On Friday Retro Chick was lucky enough to be invited to an exclusive preview screening of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

The screening took place in the swanky Soho Hotel screening rooms  and was to celebrate the launch of 2 new ranges of jewellery for Disney Couture inspired by the movie from designer Tom Binns. I’ll tell you all about the jewellery later. For now I want to tell you all about the film.

The screening was in 3D. This was the first film I’d seen in 3D and I was far more impressed that I expected. We got swanky wrap around 3D glasses, not rubbish cardboard, which may have helped. Though sadly they also make you look like this. (The scary hair is the result of experiments in pin curls and setting lotion. It works!)

Although the 3D probably didn’t  add a great deal to much of the film it was more that worth it for the experience of falling down the rabbit hole, and the few occasions where I actually ducked as something flew toward the screen.

I went in to the screening with absolutely no expectations. With the screening just 3 days after the Premier I had studiously avoided all reviews, and all but one trailer, as this was a film I’d been looking forward to for some time.

Overall my opinion is one of fluttering, over excited, gushing praise. I love Tim Burton, I think Johnny Depp is one of the finest actors of his generation and I desperately want a Cheshire Cat of my very own.

If I can put the screaming and jumping up and down to one side for a moment, I can actually offer something approaching a proper review.

The story is unique to the film. More of a sequel, it focuses on a more grown up Alice and is a coming of age story about a girl finding her independence in a restrictive Victorian society. In this film Alice is returning to Wonderland for the second time, with no memory of her first visit. Questions over whether this is the “real” Alice reflect her doubts about her place in the world following the death of her father. It uses elements from Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem The Jabberwocky (which I can recite off by heart, fact fans. Don’t ask me why, it’s the kind of thing I do and no one else cares about) but contains the characters you know and love from previous versions and the book.

The storyline, however, is almost an irrelevance in such a visually stunning film. It is all you’d expect from a Director with such a unique personal vision. Everything from scenery to costumes and make up is meticulously detailed. The film is dark, as you would expect, but with a real sense of magic, wonder and whimsy.

The casting and performances were almost faultless in my eyes. British audiences will feel very at home with a cast that is stuffed with Brits, including a dream-like performance from Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman as the Absalom the Caterpillar.

Australian Mia Wasikowska plays Alice, with a perfect English accent, however I found her otherwise rather forgettable. It’s not that her performance was bad, in fact I’m sure it was excellent, just that in a film people with such curious characters the rather ordinary Alice is mostly defined by her frequent, and excellent, costume changes. I did find her significantly less annoying than the precocious animated Alice in Disney’s 1951 film, which can only be a good thing. Another thing worth mentioning is that people of a certain age (i.e. Mine) might find Helena Bonham-Carter’s performance as the Red Queen disturbingly reminiscent of Queeny from Blackadder at times. I found this a little off putting as it dragged me out of the world that had been so carefully created, but once I’d got that out of my head she also puts in a fantastic performance as the feared Queen who secretly just wants to be loved.

If I had a criticism of the film it’s that brief, but fascinating, insights into the characters and their relationships are just that, brief. The Red and White Queen both show facets to their characters beyond a traditional Good/Evil dichotomy and their relationship as sisters is tantalisingly hinted at but not given room to expand. The Mad Hatter is given a more vulnerable, human, twist by Johnny Depp and a romantic attraction to the older Alice is, again, hinted at, but not really given chance to develop.  This means that the film could, for some, tread a rather unsatisfactory line, pleasing neither children nor adults completely.

Tim Burtons darker tendencies are kept in check by a PG certificate and, I suspect, the constraints of a Disney film that is aimed at both children and adults. I would have loved to see him take this on for an adult audience and really have room to explore some of the themes, but I guess that film wouldn’t have had the budget that this one did to create such an amazing Wonderland for us to explore.

There is so much to say about this film. I could continue and turn this into a 2000 word essay titled “A Feminist reading of Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland” or “Down the Rabbit Hole: Representations of Good and Evil in Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland” but I won’t. I’ll leave it here.

I shall be going back to see the film following it’s release on 5th March as Mr Chick wants to see it too. I fully expect that second time round the film will offer even more in the way of visual drama, once the obligation to concentrate on that pesky story line is out of the way.

Thanks to The Style PA for the sexy photo of me in 3D specs.