A Mad Man’s View of Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland

I keep hearing my friends and critics say they were disappointed by the new Alice In Wonderland by Tim Burton. Including suggestions that “it had no plot,” was “nothing but eye candy,” and I can’t help but wonder were we watching the same movie?

The Mad Hatter: “Have I gone mad?”
Alice checks Hatter’s temperature
Alice Kingsley: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

I think a lot of people were hoping for a drug infused neon wonderland filled with drug-lore, and 90’s alternative subculture. Instead, Burton conceived a portrayal of madness, imagination, dreams, and self acceptance and discovery. I mean what represents someone battling their demons better than Alice literally battling a demon?

Out of all of Burton’s films I found his interpretation of Alice In Wonderland to be his most daring, brilliant, and status quo challenging movie to date. With that said, I can easily see how it alienated a lot of his unoriginal pinstripe wearing studded belt core audience, but in doing so made his point that much sharper. Similar to Apple’s “Think Different” campaign it was a call to the few who truly haven’t lost touch with their dreams, childhood, and imagination.

To understand Burton’s interoperation of Alice in Wonderland, as well as Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter you have to look at Lewis Carroll the person (who’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). To understand Lewis Carroll the person you have to take into consideration that he suffered from some form of epilepsy, possibly frontal lobe seizures, and at the very least was bipolar. He also suffered from a condition deemed “Alice In Wonderland Syndrome” which has officially been named Micropsia and Macropsia, which alters one’s perception of the size of objects. In Victorian time’s they had little understanding of mental health and he was simply labeled as “mad.” Tim Burton himself know’s madness quite well, for he is in fact is bipolar, and even cast others in the film who are openly bipolar such as Stephen Fry who voiced the Cheshire Cat. Burton’s underlining message through the movie was the idea that all the best people in the world are simply mad, and in madness is something innately human that it is not only acceptable, it’s admirable.

I’ve also heard various complaints that Johnny Depp didn’t live up to their expectations as the Mad Hatter. For at times his character is manic, borderline, aggressive, and sometimes downright silly. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter appeared to have several different personalities, voices and tones, including one that sounded more like Captain Jack Sparrow. Most importantly he spoke with a stammer most of the time, which is a form of speech impediment that Lewis Carroll personally suffered from. Several other personality traits of Depp’s Mad Hatter also reflect Carroll himself, for Carroll was known for his wit, tendency to randomly break into song and dance, was known for playing mind games, and enjoyed playing charades. Depp clearly understood Burton’s vision for the film, and didn’t make the Mad Hatter anything that he shouldn’t have been, for this story was about Alice.

When you consider Burton took into account Lewis Carroll the person the movie’s motive is clear, clever, and well executed. So to all the naysares out there who didn’t understand the movie, you weren’t supposed to, and that was Burton’s point. For those who did understand the movie, well then you’re truly mad.