By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Following on from the smash hit 3D adventure Avatar, Alice In Wonderland opens in Rio in two weeks time and is set to continue 2010’s impressive box office figures as new image technology boosts Brazil’s cinema industry.
After a stuttering opening in Europe and huge success in the United States, the film hits Brazilian screens in Disney 3D on April 23rd, and Belemcom, the company behind its marketing in Rio, held a press screening last week in Botafogo’s Cinemark in advance of the much-anticipated release.
The decision by Disney to cut the time between cinema and DVD release from the standard seventeen weeks to twelve caused cinemas in the UK to threaten a boycott of the movie that was only repealed at the ninth hour, though by early March it was finally on general theater release as well as IMAX and Disney 3D. Meanwhile in the U.S. the film took in US$41 million on its opening day, a record for a March release, and US$116.1 million in total on its opening weekend, the sixth highest of all time according to Reuters.
The film itself sees Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter team up once again under the watchful eye of cult director Tim Burton who conjures up a suitably topsy-turvy land full of freakish characters and dark humor. The three had previously worked together on the set of Sweeney Todd, whilst Depp and Burton have a close professional relationship that has taken in such films as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, and Ed Wood.
Alice, played by Australian newcomer Mia Wasikowska, is now grown up and keenly avoiding the advances of an unsuitable suitor from whom she is unwittingly drawn to the cusp of accepting a marriage proposal before being lured away by the White Rabbit into Wonderland.
There she meets the unusual inhabitants of a typically twisted Tim Burton land, and it is here that he is able to truly go to town with the three-dimensional trickery. Absolem the caterpillar assumes a Yoda-like role, spelling out the plot well in advance of its unraveling via the Oraculum scroll that shows Alice slaying the evil Jaberwocky with the Vorpel Sword, whilst the Cheshire Cat looks better than ever, seemingly appearing and disappearing into thin air in and around the audience.
Sacrificing storyline for visual thrills did nothing to dent Avatar’s success of course, and though many considered it a unique cinema experience, weaknesses in the storyline were well documented. The same can be said of Alice In Wonderland, to say the plot is thin is to understate the point, but to say that it spoils the film is also overly negative.
Genuinely transporting the viewer into a cartoon is where Burton succeeds, and despite running the risk of upsetting Lewis Carroll purists, his cartoon rarely relies on the strength of the plot, more the speed of the story and the wonder that he is able to conjure.
Avatar took the title of highest grossing film of all time in Brazil earlier this year, and though it looks like Alice In Wonderland will struggle to slay that particular monster, it comes as a highly recommended piece of escapism and a fine tale for all ages to enjoy.