First off, a digression. When one is introducing a new technology, it is wise to (a) think through the small practical details of the system so as to minimise inconvenience for your customers, and (b) make sure that the people you employ are completely familiar with the details of the new system and can perform basic maintenance and make simple adjustments with no fuss.
So, for example, with regard to (a) - if you're installing modern 3D technology at your cinema, and you decide that your customers should buy the required polarised glasses at your refreshments stand, you need to tell them so, with large, clear notices in the foyer and on your Web site and so on. You do not let them climb up two floors to the screen area, and only then have a harassed usherette tell them that they've got to go back down and queue up for the bloody things as the clock ticks. (Especially not when you're pushing a new electronic ticketing system that means they won't necessarily have spoken to any of your staff before that point.) And with regard to (b) - if there's a momentary power cut in the projector room, sure, the showing will dip out. There's no help for that sort of thing, we understand. But then you should pause the film showing, get the sound and the picture working again properly, and then rewind to the point where things stopped and start again at that point, not a minute later. You should not carry on showing the film without sound for several minutes, so that the audience misses five or ten minutes of plot (including cameos by half the British acting profession, in this case).
Stupid, stupid Cambridge Arts Cinema. Amiable amateurishness is not the name of the game.
Anyway, the movie...
I'm not, I confess, particularly a Tim Burton fan. I've got nothing against his brand of gothic whimsy, you understand, and I've greatly enjoyed several of his films; I just don't worship at the shrine. Likewise, I don't regard Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books as sacred texts. I recognise that they've become foundational myths for the modern age, mind you - distillations of surreal mathematician's logic for the age of relativity and quantum mechanics, amiable flights from reason for a world that finds reason a source of stress, anthologies of superb imagery with no excessive baggage of meaning. However, it's all too clear to even a casual observer that this film compromises both Burton's artistry and Carroll's vision in pursuit of the safe financial return that made it possible in the first place. The multiple star appearances and vocal contributions could well class as good casting (rather than stunt casting) and a sign of Burton's prestige in the business, and the decision to make this actually a "return to Wonderland" story with a 19-year-old Alice could be considered to represent Burton doing exploratory things with the myth, even if it does give us a heroine in a gauzy blue dress who can appeal equally well to small girls with a Disney-princess fixation and to their fathers. (Though it must be said that the way that Alice's dress refuses to change size when she and her underwear do could be interpreted as sleazy, assuming it's not just a symbol of her rejection of the role into which society is forcing blah blah blah.) But the Avril Lavigne song over the end credits is just too crashingly misplaced.
And honestly, the plot is just too bloody Hollywood wrong. Carroll's small girl is on a holiday from the confusingly rational adult world through a landscape of puns and surreal symbolism; this film determinedly transforms her into a teenage victim of social expectations, achieving anachronistic levels of self-actualisation (or something) by discovering her role as the Prophesied Hero of a cut-price knock-off War of the Ring (which ends very quickly when the literal and metaphorical Dragon from yet another Carroll source dies and the arch-villain's troops all promptly switch sides - gods, was Burton seeing how many TV Tropes entries and general iffy fantasy cliches which the Alice stories don't evoke or use he could drag in?); said War, by the way, is a struggle between playing cards and chess pieces with the chess pieces as the good guys, (which I guess is appropriately Victorian), and has evidently been on hold until Alice shows up; still, it seems to have transformed several of Carroll's innocent characters into expert sword-fighters. Then, in the end, Alice escapes marriage (this is technically a spoiler, but I doubt anyone will be surprised) into the world of commerce - and proposes to set to work opening China up to British trade.
Yes, problems of dating aside, this film suggests that Alice grew up to become an architect of the Opium Wars. Thanks, Tim, but are you sure that you've thought this through?
The ludicrously over-qualified cast do their best with this farrago, although Anne Hathaway for one is clearly struggling with the silliness of her part, and Johnny Depp, given the job of second lead (because this is a Tim Burton film), adopts a Scottish accent at random intervals. Oh, and yes, this is the latest big production to explore the possibilities of 3D technology. Unfortunately, the realistic sections end up suffering from a dolls-house artificiality, and the luridly coloured dreamscape-landscapes of Wonderland (renamed Underland when the script remembers) jumped into my face a bit too assertively.
Ho hum. I actually came out of this movie quite amused by the carnival flamboyance of it, almost willing to forgive the cinema their technical cock-ups, even. But it's too easy to see the problems even while you're watching it, let alone in retrospect. If some films suffer from logic holes - refrigerator logic - this one suffers from refrigerator surrealism. I'm prepared to give Burton the benefit of the doubt and assume that the problems arise from him taking the Disney shilling, but I really hope that he doesn't repeat the mistake.