A Critical Analysis of Tim Burton’s Film Alice in Wonderland
Please see below following ‘The Watchmen’
The Watchmen (2009)
1. Analysis of the Book. (Moore) The Watchmen is a comic book series created by Alan Moore from 1986-1987. It is a graphic novel published by DC Comics. The story takes place in an alternate universe (or alternate history) where the year is 1985, the Soviet Union is invading Afghanistan, and the world is on the brink of nuclear war. Additionally, it is a world where the United States was victorious in the Vietnam War, and Richard Nixon is still president after five successful terms. The series follows the events that transpire between a retired group of superheroes who are once again thrust into the center of a chaotic world. The entire series is a tool used by the author to create an insightful political and social commentary of the world around us.
2. Analysis of the Film. (Snyder) The film is an adaptation of Alan Moore’s series of the same name. It was released in 2009 and directed by Zack Snyder. The film is dark, almost like a cross between gothic (the sun never shines and it’s always raining) and steampunk (ex. The Archimedes), and tends to be a bit heavy on the gore and violence. The visual effects are amazing throughout the film, and attempt to convey some sense of the graphic novel.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation. It is, overall, a fairly faithful adaptation in many ways, but Snyder makes a large number of cuts and additions to change the story and make its length suitable for a feature length film (the original graphic novel was in twelve parts). Examples of changes made include an altered ending where multiple cities are nuked as opposed to only New York in the original series. The film adaptation does a much less thorough job of developing the characters backgrounds due to time constraints. The film garnered very mixed and opposed reviews from critics and fans alike.
4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to The Watchmen include:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/29741500/Themes-Analysis-of-Watchmen-Novel-vs-Film This site has a great deal of information comparing the development of theme in the graphic novel versus the film. It’s long and offers a number of insights I hadn’t previously considered. It touches on things such as the relativity of human morality and the inevitability of becoming what you hate.
http://tbdeforge.hubpages.com/hub/Moral-Film-Review-Watchmen-2009-A-Graphic-Exhibition-on-Heroes-and-Villains provides a basic summary of events in the film, but also provides an analysis of some of the varied elements of the film.
http://www.destroythecyb.org/an-analysis-of-watchmensymmetry-and-the-tragic-flaw-477.htm This site provides an analysis of some of the deeper meanings of the graphic novel.
5. Critical Analysis.
At the end of the film, when Dr. Manhattan arrives at Carnac (Antarctica) and confronts Ozymandias, Ozymandias grabs a television remote and Dr. Manhattan says: “What’s that? Another ultimate weapon?” This is meant to be ironic, but in what ways is it true? That is, in what ways is television (and other visual media like film) problematic in the world depicted in Watchmen?
It is true because it represents the impact of media, the relative brainwashing of the public, and the public’s loss of critical reasoning. The point that is made is that television is the ultimate weapon because it controls the minds of all the people who watch it, and it dictates the responses that people will make. Throughout the film there are several scenes where they are watching several televisions at one time to monitor the status of the outside world. Yet, if you look at the images broadcast, they are not news or current events. Rather, they are commercials such as the Orwellian Apple ad which eluded to 1984, or the “unforgettable” ad which used the Nat King Cole song of the same name. The idea is that the media and commercialization control the minds of the public.
Adaptation Paper for Alice in Wonderland (2010):
A Critical Analysis of Tim Burton’s Film Alice in Wonderland
(An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel of the same name.)
The Literary Work
If novels were named retrospectively then Alice in Wonderland might have well been named The Little Girl Who Changed the World. The book has been borrowed from, adapted, and built upon so often it would be impossible to correctly estimate the impact it has had upon the modern landscape. It is an English literary classic which has been interpreted by revisionists as widely varied as Grace Slick to Walt Disney. The story, published in 1865 and written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), is centered on a young girl, Alice, who finds herself in a surreal and magical world where many things are not what they seem. It is a fantastic world where, “Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.” The books fantasy setting has been a source of endless speculation as to its various meanings, and metaphorical interpretations. For example, her constant change in size throughout the course of the story is often interpreted as symbolic of the changes of young adulthood. Yet another example is the dialogue with the Mad Hatter seen as representative of a mathematical inverse relation (Lewis Carroll was an Oxford trained mathematician and logician), or any one of many other theories of hidden math in the novel (see “The Hidden Math behind Alice in Wonderland” by Keith Devlin in the March 2010 issue of MAA Online). Ultimately, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a book is just a book, but Alice in Wonderland will always be a rich source of speculation and “frabjous” wonder.
Approximately twenty five television and film adaptations of Alice in Wonderland have been made in the last one hundred years. That averages out to one every four years. They range from G rated to XXX. Yet, this remake stands out, and, in the case of the 2010 version, it is unmistakably a Tim Burton film. What does that mean? According to Danny Elfman, “Throughout the many stages of his 30 years behind the camera, there has remained a consistent underlying emotional current in Burton’s work—a delicate balance of sadness, humor, and horror that matches his eye for gothic beauty and mythical surrealism.” This very accurately summarizes a great deal about the film. The film abounds with eye candy and visual extravaganza. In check with typical Tim Burton style, his formal film techniques (set/costumes, cinematography, sound design, editing, etc.) rely heavily on animation, digital effects, and a number of cinemagraphic effects to accurately portray the surreal nature of Wonderland (aka Underland in the film).
Furthermore, Tim Burton introduces a number of original ideas in the film which are not found in the novel. Lisa Mullen points out in an article for Sight & Sound that “so many original ideas zip past: the Red Queen’s ugly, distorted head — which her simpering courtiers try to copy with prosthetic disfigurements of their own — and her obsession with beheading people; the magical Oraculum which depicts Alice’s immutable future [where Alice fights for good versus evil in a final battlefield showdown]; the disturbingly uncompromising White Queen, whose goodness comes laced with a narcotic kick.” Additionally, the main themes of the Burton film are debatable, but they are certainly very different from the Lewis Carroll novel. Two themes seem abundantly clear: first, there is a feminist motif throughout the film which asserts a very positive and clear statement about feminine power and gender equality (ex. The slaying of the beast by a knightly dressed Alice); Second, Alice is used as an instrument of a rebel mentality which attempts to buck the traditional, and demonstrate the fallacy of many societal conventions.
One more characteristic element of most of Burton’s film’s can also be found in this version of Alice in Wonderland: parent issues. Kim Newman of Sight & Sound adds that, “The heroes of many of Burton’s films struggle with ‘parent issues’: not just Bruce Wayne, Edward Scissorhands and the fabulist’s son of Big Fish (2003), but even Willy Wonka and Ichabod Crane.” Likewise Alice’s relationship with her father plays prominently in the film.
Tim Burton’s adaptation could not truthfully be called a faithful retelling of the novel penned by Lewis Carroll one hundred and fifty years ago. In fact, it is nowhere close to it. Some would consider the film a reboot of the original novel. It should be called more of a sequel since it builds upon and occurs after her initial visit to Wonderland as a child (In a strange way the 2010 Burton film could be considered a sequel to the 1951 Disney animated film since both were produced by Disney, and the former seems to be an extension of the latter). As Kim Newman points out in an article for Sight & Sound, “In this realm, which she visited as a child, she reprises adventures she dimly remembers — indeed, she has to be persuaded they are not part of a recurring dream. Upbraided for mishearing the land’s name the last time she was here, Alice has to go through it all again shrinking, growing, tea party, court, trial, revolution.” The characters have been carried over from the novel, but the film takes place after Alice’s initial visit as a child. The film is framed by her post pubescent, young adult life where she escapes the bonds of matrimony to pursue an independent existence as a kind of nineteenth century East Orient trader baron on the high seas. So, yes, it is slightly different from the original. “Burton’s Alice, winningly played by the Australian Mia Wasikowska, is no longer a child dreaming on a sunny riverbank, but a rebellious teenager on the run from adulthood and marriage.”
Also, the film lacks Carroll’s playful, but intelligent wordplay. Marguerite O’Hara elaborates stating: “Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Chartes Lutwidge Dodgson, an Oxford scholar who wrote Alice in Wonderland for Alice Liddeil, the daughter of his friend, Henry Liddell, then dean of Christ Church, Oxford. His pseudonym was a play on his real name: Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll was an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which the name Charles comes. This was a man who clearly loved words and word games, and all his writing displays this curious inventiveness.” Alice in Wonderland was no exception, and this same wordplay was a prominent feature of the original novel (For example the dialogue between Alice and the Mad Hatter, “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”). None of this is really present in the film. The language of the film is complex, but it is more of a visual language, and still very different from Carroll.
Finally, Burton’s film includes several cinematic influences to include the Narnia films, and The Wizard of Oz. All three share a similarity where they create a place for children to escape the parental controls of the real world, but these influences have also moved the story away from Lewis Carroll’s original conception. Kim Newman adds: “In Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the heroine isn’t allowed to remain a neutral, sensible, grave presence. Instead she must side with eccentric rebels like the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat against the tyrannical Queen of Hearts. Taking action, Alice wields a vorpal blade against a CGI Jabberwock to ensure the ascension of the remote, purportedly good White Queen… with a plot (sensible girl and companions defeat bad matriarch so good one can prevail) that’s been grafted on to Lewis Carroll’s parade of melancholy absurdities from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.” Additionally, “In its martial spectacle, with armies of armoured red playing cards and white chess pieces clashing as a royal succession is ensured, Burton’s Alice even looks to the model of the film of C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, with action favoured over whimsy.” Marguerite O’Hara, mentioned previously, finds similar influences from Lord of the Rings and Avatar: “The final battle scene where Alice becomes the White Queen’s champion and slays the Jabberwocky is filled with many of the traditional visual elements of films such as Lord of the Rings and Avatar.” Burton’s film adds a great deal from other influences to create a film that differs significantly from Carroll’s creation.
1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
1. “Alice in Wonderland”, Mullen, Lisa, Sight & Sound, May2010, Vol. 20, Issue 5.
2. “Alice in Wonderland”, Newman, Kim & Sinker, Mark, Sight & Sound, Apr2010, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p32-34, 3p.
3. “O Frabjous Day!” O’Hara, Marguerite, Screen Education, Spg2010, Issue 59, p14-23, 10p
5. Tim Burton Interview, Danny Elfman, Interview Magazine: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/tim-burton/
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
1. Analysis of the Book. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a children’s novel written by Roald Dahl and published in 1970. The book follows the events that transpire between Mr. Fox, his family, neighbors, and the farmers he steals from. It is a fable-like story of the farmer versus the fox. Like many of Dahl’s children’s books, the stories tend to be a little harsh and dark, but thoroughly enjoyable and well developed.
2. Analysis of the Film. The film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. It was released in 2009 and directed by Wes Anderson. The film is done using stop motion animation, and allows for the successful portrayal of the anthropomorphic animal characters. The film was well acclaimed critically, and the performances are well developed by a star studded cast.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation. It is a somewhat faithful adaptation in many ways, but makes many liberal additions to beef up the story in order to make its length suitable for a feature length film (the original novel was relatively short). Examples of changes made include an altered ending, and slightly skewed focus. The film adaptation does an outstanding job of presenting and developing the characters in the film through its use of stop motion animation to convey subtle emotional reactions. Oddly, the films heroes are played by Americans and the bad guys are played by Brits.
4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to Fantastic Mr. Fox include:
http://www.novelstudies.org/downloads/Fantastic.pdf This site has a fairly extensive set of tools for lesson plans which may be used by teachers as a means of instruction. It’s a great, and fun, way to get a fairly basic background on the novel. It’s also got some fun ways to better gain insights into the entire story.
http://edwinzee.tumblr.com/post/12197494895/screenwriting-analysis-6-fantastic-mr-fox provides an excellent analysis of the screenwriting for the film.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-remington/fantastic-mr-fox-this-roa_b_396657.html This is an article from the Huffington Post which provides a number of useful points in analyzing the film.
5. Critical Analysis.
What does the film have to say about the conflict between individual fulfillment and societal expectations? Is Mr. Fox right in arguing that we need to make allowance for our animal nature? Is Mrs. Fox right in arguing that duty to family and community overrides personal desires?
A recurrent theme of the film is the need to incorporate or accommodate our wild animal nature (personal desires) in a useful way that positively contributes to social expectations, duty and family. The protagonist is inevitably unable to suppress his wild desires, and the result is his uncontrollable reflexive pilfering of the farmers. Eventually, he turns his compulsion into a positive advantage which aids the animal community, but only after bringing the same community to the brink of destruction. The point being that successful refocus of his creative energies could have had similar results without the danger wrought by his explosive counter repressive reactions. Mr. Fox is correct in arguing that duty to family and community overrides personal desire, but he also recognizes, whether overtly or subconsciously, that personal desire must be accommodated.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
1.Analysis of the film. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the 3rd film in the Harry Potter series of films adapted from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It is a slightly darker adaptation than the other films. For example, the Dementors are considered by many to be too frightening for children. This is strange since it is a children’s book series. The tone of this film is decidedly more English than the previous three films, and there are a number of English references present in the film.
2.Analysis of the book. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is part of the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was published in 1999. As with the other novels in the series, the writing is rich, descriptive, and brings to life a fantasy world full of fascinating characters and stories.
3.Analysis of the Adaptation. In the adapting the book into a film, Alfonso Cuaron was presented with a difficult challenge: the fans of the books are difficult to please, and the special effects challenges of adapting a book set in a fantasy backdrop presents a number of daunting special effects challenges. The film is a relatively faithful adaptation of the book, but it is a highly condensed version (as it must be considering the considerable detail of the novel) which omits various details. For example, the titles of some of Harry’s books (i.e. A Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare and Witch Burning in the 14th Century Was Completely Pointless) were omitted from the book, and, therefore, omitted some insights, humor, concepts.
4.Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban include:
www.sparknotes.com/lit/potter3/themes.html As loathe as many might be to recommend cliff notes for book reviews, this is a good starting point for understanding concepts in the film. Especially for people unfamiliar with the series. There is a lot of information here.
http://www.shmoop.com/harry-potter-3-azkaban/friendship-theme.html An interesting breakdown of the theme of friendship in the film.
http://suite101.com/article/discussion-questions-for-harry-potter-3-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-a256935 An interesting breakdown as part of a book club discussion group which offers a lot of questions for meaningful reflection.
5.Critical Analysis. Perhaps more so than other Harry Potter films, in Prisoner of Azkaban Harry seems to be having “daddy issues.” What are they and how does this relate to the theme of growing up and learning to be a man? How does the feminine fit into this process?
The film has a significant amount of time devoted to Harry’s desire for greater connection with his father (aka daddy issues). As a father I actually found it refreshing. Among the scenes relating to this are the scene where he overcomes the Dementors, the dream with his father, and the godfather scenes with Sirius Black. In short, the scene where his judgment is clouded as he waits for his father to rescue him from the Dementors shows his passage to greater adulthood when he successfully wards of the Dementors on his own, and no longer seeks the assistance of his father. Additionally, the scenes where he longingly seeks/accepts guidance from Sirius Black (the desire to move in with him, the fatherly advice later, and the gift with the feather) show his continuing pursuit of a father figure to protect him and guide him. This is not an uncommon characteristic in films of children without a father (ex. Pink Floyd’s The Wall).
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
1. Analysis of the Book. A Scanner Darkly is a science fiction novel written in 1977 by Philip K. Dick. The book is set in Orange County, California (the Los Angeles area) in a futuristic alternate 1994, and follows the drug addled decay of Bob Arctor aka Fred, a narcotics officer hot on the trail of an investigation of himself. (The narcotics officers in this alternate future maintain a hidden personal identity) The plot is further complicated by the fact that he is unknowingly being forced to spy on a rehabilitation clinic, “New Path”, which is the source of the drug “Substance D”. In the course of his investigation Arctor becomes an addict to Substance D. The story is a journey into the drug addicted lives of Arctor and his acquaintances. It parallels the life and experiences of its author.
2. Analysis of the Film. The film is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s book of the same name. It was released in 2006. The adaptation was done by the Richard Linklater. His interpretation of the film used an animation technique called rotoscoping. The technique is a hybrid a cartoon animation and film. It is very useful in conveying certain aspects of the film, such as the scramble suit worn by the narcotics officers, because of animations ability to successfully recreate the special effects described in the novel. Another example was the opening scene with the aphids. It would have been very complicated or even impossible to create that scene with special effects. Additionally, the rotoscoping use of color was mesmerizing and added a unique quality to the film.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation. The adaptation is considered a relatively faithful interpretation by most critics. This is not surprising since the two share certain key similarities. Both are somewhat anti-authoritarian, and it is well reflected in the film. Linklater was previously known for his film Slackers which is similarly critical of society in its own way. Likewise, Linklater did not miss including Dick’s own anti-authoritarian critic of our own modern day kind of Orwellian police state. It’s like slackers of the future.
4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to A Scanner Darkly include:
http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/frank-views-archive/encounters-with-reality-p-k-dicks-a-scanner-darkly This site performs a breakdown of elements of the book. Additionally, it puts particular emphasis on the main characters struggle with reality. Actually, it looks at the novels attempt to philosophize the interpretation of reality.
http://www.avclub.com/articles/a-scanner-darkly-philip-k-dicks-thematic-obsession,42528 The link is a book club analysis of the novel which provides a number of powerful insights of which I was previously unaware.
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10296 A great site that asks, “Is the real world ready for a Real Philip Dick Movie?”
5. Critical Analysis.
Is A Scanner Darkly an anti-drug parable, an anti-government parable, or both? What is the relationship between drug use and politics in the film?
A Scanner Darkly is both an anti-drug parable and an anti-government parable. It incorporates elements of both. The anti-drug parable is a reflection of the experiences of Philip Dick who used his own life as a model for the creation of the novel. It incorporates many elements of his own negative experiences with drugs and the drug culture, and follows the mental decay, paranoia, hallucination and ensuing difficulties of several characters in the film. It culminates with a mournful tribute to all his friends who have been lost to drugs. The anti-government aspect of the film is well represented, not only by Dick, but by Linklater’s own interpretation of the novel. As mentioned previously, both are somewhat anti-authoritarian, and it is well reflected in the film. It is a descending spiral of one person spying the other. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Barris is spying on Archer, and Archer is spying on Barris and himself, and Donna is spying on them all, but no one knows that Donna is actually an agent. All the while, Arctor is actually being used to spy on New Path. It is a critical look at an authoritarian police state.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
1. Analysis of the Book. No Country for Old Men is a novel written by Cormac McCarthy and published in 2005. The book is, for the most part, set in West Texas (aside from a brief stint across the river from Del Rio [Ciudad Acuña, Mexico]), and follows the events that transpire after Llewelyn Moss, the protagonist, discovers two million dollars in the remnants of a border drug conflict. Like many of McCarthy’s books, there is a large amount of consideration given to the concept of randomness versus fate. The books antagonist, Chigurh, relates a great deal of this conflict in hi dialogues.
2. Analysis of the Film. The film is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book of the same name. It was released in 2007. Unlike, most films it does not have any kind of significant soundtrack, and therefore does not manipulate the emotional tone of the film through use of music. It is left to the viewers own interpretation. The adaptation was done by the Coen brothers, and incorporates various elements of their own dark humor. It is considered by most to be a very faithful retelling of the novel.
3. Analysis of the Adaptation. The adaptation of the film remains true to the book. In fact, it is undoubtedly the most faithful adaptation of any of the films examined so far. Yet, there are significant differences. For the sake of brevity I will not list all the differences, but please see the following for a more detailed description: http://www.avclub.com/articles/book-vs-film-no-country-for-old-men,10236. (For example, the scene between Chigurh and Carla Jean is quite different, and the details of the kid who removes Chigurh’s gun from the car is omitted.) Still, the film version goes to great length to recreate the setting detailed in the book. On a personal note, as a former resident of Alpine, Texas (the same town as one of the victims), I thought they did a pretty good job of filming the setting.
4. Online Research of the Film. The three online sources I found in relation to No Country for Old Men include:
http://philzine.wordpress.com/2007/11/30/no-country-for-old-men-a-critical-response This site has a fairly extensive analysis of the film. Phil, the blog owner, concentrates on the quote by Ed Tom’s uncle regarding vanity. It is one of the most important quotes in the film. I do not necessarily agree entirely with his conclusion, but I think it is better than most.
http://www.avclub.com/articles/book-vs-film-no-country-for-old-men,10236 provides an excellent breakdown of differences between the book and the film. Specifically, it outlines scenes not included in the film from the book.
http://meetinthelobby.com/debate-no-country-for-old-men-ending.html This is not the usual kind of URL I would post, but it has an interesting debate over the ending of the movie with some very interesting comments.
5. Critical Analysis.
The character of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men has been cited as an example of nihilism, a philosophy that holds life has no meaning and that there is no such thing as objective truth. Does this label fit Chigurh (does he have a value system?), or is he just a psycho-killer?
Anton Chigurh is not a nihilist. A nihilist wants to destroy everything, but Chigurh does not want to destroy everything. He kills all those who cross his path, but his destruction is tempered by a kind of moral code that allows the opportunity of randomness or free choice to remove the individual from certain death. Chigurh is something other than a nihilist. Anton Chigurh is more a force of nature. He is more than human in No Country for Old Men. He is a symbol, a force. He is more machine than man. Throughout the film he is seemingly devoid of emotion, compassion, and sympathy. In fact, he operates on a mechanical logic where random chance and fate play integral parts in his actions. Take, for example, the two times in the film where he gives his victims a chance to choose heads or tails over the flip of a coin. Additionally, his victims often remark, “you don’t have to do this,” but of course he does. He is not capable of choice. He is not real, but, rather, an exaggerated hyperbole.