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Random thoughts about sound and vision.

Alice In Hinterland

With its astonishing first weekend gross of $116m in the US - the biggest March, 3D and IMAX openings ever - criticism of "Alice In Wonderland" seems pointless. It's a big financial hit. Mission accomplished. Move on, nothing to see here.

Sadly, the millions racked up in box-office neatly obscure the fact that "Alice" is a dull, drab movie, leeched of even more colour when viewed through 3D glasses. But more of that later.

Alice is a bizarre mash-up of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" and "Through The Looking Glass", whilst pretending to be a sequel to both. A grown up Alice disappears once more down the rabbit-hole and then proceeds to have roughly the same adventures she had before - only selective amnesia prevents her from remembering what to do. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

It's a regrettable drop in quality from director Tim Burton, hot from his red-in-tooth-and-claw-and-bloodbaths, "Sweeney Todd". There are some highlights: the art direction is magnificent and the special effects are largely seamless (apart from the bizarre sight of Crispin Glover's head on top of a CGI body for no good reason). Danny Elfman's provides a magical score and there is an appropriately sleek performance from Stephen Fry as the voice of the Cheshire Cat. However, this is offset by flat acting from Mia Wasikowska as Alice and a patchwork script by Linda Woolverton. that lazily rearranges all the key scenes from the books in a different order and then dares to call itself a sequel. Johnny Depp...well, his multiple-personality disordered Mad Hatter is given far too much screen time and his frequent switches in dialect hobble any attempt to build a sympathetic character.

"Alice" is being heavily promoted as a 3D experience...which is ironic, as it wasn't actually filmed in 3D to begin with. In a process that James Cameron rightly despises, a 2D film is amended in post-production to give a faux-3D look - essentially, it's digital decoupage. Imagine those lenticular "3D" postcards you can buy blown up to cinema-screen size and you get the idea. It's a cheat and so "Alice" never pops off the screen like "Avatar" or "A Christmas Carol" - save your money and see the (cheaper) 2D version. The partially-opaque 3D glasses also rob the film of its colour - which in the muddy brown and grey world of Wonderland, takes away when there wasn't much to start with.

As has been widely reported, "Alice" will be available on DVD and Blu-ray in less than three months, an extremely rapid turnaround for a major movie. Ironically, that fact is more breathtaking than anything in the film itself.