hatter, it's rank sentimentalizing.  While the books have sentiment, they ruthlessly limit where and how it is expressed (and the Mad Hatter is a chilly weirdo). As done in the movies, I find it repulsive and cloying.

And the Red Queen as evil, requiring the standard Hollywood denouement?  This just feels totally wrong (albeit, with no criticism whatever of Helena Bonham Carter's - as always - game and spirited efforts). While the Queen of Hearts in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (whose amalgamation with the Red Queen in Looking Glass I am willing to accept) does, it's true, go around threatening to have everyone's head chopped off, she isn't evil, in that context - she's crazed and absurd, in a weird, hyperbolically comic manner that relates to Carroll's own stepping into a child's shoes to look at the grown-up world (not to mention at competing visions of logic and reason, with a sheltered and naive child being the only sane one).  To me, it trivializes and vulgarizes the book's vision to make the Red Queen a standard Hollywood villain, even if an unusually flamboyant one.

Then again, it's only a movie (or two), and the books are still there, both free on Kindle and on any decent home library's shelves.

I suppose it's good in a way for the Alice books to get renewed attention.  I have the impression that, while they were widely loved by people in my generation and those preceding us, they mysteriously have enjoyed less of a following among millennials and still-younger age cohorts.

No comments: