Alice | In Case You Missed It...

Down the Hole Again
Jenny Sobczak

Syfy likes reimagining books and turning them into mini-series. At the end of 2007, The Wizard of Oz became Tinman, with Zooey Deschanel as DG and Neal McDonough as Cain, also known as the titular Tin Man. Last December 6th and 7th, Alice in Wonderland became Alice, the story of a black-belt who accidentally follows her boyfriend and his abductors through the looking glass and into another world. Once there, the viewers recognize that they’re not in the Wonderland from the novel. Written and directed by Nick Willing, Alice shows us what Wonderland might look like in modern times, almost 150 years after the novel was written.

The miniseries is full of visual twists and turns. The venture to bring Wonderland from the 19th to the 21st century must have been a large undertaking, but the artists involved do it well. From the houses of cards, to the Queen of Hearts’ throne, almost everything is reminiscent of objects from earlier film adaptations of this set of novels. It also makes an active effort to tie “The Walrus and the Carpenter” into the story, rather than keeping it as a story within the story. It introduces the concept of the citizens of Wonderland calling the humans “oysters,” which is one of the better tie-ins in the mini-series.

The performances by the lead actors, particularly that of Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts, were very good considering it was a TV miniseries in two episodes. Bates made a very royal queen, somehow, even though she was dressed in what looked like a floor-length muumuu. There were fewer decapitation sentences than there might have been, but it hardly registers as a problem with the movie. Caterina Scorsone, as Alice, was very convincing. She didn’t overact, which can be a problem in made-for-TV films like this. And Andrew Lee Potts, as Hatter, was considerably less mad than the traditional Mad Hatter, but a more interesting character with a bigger purpose than in any previous movie version of the story.

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It may be difficult to imagine the Wonderland mythology without an appearance by the Cheshire cat, but – spoiler alert – he hardly makes an appearance in Willing’s version. Fortunately, both episodes do just fine without him. With the plot falling in how it does, I have a harder time finding a place for the Cheshire cat than I do with accepting his absence. Even with how iconic the character of the Cheshire cat is to the original story and all other film adaptations, the rest of the events in Alice don’t really make me miss this one character. All characters in Willing’s miniseries are human, even the ones that were animals originally. For a science fiction version of the story, it works well.

Alice in Wonderland seems just as strange a choice for reimagining as The Wizard of Oz does, but Syfy makes it work. This mini-series originally aired at a time when most people had heard about Tim Burton’s adaptation of the same story and were eagerly awaiting its arrival in theaters. It is as though Syfy anticipated this waiting period and created something with the same familiar story in order to distract us: like they, along with Nick Willing, decided to take advantage of the public’s desire to see one Alice in Wonderland tale and hoped people wouldn’t mind seeing two. It’s an effective tactic, though. Plus, the commercials showed just enough of Tim Curry to get Rocky Horror Picture Show fans pulled in. I watched mostly because I saw Tim Curry was in it, and even though his character plays a very small role, I still found myself interested in the rest of the story. If the SyFy Channel airs this one again, tuning in wouldn’t be a bad idea.