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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Review

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The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies

Time:
144 Minutes (Theatrical)
164 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian Holm as Old Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin II Oakenshield
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/Sauron
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Aidan Turner as Kíli
Dean O’Gorman as Fíli
Manu Bennett as Azog the Defiler
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Billy Connolly as Dáin II Ironfoot
Stephen Fry as Master of Lake-town
Ryan Gage as Alfrid Lickspittle
Director: Peter Jackson

Having reclaimed Erebor and vast treasure from the dragon Smaug, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) sacrifices friendship and honor in seeking the Arkenstone, despite Smaug’s fiery wrath and desperate attempts by the Hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to make him see reason. Meanwhile, Sauron sends legions of Orcs in a sneak attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, the races of Men, Elves and Dwarves must decide whether to unite and prevail — or all die.

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While I like The Hobbit movies, The Battle of the Five Armies has a lot of issues and is arguably the weakest of the trilogy. Despite many of the problems I have however, I’d say that it works well as a conclusion to the overarching Middle Earth story.

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Director Peter Jackson said that there was enough content to justify three movies, and having seen The Battle of the Five Armies I have to disagree. There are two main events, the battle at Laketown with Smaug and the whole final battle which fills the remaining running time. The narrative focuses on these two major events left in the story and how it bridges them. Smaug is dealt with in the first 15 minutes and while it was well handled, it’s pretty clear that it should’ve been put at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. So the movie is pretty much just about the titular battle and as you can tell, the whole movie is mostly this is one big battle. Leading up to that point, they are really building up this battle. However it doesn’t feel grand and important and epic like it was trying to be. It’s not a problem with the first two movies because those were smaller scale for the most part, but The Battle of the Five Armies is trying so hard to be something big, but it doesn’t work. You don’t care about the large scale stuff but the movie is definitely leaning more towards that than its characters. There is a bit of an emotional disconnect from the story and characters, it certainly doesn’t help that you can figure out most of what happens, it doesn’t actually feel like there are many stakes. When the camera shows a big battle with none of the main players being a part of it, you wonder what the point of it is. If Jackson really wanted to stretch the movies into three, along with the movie being largely about the battle, there’s other opportunities to add some other character building moments or something similar. Unfortunately, some of the characters that have been built up and introduced over the previous two films are squandered in mere cameo roles. It feels like a lot more of the runtime should’ve been spent with characters and their interactions, especially Thorin. Thorin’s madness and greed is a notable plotline, more scenes developing that would’ve been better, and it would suit the darker approach well. There was potential there, there’s some great scenes involving Thorin and Bilbo. Unfortunately, Thorin’s storyline of a man driven to greed is played oddly camp and over the top, and it loses any of its edge and effectiveness, you don’t even really take it seriously. When it does get to the third act, it focuses up a little more onto characters we actually know (as opposed to random CGI creations), and the conclusion was satisfying enough.

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By the time it gets to The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s even more clear that we aren’t really watching an adaptation of The Hobbit, it may bother some but as someone who never read the books I was fine with that. It does try to add as much Tolkien lore as possible. It does feel like fan fiction but with fiction from a fan comes passion, and you can feel the passion throughout. Hence why I’m not with the people calling the movie a cash grab. With that said, it can get a little silly at points, such as Gandalf’s first scene. The movie often tries to throw references to the LOTR trilogy which serves no purpose and felt cheesy and placed into the screenplay to get a reaction from the audience. They don’t really add anything and almost felt lazy at points. As someone who loves The Lord of the Rings trilogy and really likes the first two Hobbit movies, I do wonder what happened with some of the decisions made here. So much of this movie is over the top ridiculous. The Hobbit movies had that and even the Lord of the Rings trilogy had that, but some moments are so silly and goofy that it almost became fascinating, like Peter Jackson is actively trolling the audience or something. At a point I just sort of accepted it but it is beyond jarring. I wasn’t expecting so much stilted and awkward dialogue from characters, I’m not really sure what happened there. The comedy is kind of ridiculous too, I generally like the comedy in the other movies but it’s so over the top here. There’s even a comic relief character that the film keeps cutting to for some reason (and no he’s not funny). While I consider the extended cuts of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy to be the defining versions of these movies, The Hobbit movies are fine enough without them, especially the case with this one. I watched the extended cut, and like with the other Hobbit extended cuts, some new scenes are great, other scenes feel like filler.

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The cast from the past Hobbit movies return, and they are generally pretty good here. Of the characters, Bilbo and Thorin get the most focus, much of the other characters are neglected. Their dynamic is great, but I wish they got a lot more to do. Martin Freeman is good as always as Bilbo, but he doesn’t get to do a whole lot, especially compared to the past movies. Richard Armitage is great as Thorin, especially as it’s going towards the greed storyline involving him. As said before though, I wish the storyline was handled better because it had a lot of potential. Other actors like Ian McKellan, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom and Lee Pace are good in their parts, though don’t get much chances to shine. A distraction character is some side character named Alfrid, who pretty much serves as some random comic relief. He was the deputy of the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) in the last movie, and he was okay in his role. If they really wanted one of the two characters to be the comic relief in this movie, I wish it was Stephen Fry instead. Apparently the reason he is in this so much is because they liked the actor Ryan Gage, and I’m not sure about that reason, because he’s quite annoying in this movie. He’s fine for the first two scenes but they keep giving him scenes. He’s not funny, he doesn’t evolve or change over the course of the movie, and he doesn’t really add anything to the movie. He even dresses up in a corset to pretend to be a woman at a point, and by that point, you just really wonder what Peter Jackson and the rest of the writers were even doing at this point. He gets even more screentime in the extended cut, so if you wanted more reason not to watch that version, there’s that. One surprising addition to the last Hobbit movie was Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, who was quite good. One part relating to her that I didn’t like however was the romantic subplot with her and Kili, it wasn’t really convincing and was a bit of a distraction, but at least it was a small part. In this movie however they leaned even further into that melodramatic subplot, and the romance and the dialogue relating to it can get very soap opera-like, and not in any enjoyable way.

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I’ve generally thought Peter Jackson’s direction of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies have been great, and while I liked some of his work in The Battle of the Five Armies, it has issues. Something about the look of the movie is off, particularly here even when compared to the past movies. It’s got this overly glossy look to it. The Hobbit movies’ effects get worse with every instalment, which means it looks the worst here. Not that it’s all bad, some aspects like Smuag still look fantastic. Where you mainly notice the visual effects issues are in the action scenes, and that’s probably why some of the visuals of the film look quite off. The overuse of CGI and green screen really distracts and makes it a bit of a mess, with far too many sweeping shots of CGI landscapes, townships and castle-rubble. Those types of scenes stood out as looking a bit fake in the other two movies, but at least it wasn’t constant. This movie is mostly a big battle movie however, so they stand out a lot more. It already feels jarring with the past two movies not really being battle movies at all. The action scenes for the most part are good, there are some great set pieces like the opening sequence with Smaug. Each set piece tries so hard to top the next, with large environments being destroyed. A lot of it is really over the top and silly, even by Jackson’s Lord of the Rings standards. Stuff like Legolas jumping up on falling debris is straight out of a video game, in fact any action scene with Legolas takes the edge of the battle scene with his plot armour, though they are undeniably entertaining. A lot of the action doesn’t really have any impact and just feels like computer people attacking each other, mainly because it is. In fact, you could keep some action scenes in and remove others and it wouldn’t change much of the plot at all. The music from Howard Shore is unmemorable but fitting.

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I still like The Battle of the Five Armies but it’s by far the worst instalment in the Middle Earth series. It doesn’t do enough to justify the Hobbit movies as needing three films to deliver the story, and has multiple issues on writing and directing levels. If you didn’t like the previous two movies, you definitely won’t like this one. With that said, I do like it. It has some good moments, the action is gloriously over the top and entertaining, and I enjoyed watching it. I just wish it was much better than it was.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Review

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Time:
161 Minutes (Theatrical)
186 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield II
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Stephen Fry as Master of Lake-town
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Director: Peter Jackson

Having survived the first part of their unsettling journey, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his companions (Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage) continue east. More dangers await them, including the skin-changer Beorn and the giant spiders of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood Elves, Bilbo and the dwarves journey to Lake-town and, finally, to the Lonely Mountain, where they face the greatest danger of all: the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

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As a big fan of The Lord of the Rings movies, I found The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be good but a little disappointing when I first watched it. However, after repeat viewings, I’ve been liking it more over time. Still, I’ve always found the sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, to be an improvement over the first Hobbit movie in some ways.

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First of all, what is immediately noticed is that this movie is a lot faster paced than An Unexpected Journey, mainly because it didn’t need to set up anything with the story or characters, it just heads right into it. At the same time, it does build on the already established characters over time. The tone is a bit all over the place especially with the humour, but it is still a lot better than the first movie’s tone. The movie does feel overstuffed at times but as I said earlier, it moves at a respectable pace, and it still feels less crowded than the last movie. There are worldbuilding scenes with Gandalf after he separates from the Dwarves early on for certain reasons, and I did like that plotline as it was linking into the past Lord of the Rings movies. However the main focus lies with Bilbo and the dwarves as it continues to follow their adventure, and I liked watching that. If you’ve watched the first movie, you can probably tell at this point that they are doing their own thing instead of just being a straight adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Peter Jackson is having these three movies as a prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings trilogy by using The Hobbit as a vessel. He’s taken liberties in deciding what to show, and for the most part I’m on board with them. These Hobbit movies are long but generally I prefer that they are longer than shorter. With regard to the extended cuts in all three movies in the Hobbit Trilogy, there are some great new scenes that add a lot to the world and characters, and there are also some unnecessary additions that weren’t needed. The Desolation of Smaug is darker than An Unexpected Journey, but doesn’t have the narrative weight of the LOTR trilogy, which is why I think these movies really suffer as their core. There are times where it tries to be as strong as LOTR but it just can’t reach those levels. The third act is pretty strong, though I’m not sure about the ending. At first I thought it was good, looking at Battle of the Five Armies though, it’s quite a wonder why they decided to end the movie where they did. There’s a whole major plot point that takes 15 minutes to end, and instead on concluding it here, they put it at the beginning of the next film. While it works as a cliff-hanger, it is a bit of a double edged sword.

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The cast all around are really good. As expected, Martin Freeman is once again great as Bilbo Baggins and he continues to do some great things here, even if he’s in the backseat sometime. Ian McKellen is once again great as Gandalf. The dwarves and their respective actors are good even if they are still lacking and aren’t quite fully fleshed out characters, they have more characterisation compared to in the previous movie. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his appearance seems unneeded especially as he wasn’t in The Hobbit book, but I liked seeing him here. A new character introduced into the Lord of the Rings world in Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. While the addition could’ve backfired, she was actually a welcome addition. I wasn’t such a fan of the romantic triangle subplot with her and Kili (Aidain Turner), it wasn’t convincing and doesn’t quite work but you can look past it. Other actors including Luke Evans and Lee Pace do well in their parts, and even Stephen Fry makes a brief but memorable appearance. Benedict Cumberbatch performs the voice and motion capture work as Smaug and everything about Smaug was great. His introduction scene with him and Bilbo and their conversation together was one of the best scenes of the movie.

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Peter Jackson once again has a great handle on this movie. There are some really good action scenes with some great creativity. One of the highlights was one involving a river and barrels in the first half of the movie. The action is unapologetically over the top for sure, even more so than the LOTR action, but is nonetheless enjoyable. Compared with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit movies have a much greater emphasis on CG than practical effects. For the most part it doesn’t bother me like it does other people, it’s just a little jarring at times. There are stunning visuals and I like the settings, whether they are made with practical sets, actual landscapes, or if they are CG created. Some special effects are great, Smaug in the last act for example looks fantastic. Some of the other effects can look a little iffy sometimes however. Not bad perse but it’s just sort of the issues that you would see in most modern blockbusters.

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The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t quite reach the level of the Lord of the Rings movies and has its problems, but is definitely the best of The Hobbit movies, and is pretty good on its own. It was directed very well, there’s some good visuals and action, and the cast are great in their roles. If you liked An Unexpected Journey it’s worth a watch, and I’d say it’s worth a watch even if you didn’t because you might like it a lot more.

V for Vendetta (2006) Review

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V For Vendetta

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, offensive language and sexual references
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Evey
Hugo Weaving as V
Stephen Rea as Finch
Stephen Fry as Deitrich
John Hurt as Adam Sutler
Director: James McTeigue

In a futuristic, totalitarian Britain, a freedom fighter known simply as V (Hugo Weaving), uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressive society. Evey (Natalie Portman) aids him in his mission to bring down the government.

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V for Vendetta has always been in my very long list of favourite movies. Its influence and impact is quite significant, even just looking at the rise in popularity with the Guy Fawkes mask very since the film’s release, even though it had been around for a while. It’s now been 15 years since V for Vendetta’s initial release, and this movie still holds up really well, and unfortunately still feels rather relevant.

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V for Vendetta is based off the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. A criticism of the movie is that a lot of the complexity from the original novel has been reduced, and from the time that I read it a long time ago I can’t necessarily disagree. The movie is a lot less morally grey and ambiguous, and more black and white, an example being that the character of V being less questionable as a character, and more like a classic anti-hero who is a freedom fighter against fascism. While at first that sounds negative, watching it on its own, it’s still a very great movie and I really liked the movie. As it is, V for Vendetta is still a politically charged and politically relevant movie and the setting is pretty realistic, and not really that fantastical despite it being a dystopia dictatorship. It is a political thriller first and foremost, and a very entertaining and engaging one at that.

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The cast all work very well in their roles. Although V is the face of the movie, it’s really Natalie Portman’s movie, and she is great in her part as Evey. She gets to really shine in the second act, especially during a certain pivotal segment of the film. Hugo Weaving plays V and is memorable and iconic in every scene that he’s in. You don’t see his face and is very mysterious and was interesting to learn about as the movie progressed. Weaving’s voice is so memorable and really added a lot of charisma and personality to the character. John Hurt is pretty much the dictator figure of the movie. He really plays the role very large and he does very well in his limited screentime. The rest of the supporting cast are also good, with the likes of Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and others playing their parts well.

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V for Vendetta is directed well by James McTeigue. Now the Wachowskis didn’t direct it (rather they were the writers and producers of the movie) but you could feel their influence all over it when it comes to the style, and especially when it comes to the action. Visually, it is quite striking and unforgettable, it’s a great looking movie, and the setting that the movie takes place in is fully realised. Despite it being a dystopian world technically, it is grounded and feels quite real. The action is great when it’s there, all of them involving V, with them being choreographed well and utilised the slow-motion to great effect. However, don’t expect to see a lot of action scenes in this movie, they aren’t the focus and it’s not that sort of movie.

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V for Vendetta is a great movie altogether, and one of my favourites of all time, definitely gets better with every viewing I have of it. It’s directed excellently, the performances are great (particularly from Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman), and I really liked the story. It may be well one of the best ‘comic book movies’ ever. Definitely watch this movie if you haven’t already.

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) Review

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in Disney's ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, an all-new adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll's beloved stories.

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Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some scenes may scare very young children
Cast:
Johnny Depp as Tarrant Hightopp, the Mad Hatter
Anne Hathaway as Mirana of Marmoreal, the White Queen
Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh
Helena Bonham Carter as Iracebeth of Crims
Sacha Baron Cohen as Time
Rhys Ifans as Zanik Hightopp
Matt Lucas as Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Alan Rickman as Absolem, the Butterfly (voice)
Stephen Fry as Cheshire, the Cheshire Cat (voice)
Michael Sheen as Nivens McTwisp, the White Rabbit (voice)
Timothy Spall as Bayard, the Bloodhound (voice)
Director: James Bobin


Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Underland and finds the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in an illness. The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) told Alice that in order to help the Hatter, she must travel to the past, only to find out that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), a walking clock-like man, have a plan to take over Underland.

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I didn’t have any expectations going into Alice Through the Looking Glass. I really disliked the first film, it’s been 6 years since the original and it seems that the only reason this film exists is because it made lots of money. And the sequel was pretty much what I expected it to be. The story is messy, the acting (for the most part) is over the top and sometimes bad, and the visuals are fake looking (even more so than the original). It’s a frustrating because the film had some potential.

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This movie is all over the place. There’s so many elements crammed into this movie and they aren’t fully formed or developed. This movie has so much going on, the Red Queen and White Queen’s backstory, the Mad Hatter’s backstory, Alice in the real world, and so many more and I didn’t care about any of these plotlines. It’s almost as if it was a tv series with all the plots of the episodes plots stuffed and cut down to fit one movie. I will say that this movie had more potential than the first film as it dealt with time, and there are some ideas in the film which seemed okay, at least to me. But as I said, the ideas aren’t fully realised or developed well enough. I also never really cared about what was going on or was concerned about how things would end, I just straight up didn’t care about anything that was going on in the movie.

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In the first movie, I didn’t like Mia Wasikowska’s performance, I thought that it was bland, boring and flat (though it really wasn’t her fault). I actually liked her in this movie however, she doesn’t have a lot of great material to work with but she was quite good here and was a likable protagonist. I also really liked Sacha Baron Cohen as Time. However if you think that Time is the main antagonist of the movie, that’s unfortunately not the case, it’s the Red Queen again, which… kinda sucks because she’s extremely over the top and doesn’t work at all. Everyone else is pretty much their characters from the first film, but worse. Johnny Depp is doing Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter is doing Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway… really didn’t give a good performance here either. Particularly those three were annoying in their roles.

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The first movie had an overload of CGI and green screen, leading to some sequences feeling quite fake, however it was still a good looking movie overall. Somehow this movie manages to add even more CGI and green screen, nothing feels natural, everything feels artificial and fake. The designs for a lot of the locations and the characters (like in the first film) were creative and sometimes great, but they aren’t portrated on screen that well.

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Alice through the Looking Glass is what I expected this movie to be. It’s about as bad as the original, there are some elements which are better and there are some elements which are worse. I did like Mia Wasikowska and Sacha Baron Cohen in their roles, and there are some ideas and potential in the story. But at the same time the script is crammed with so many unformed ideas, the acting is mostly over the top and occasionally bad (particularly from Depp, Bonham Carter and Hathaway) and the CGI and green screen was horrible. I have no idea what you’ll think of this movie, but I’ll say if you didn’t like the first film, I think it’s highly unlikely that you’ll like the sequel.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) Review

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Alice in Wonderland

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Frightening fantasy scenes and violence
Cast:
Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter
Anne Hathaway as The White Queen
Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen
Crispin Glover as Stayne – Knave of Hearts
Matt Lucas as Tweedledee/Tweedledum
Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh
Alan Rickman as Blue Caterpillar (voice)
Stephen Fry as Cheshire Cat (voice)
Michael Sheen as White Rabbit (voice)
Timothy Spall as Bayard (voice)
Director: Tim Burton

A young girl when she first visited magical Wonderland, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is now a teenager with no memory of the place — except in her dreams. Her life takes a turn for the unexpected when, at a garden party for her fiancé and herself, she spots a certain white rabbit and tumbles down a hole after him. Reunited with her friends the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Cheshire Cat and others, Alice learns it is her destiny to end the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) reign of terror.

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Tim Burton nowadays can be hit or miss with hits with Sweeney Todd and misses with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. When it comes to his take on Alice in Wonderland, people are divided but the movie did make a lot of money so obviously a lot of people liked it. However in my opinion, Alice in Wonderland is a miss and it might be his worst work yet. I haven’t read the book or seen any of the previous interpretations but yet I found this movie a bad adaptation. It tries to be this big grand war movie when it didn’t need to be. It’s so strange how this movie turned out, considering the fact that Tim Burton is a perfect choice to direct an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. But whatever the case, I felt that this movie was a huge let down and a terrible version of the classic story.

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It should be noted that this movie isn’t even an adaptation of the original Alice in Wonderland story because this isn’t the first time Alice has been to Wonderland. Later you find out that this place isn’t even called Wonderland, it’s called Underland. So the movie is more Grown Up Alice Returns to Underland than Alice in Wonderland. This movie also seemed to miss the point of Alice in Wonderland. There is some made up prophecy story forced into this movie and it also tries to make a war movie out of Alice in Wonderland. Because of this there are so many plot holes, like there’s a scene where Alice uses the enlarging cake to grow bigger, couldn’t they just make more of that cake and use it to win the war? Also despite this movie being PG, there are some pretty dark things that happen in the movie, so this film also doesn’t know what age they are working towards.

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Mia Wasikowska plays Alice and she is extremely bland and boring in this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she’s a great actress, I just think it was the direction and writing that let her down. She barely looks interested or distressed by all the events happening all around her. Johnny Depp is playing typical Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter is playing typical Helena Bonham Carter. They aren’t bad but they aren’t anything special either, same can be said for the other characters.

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I will say the one good thing about this movie is that at times the style does show Wonderland off quite well. The designs for all the characters are perfect, take the Cheshire cat for instance. Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland were a perfect pair for each other and although the rest of the movie isn’t good, at least everything looks great, even though there is quite a lot of CGI used.

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Alice in Wonderland was so popular that this year we’ll be getting a sequel. Do I think it’s possible for it to be good? Anything is possible but it’s unlikely. This film did have some good designs and some potential with Burton’s involvement, however the writing completely lets the story down by being bigger and more serious than it should. I think this is my least favourite Tim Burton movie so far. I know that Burton isn’t directing the sequel but I’m still not looking forward to it. Then again Alice in Wonderland is not a very tough act to follow, so it might at least be better.