So yesterday I was having an Alice vs. Alice moment. That is an Alice in Wonderland versus miniseries Alice moment. Basically because it seems deeply wrong to be comparing two movies and picking the one without Johnny Depp. Especially given that a large part of that decision is based on the character he played — the Hatter.
The Hatter in Alice in Wonderland has always been my favourite. (At any given costume-wearing event I’m usually a pirate or the Hatter. Never the same Hatter twice, though. It seems wrong. But endless variations upon the theme.)
In a lot of ways I don’t even like Alice in Wonderland. The story freaks the hell out of me. The book itself is creepy, the sequel more so. Even the Disney version — that cat is downright disturbing. But the Hatter, ah, the Hatter. He takes that madness and revels in it. He admits morosely that they’re all basically doomed, that nothing makes sense and never will. But he sees no reason at all to be bothered by the lack of reason. Madness is the order of the day. It’s who he is, it’s what he is. And he has an awesome hat. Cause, if you were a hatter, wouldn’t you?
So I was looking forward to Alice in Wonderland, to seeing Johnny Depp as the Hatter. And he was, without question, the best part of that movie. Also it was very pretty. Visually psychotic in all the best ways. But…
They were both interesting to watch as both are more in the Return to Oz mode than attempting to follow the original story. This is going back to Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland, oddly, is much more Through the Looking Glass than In Wonderland and even textually refers to the place as ‘Underland’. So it’s a bit weird that they used the title they did.
The mini series veers even further away from the original drawing a world that has moved on in the time since the events that took place when ‘Alice of Legend’ fell down the rabbit hole. It takes the horror in the political and social structures and pushes them further along their already abstract path. Because Wonderland has always been creepy, modernisation of its parts only makes it more so.
They both have
wonderful great casts (I mean, honestly Tim Curry, Kathy Bates and Colm Meaney versus Helene Bonham Carter, Steven Fry and Alan Rickman — and those lists could just go on and on) but it felt like the players in Alice had more opportunity to flex their muscles. In Wonderland was more about watched Johnny Depp be fabulous. Which, you know, he was. But it wasn’t as… gleeful as I was hoping it would be. And Andrew Lee Potts did hat tricks as the Hatter. I mean, honestly. Hat tricks.
And maybe it’s partly because Alice has a happy ending. I was watching In Wonderland and hoping that Alice would stay. Because clearly Underland is the place for her. The Hatter is her dearest friend if not her love. But she goes home. For no reason I could see. Which is just horribly sad. Alice goes home in the mini-series too but… well. It’s better.
The whole lot of characters are delinquent, underhanded, messed up… (Vermin! Saboteurs! Anarchists! Degenerate bag-heads!) There’s just something utterly charming about the heroes taking quite so longer to figure out what they’re fighting for and who and why. And… Mechanical flying flamingos! Cyborg March Hare! An Alice who can fight better than the boys! Heroes who spend their time lying through their teeth and mistrusting one another and chickening out on the hero-ing gig and trying to catch the Jabberwock in a pit trap…
Basically what I’m saying is, if you haven’t watched these two things, you should do that because the comparison is interesting. But if you’re only going to watch one…