Jan 14, 2010

[TV] Alice (2009)

SyFy's AliceLewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland remains to be one of the most quoted / referenced / adopted stories in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, in my opinion. Let's face it - Carroll was a mad genius who wrote one of the craziest and yet most brilliant stories ever told and writers can't help but seek some degree of inspiration from the tale at least once in their lives. This is especially true for all those who really get into fantasy given how diverse and compelling his characters and concepts were.

There have been many actual adaptations of this story ranging from the clean and sparkly Disney cartoon to the grim and gory American McGee's Alice which had her running around Wonderland with a wicked looking knife. To attempt an Alice story of your own is to risk the audience having very particular expectations of how the characters behave and how the story should go, even for a land as mad as Wonderland.

SyFy decided to support its own bid for a unique twisting of the Alice tale with very mixed results.

Alice is a TV mini-series set about 150 years after the time of the original story, thus allowing elements of high fantasy and hardcore science fiction to be introduced. In this story, a new judo sensei version of Alice (Caterina Scorsone) who stumbles upon the operations of the White Rabbit organization who kidnap people from the real world. They bring their captives to Wonderland to have their emotions harvested by the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) in her casino, these bottled emotions now taking the role of narcotics in Wonderland society.

Alice manages to fall into the hands of The Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts) who is part of a resistance group led by the Dodo (Tim Curry) who are trying to overthrow the Queen's regime. Naturally, having an Alice on their side seems to be a key event and somehow she may hold the power to bring the entire kingdom down and free all of Wonderland from her grip.

I know, pretty weird synopsis, huh?

Initially I was really excited about this TV mini-series given the sheer storytelling potential given them. Adding in elements of science fiction and fantasy to a tale as amazingly well-crafted as this one just couldn't go wrong, one would think. But somehow it did and this series became a total snore fest.

First, there was the odd inconsistency in the strength of the protagonist. One moment, she's a kick ass martial artists. The next, she's lost in Wonderland without any idea what to do. She was able to recognize that Wonderland came from a children's story book but apparently had never read it and thus was never able to use such basic knowledge to her advantage. I mean seriously, how could she not know absolutely ANYTHING about Wonderland?

Then there was the Johnny Depp ripoff of a Mad Hatter. Even without considering the new Alice in Wonderland movie set to come out this year, Potts was obviously trying to play someone cool and slick like Depp and was totally failing at it all throughout. And yet he kept doing it all throughout the series.

200 pxImage via Wikipedia

The whole harvesting of emotions is an old concept in science fiction and fantasy and could have been a lot more interesting that how it was presented. Plus I'm not sure what direction the writers gave Kathy Bates in terms of how she portrayed her character given she was just okay and not as over-the-top as I was expecting given the role and of course the actress herself. Plus it wasn't even clear how obviously like playing cards they wanted their people to appear. Sometimes they only had subtle prints on their suits with the card family they represented. Other times you get people with really silly bishops' costume that made them look rather...phallic.

Plus the introduction of more technological elements seems rather limited and out-of-place and the director failed in marrying the two worlds together well enough,. Thus the overall story suffered from a bit of madness itself and remained long and dragging in some parts and a little hard to follow in others.

SyFy's Alice is hardly the kind of masterpiece we expected from the same production team that brought the world Tin Man. It only gets 2 ridiculous flamingo speeders out of a possible 5.

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