Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Burton, Depp combo botches ‘Alice in Wonderland’; bad accents ruin ‘Shutter Island’

“Alice in Wonderland”

Enough already! This film marks the 18th time Lewis Carroll’s 19th-century classic has been adapted to the big screen and the seventh time Tim Burton has tapped Johnny Depp for a leading role. Dare I say, both feats achieved by the release of this film are unnecessary, unwarranted and unimpressive.

If Burton’s latest indecisive, moody, disaster of a movie is an indication, the 63rd Cannes Film Festival could be one of the worst on record (Burton is to be the President of the Jury of Cannes this year). Very rarely have I ever trusted Burton for innovative storytelling, and his latest film, “Alice in Wonderland,” is no exception. I trust Burton, perhaps in the same way I trust James Cameron, for at least some sort of aesthetic pleasure, however, and, fortunately, he delivers.

Burton’s Wonderland is populated with the same anthropomorphized beings we’ve come to know and love (or despise, when it comes to the Red Queen), altered in quirky, yet only cynically amusing ways. Many of the scenes he puts them in capture the devastating, dilapidated and dire moment in which Alice has “returned” to a place she still considers a dream. Yet, while what we are watching on screen represents a cohesive aesthetic, what we hear is a tension between wannabe satire and wannabe happy adventure story that comes close to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is nothing new or interesting: a requirement for a story’s umpteenth adaptation. For the future, let’s hope Johnny decides to break it off with Tim and return to the glory days of, say, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

“Shutter Island”

Martin Scorsese’s nostalgia for ’50s film noir is palpable in his latest film, “Shutter Island,” and, like Burton and Depp, he reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio. Fortunately, it’s only the fourth time he and DiCaprio have teamed up and, fortunately, his films with the former young stud actor have represented, perhaps, the best Hollywood has to offer these days (see “The Aviator” or “The Departed”). But unfortunately, “Shutter Island,” billed as a psychological mystery-thriller about a pair of U.S. marshalls who go to a psych hospital on an island to figure out what’s exactly happening, doesn’t measure up to his previous features or the Italian film he produced last year, “Gomorrah.”

The film tries desperately to be a psychological thriller, yet it ventures, almost unnecessarily, into horror during much of its 138 minutes. The film ratchets up its psychologically confounding scenes while, at the same time, asking for the audience to pay close attention to all the minimal details the film presents, usually delivered with a terrible Baahston accent. Neither of these tasks is enjoyable nor do they allow the audience to feel the true horror taking place at Dr. John Cawley’s (Ben Kingsley) Ashecliff Hospital.

A formalist venture into surrealist territory, “Shutter Island” doesn’t let the viewer breathe with its whirlwind of supposed clues, flashbacks and hallucinations. Everyone will be able to understand the Scorsese’s central point: Teddy’s (DiCaprio) struggle to determine the boundary that separates Shutter Island from his perception of it: but only apologists of the cinematic brand name that gave us “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” will have the audacity to say that the film imbues that struggle with any importance.

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