27 Mar 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton

Alice in Wonderland is a 're-imagining' of the original novels by Lewis Carroll; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. This is one of Tim Burton's 're-imagining' movies, which we've seen before with Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What Burton does it go back to the source material and interpret the story fresh from the original author, rather than remaking what's already been done. The problem with this is that the original adaptations are so well beloved that there is often major criticism of his work.

Alice in Wonderland sees a 19 year old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returning to Wonderland, which is now under the rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). Though she has no memory of being in Wonderland before, she is quickly reunited with her old friends; the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Matt Lucas). It turns out that the residents of Wonderland have been searching for her; it is her destiny to take up the sword of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and slay the Red Queen's Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee), thus paving the way for rebellion against the Red Queen and the freedom of Wonderland.

I watched the film in 3D and, despite the eye strain that I'm slowly getting from watching most movies in 3D nowadays (anyone else getting this too?) the movie looked stunning. Although it wasn't typically Burton (black and white stripes, snow etc.) you could tell that he had a hand in crafting the world of Wonderland. The land oozed strangeness, but you also got a feel for the desolation incurred because of the Red Queen.

The range of actors, both live action and in voice, was well chosen and brilliantly executed. Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter was (unsurprisingly) performed with a very unique twist. He seemed almost bipolar in nature; his usual upper class English light hearted nuttiness (with the inclusion of the lisp as a homage to the original animated movie) occasionally bled away to reveal a thick, gruff Scottish growl that spoke gibberish and had an air of violent insanity about it. It was a really nice contrast to the rest of the characters, who are plain old silly. There was a fantastic part where the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) stops mid rant to exclaim "SPOON!" and thrust it in the audience's face, to which the entire cinema erupted in laughter. The casting of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry and Christopher Lee as the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat and the Jabberwocky respectively was an excellent choice that would have only been further enhanced by the inclusion of John Hurt in there somewhere.

However, despite this range of talent and the beautiful visual landscape, there was something in the movie that seemed to be lacking. I think it may have been that Burton was creating a film that was meant to be somewhere between childlike and adult, but it never really brought both in successfully. The visual feast of Alice re-exploring Wonderland and enticing her curiosity meant that the deeper aspects to the plot were often glossed over; there could have been a little more focus on the importance of this rebellion against the Red Queen and the implications of what her rule has done to Wonderland.

In conclusion, I'd recommend Alice in Wonderland to anyone, but make sure that it is seen in 3D in the cinema. It would make for a fun movie filled with quirky and well characters and a brilliant world that captures the strangeness of Wonderland as seen through Alice's eyes. Just don't expect much depth with regards to the storyline. Burton himself said that the original story was more like a series of events rather than a coherent plot, and while he tried to flesh out a story from this, the semi patchwork form can be seen. Still, a very fun movie to watch.

7 Mar 2010

Fantasy Art Showcase - Patrick Reilly

Beyond the Gate by Patrick Reilly
Written by

This installment of the showcase is of Miami based artist Patrick Reilly. I've had a few of his works as a desktop picture in the past and I rediscovered him a few weeks back. His portfolio is awesome.

What strikes me about Reilly's work most is the brilliant use of lighting in his pieces. If you take a look at Dragonfire (below), you'll see how the light acts on the skin of the dragon and on the translucent wings. There's also a great sense of suspense that can be seen in a lot of the multi character pieces such as Beyond the Gate and Sacrifice. You can feel the tension between the characters in these pieces, and the great use of lighting and scale adds to the drama.

My favourite piece from his online portfolio is a toss up between Beyond the Gate and Into the Cave. The first one reminds me of the work of Boris Vallejo, one of my favourite artists. The figures of the two humans are brilliantly sculpted. Into the Cave I think I prefer, maybe because it's a speed painting  (it astounds me that something that awesome could have been 'hurried') but also I love the sense of foreboding that you get just looking at it, plus the light streaming down from above and the flicker of the torchlight adds to the gloom.

Reilly has done artwork for fantasy novels (Beyond the Gate is one of these) as well as cover art for comics and magazines. You can see his full online portfolio on the links below. All images used are copyright Patrick Reilly. Click any of the images to go to Reilly's DeviantArt entry.

Dragonfire by Patrick ReillyInto the Cave by Patrick Reilly

What's your preferred art on a fantasy book cover?