Alice in Wonderland Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Alice in Wonderland did something I didn’t expect and which pleased me much: it integrated The Jabberwocky into the story. The miniature adventure story told in that poem packed with silly words became the thread that pulled together many disparate parts, and gave the movie a skeleton upon which to pile meat and gravy. I think I’m mixing metaphors, and this is only the introductory paragraph, but bear with me.

I memorized The Jabberwocky in high school, and I entertain myself with it when it returns in my mind at odd times. In the stanza regarding the battle with the Jabberwocky…

One, two, one, two, and through and through…

I have always recited it with vim and vigor, packing great action, at least in my mind, with those few spare words. When Johnny Depp rocked the poem (I don’t believe they bothered with that actual, throw-away line I quoted), rolling with a heavy Scottish brogue, it gave me great warm feeling.

The writer of the screenplay, Linda Woolverton, clearly knows how to construct a story. She wrote Milan, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, among other films. She is a master at combining sequences of smaller stories into a greater whole. Regarding Alice, it was the introductory story of the Alice suffering nightmares, then the slightly larger story of Alice facing a marriage proposal, and then the much grander series of adventures in Underland: pursuit by the Knight and Bandersnatch, escape with Hatter, return to castle, find the vorpal sword, the call to be a champion, and, finally, the epic battle. It is all wrapped up neatly in one final story, turning down her suitor, and assuming the role of adventurer.

Where I think it excelled was at maintaining the trappings of the original story’s silliness while building in a modern and entertaining story structure. I now realize that this gushing love I show for this movie was demonstrated by many of my geeky friends regarding the retelling of Star Trek, and I found myself annoyed by the same techniques with that movie. Perhaps Ms. Woolverton just did a better job of it.