When a film transgresses from reality to find a fictional, shall we say dreamlike, world to tell of the human condition, it almost always is a struggle. First there are many who rather see a work of realistic fiction, second it's almost impossible to strike a balance at any given time. The worlds collide and the audience either finds itself too much in the wraps of things or too little. Now a good film leaves you wanting to explore the world further, but it also gives you the satisfaction in this trip. Yes the gondola ride could have been longer, but nonetheless you found it very satisfying.
Pan's Labyrinth wove an intricate association between the two worlds as the audience travels from one to the other. There was a delicate balance and a heavy correlation between the two. It made sense and more so helped the story along. It changed the way the audience perceived this little girls world. Like most often it was a story of growth of realization, about dreams and their relation to day to day life. There were always subtle visual techniques that brought the two worlds in sync even when we were in the realm of reality.
Hollywood has always somewhat leaned towards fantasy (Sci-fi being a part of it). Though it seems that recently they have taken a more realistic turn into the magical realm. It pays the same dues as Sci-fi by creating real human characters that suffer the faiths that we all do, in a different light. The struggle of heroism in day to day situations, or the struggle against ones self as our perceptions of the world fall by the way side.
It is perhaps the escapist aspect of these stories that give the audience that much desired pathos. Being caught in an unreal world when the current one might pose too many real problems gives the audience a chance to breathe. The stories of Avatar are widely relatable. They have been seen and heard numbers times. However, you regenerate them in a fictional world that draws the viewer in, and you have the master piece.
Alice in Wonderland is another one of these stories. It is the key that unlocks most of them. It is the reference that we use for every other story. Statements like "down the rabbit hole," originate in the world where Alice literally takes the plunge. So yes when you see it, it might seem a bit used but it is original. The recent release with Johnny Depp again tries to capture that lightning in the bottle; that Pan's Labyrinth did so well and others fail to do immensely over and over again.
Alice does what every one of the sub real films should do extremely well. It creates a fictional world but gives the characters real motives. Makes them question the meaning of love, destiny, and faith. The over arching theme, used many times before, is that one cannot escape their destiny. Now the beauty of the film is that ever scene makes you question if that is the theme. The events unfold and they seem to take wings.
This is not to say that Alice in Wonderland is a flawless film. It has its ups and downs. Yet for what it is, it is something worth watching and worth admiring. It delvers a beautiful, talented young actress, with a well matured cast such as Johnny Depp and Helena Carter. Every character is carefully conceived with an interesting back story. It tries to avoid cliches and reinvents them when they do come up. There is no doubt about the fact that the source material helped the creators of the film, but there are many novels turned films that are absolutely horrendous.
The ending is a bit contrived, though everything else seems to coexist in its own harmony. Above all the characters seem real. They have their moments of constraints and their moments of liberation. They find themselves in binds and find ways out in unique fashion. They reinvent themselves over and over until their destinies are achieved. There are lines that repeat themselves and there are thoughts that string together to form this film.
By contrast a film like Immaginarium of Dr. Pernasus suffered from its lack of coherency and its attempt to tackle themes bigger then itself. Though it does cary a larger than life cast, the film seems to fail in its attempt to create something magnificent. It brings up philosophical thoughts but leaves them unfinished. A film of this nature does not need to be high in philosophy, rather it has to complete the ones that it does chose to tackle.
Heath Ledger's death during the filming couldn't have been much of a help. Though it still seems that the story could have been salvaged to a certain degree. Since it is a film about dreams, it could have found its way to a better conclusion. Fortune has it that it didn't and Terry Gilliam found his post Monty Python adventure a bit stale.
It is always hard to draw that line between everyday life and dream. The best ones are when the elements of real life are clear in the dream. Because when we dream we dream of real emotions and real events happening in obstructed setting and disheveled orders. Dreams are surreal, they give you a world that is hard to understand, but they give you emotions that are anything but.
Alice in Wonderland finds its marks and hits them very well. It marries the realm of fantasy beautifully with true human emotions. It does fail to break the mold completely, which would have made it a great film. Yet, it fills the mold perfectly and therefore creates a film that is definitely worth a repeat watch. The conception the creation, the nuances and the not so subtle outburst of visuals, make it a wondrous film to experience.