Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Alice in Wonderland: Take 17

Since 1903, Hollywood has been compelled to adapt the classic tale of Alice and Wonderland by Lewis Carroll onto the silver screen. According to IMDB , there have been eight versions made for TV, (including a weekly series) and about eight versions made for the silver screen.

Yet for all the variations on the theme, there has failed to be a definitive cinematic interpretation. The most popular of the films made is probably the Disney animated feature which was released in 1951. This is certainly my favorite of the films, though critics have pointed out that it is not the most faithful adaptation because it tries to meld Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass into one large story, when they are in fact two very seperate stories. This never bothered me that much. I think the artwork for the animated film is stunning, and the visual style masterfully captures the entire "fee" of wonderland. The voices and characterizations are great, and it remains to this day one of my favorite Disney films of all time.

About a year ago, various press releases like this one started popping up on film sites announcing that a new remake of Alice in Wonderland was in the works, over at Dreamworks. Screenwriter Les Bohem was pitching his take to Steven Spielberg, who had Dakota Fanning in mind for the role of Alice. Yet after a sudden surge of press, all news of the project died down, and no one heard much else about it....until now.

Quint, of Aint' It Cool offhandedly mentions in his article about his War of the Worlds set visit .

Qunt writes:

"And I was also told by Spielberg that he and Dakota were going to work together again next year on ALICE IN WONDERLAND! I hadn't heard about that one before, so that was a surprise. I'm assuming he means Dreamworks is producing the flick, not that he will be directing, but you never know."

Very interesting indeed. First of all if Speilberg actually ends up directing this huge big-budget feature film version of Alice in Wonderland, I think I could die happily after opening weekend of the film. This is one of my ULTIMATE film fantasies come true - a real live action film version directed by one of my heroes, which has all the visuals to back it up. Even if Speilberg is producing I think that will still be a huge blessing on the production because of his natural ability to hone fantastical stories, and his phenomenal aptitude for depicting them through the eyes of children.

What does concern me, however, is the choice of Dakota Fanning as Alice. Assuming the production begins at some point in 2006, Fanning will be twelve years old, which seems like just the perfect age for the role. However, there are two problems, Dakota looks like she's about seven, and acts like she's about thirty-seven, so I'm not sure how this will fit for the role of Alice.

I have to be honest, Dakota Fanning puts me off. I don't find her particularly cute or endearing. I find her zombie-like and disconcertingly mature before her time. Her characters are always too severe, too precise, too harsh. Granted certain films call for these types of roles, but I do not think Alice is one of them. Dakota Fanning appears to be the epitome of the right brained child (look at her character in Cat in the Hat) always organized, always logical and orderly. The character of Alice is the complete opposite of that. She is driven by her left-brain, she is creative and imaginative, whimsical and silly. She prefers pictures to words, and singing flowers, to singing people. Her cat Dinah, is her best friend, and when she sees the white rabbit with the waistcoat and the pocket watch, she doesn't question her eyesight or mental state, but runs right after it, believing it is exactly what she sees. I'm not convinced that Dakota can play this properly, I think she may be too stern. I fear she will try to talk the white rabbit out of existence as she tries to prove he is but a figment of her imagination.

I suppose the writer for the film could have a different approach to the film, where Alice is a young girl on the cusp of the journey into adulthood, and feels conflicted about using her imagination in the way she used to. Or I suppose the film could spin it so that she has never really been into child-like affairs at all, and is in a rush to grow up, but learns the virtues of imagination and fantasy in Wonderland. Who knows. I think I would rather see the story worked around her type, then her falsely attempting to be sweet and happy and loving it, throughout the film. I just don't think I could take that saccharin smile plastered on her face for two hours.

I also wonder if they will modernize the piece, and set the scenes with Alice at the beginning in modern day, as opposed to late ninteenth century Britain. As much as I am a traditionalist with this story, there is some great creative potential in placing it in a modern framework. Not to say that I want the catapillar speaking in slang, the fairy tale elements should definitely be maintained - but I think it might be necessary in to make some changes like this in order to make the film feel fresh, rather than just another standard rehashing of the tale.

So many questions, so many possibilities, I can't wait until more news arrives....


Blogger Elliot said...

Do you feel that Steven Spielburg has perhaps not made a good film in a very long while?

7:57 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

I think I may need to fully respond to that question in a full blog post. As it would take too much space to justify in commentary. to be continued...

10:57 AM  
Blogger Elliot said...

Perhaps I should have said a VERY good film in a long while.
I liked Catch Me if You Can and The Terminal quite a lot but I didn't think they were exactly fantastic wonderful movies.

4:04 PM  

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