Playing chess with cards

Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm Comments (1)

It wasn’t what I had planned for this month’s update, but here’s something: another chapter of that Zelda playthrough!

What I had planned was a “some games I played in 2012” article, only this time I’d also be covering books, movies, TV shows and whatever else of interest. It got a bit hideously long and half the stuff I didn’t write notes for, so most of the early entries amount to “I think it was okay, I guess?” Which admittedly isn’t that far off from my real reviews.
It might show up eventually, but it’s not even half-finished yet. I’ll see what happens! To tide you over, here’s the review I wrote for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which was shown on BBC1 around Christmas.

In a word: Charmless.

I’m afraid I haven’t read the book, or even seen any adaptations of it, but what I’ve heard sounds very interesting. A strange little foray into a whimsical dream world, brimming with imagination.
This film slam-dunks a stupid, boring-ass fantasy prophecy storyline into it, and proceeds to make it utterly boring and lifeless. Fantastic. Brilliant. Thanks, Tim Burton.

I get the impression the Alice from the book, although a ‘proper’ little girl, had a bit of sass and attitude about her. Alice revisiting the place as a young adult could have brought about a different perspective for this visit… if she weren’t a completely stiff and lifeless protagonist. They might as well have cast a plank of wood in the role. She shows up because of a prophecy, and fulfilling it is all she has to offer. No wit, no appeal, no character.

All the other fellas show up – the Cheshire Cat, the rabbit, the Mad Hatter and so on. Problem is, I didn’t see any reason to like any of the characters. They certainly tried to emphasise all their unique quirks to make them appealing, but not one of them was at all interesting.
One thing I noticed was that adjectives are thrown around a lot they when talk about someone – everyone refers to the Red Queen as “horrid”, and everyone marvels over how gosh-darn kooky and entertaining that Mad Hatter is. None of them seem terribly fitting, though. The Red Queen’s a bit of a brat, yes, but the only truly horrid part is ordering dudes to slice off some heads. Take the loyal neck-slayers away and she’d probably fit right in with the cast of misfits.

As a fantasy adventure it was surprisingly flaccid, and as a cast of characters they were remarkably unremarkable. The promotions for the film seemed to hint a grand, epic fantasy adventure, and a lot of shots seemed tailor-made to be trailer material. But not a lot actually happens, and the final battle feels so out of place that… jeez, I don’t know.
What’s disappointing is that one in a while the film had maybe one or two fun elements. They get a lot of mileage out of Alice growing and shrinking, which admittedly did seem almost fetish-pandering at times, but it’s a fun concept.

The imagery was relatively high quality, I can say that much. The special effects were neat, and they have a lot of fun animating the Cheshire Cat floating around and flickering in and out of reality. Maybe it was because the film was putting me to sleep, but there was an intriguing dream-like feel about the whole thing. Seeing people with giant heads waddling around ethereal locations where you couldn’t tell what was ‘real’ and what was green-screen had a very strange feel about it.
That said, all the special effects and technical wizardry couldn’t hide the complete lack of investment in the characters or story. What reason do I really have to care about any of these kooks? I just wanted the film to be over with.

The film was stuck in my head for days afterwards, and for all the wrong reasons. Like, what kind of film was it trying to be? As a kids film, it’s very bloody boring. As a fantasy film, it’s very bloody boring. And as a “sexy fantasy” film in the vein of Twilight, it’s also very bloody boring, but does have lots of scenes of Johnny Depp brooding and being kooky, so that alone would sell tickets.
I posed this question to dad, and he said it was trying to be a Tim Burton film. I suppose that’s the best answer you can hope for, really. How else could you explain the dire lack of quality?

The film was crummy enough, but what truly killed it was the misfortune of being aired immediately after How To Train Your Dragon. That may not have been a 10/10 best movie of all time affair, but it was a darn solid film, and didn’t try to soar beyond its limits. It knew it was making a kids film, and nailed that perfectly. I honestly don’t know what the fuck this film was trying to make. It just seemed like another instance of Tim Burton being let out of his cage to lust obscenely over Johnny Depp.

I actually saw two other Tim Burton flicks last year, Beetlejuice and Batman, and they both didn’t strike a chord with me either. Batman was fair enough – some elements were really nicely done, like how offbeat Bruce Wayne is and the whole gothic look, but some bits were just odd. Beetlejuice had so many fantastic elements, but the execution just did absolutely nothing for me. I wasn’t sure to be disappointed in myself for not liking it, or in Tim Burton for messing it up. Guess I’m not a Burton dude!

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One Response to “Playing chess with cards”

  • CarlMarksGuy says:

    It’s a sad day when a made-for-SyFy channel “Mockbuster” has more potential than a major theatrical release by a famous/potentially has-been director, but it really seems like that’s the case:

    SyFy’s Alice did the whole “Alice In Wonderland” story as a largely-unrelated distopian semi-nonsensical semi-futuristic action movie.

    Tim Burton did it as “kind of like Alice in Wonderland, but the twist is it’s goofy and disturbing!”…despite the fact that virtually EVERY adaptation of Alice in Wonderland has had the twist of been goofy and disturbing.

    PS: Yay, more Zelda play-through!

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