I went to the cast and crew screening of this at the suitably absurd time of 10.30 AM on Sunday morning. It's good, though it's several steps down from Tim Burton's best stuff. More akin to the gentle, enjoyable but slight likes of Big Fish (I don't mean this to sound like a knock on Big Fish, which is a good film) and the better sections of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory than the day-glo insanity of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure in his 'family friendly' catalogue. The dialogue seems to have gotten away from him in places, and his sense of humour is quite blunted by the setting and the ubiquity of the source material. And there's the inevitable problem of actors trying to generate believability while talking to tennis balls on sticks. But Mia Wasikowska is well cast, Anne Hathaway is sweet and funny, Helena Bonham Carter's panto villain is brilliant and Crispin Glover, well, it's always good to see Crispin Glover. And Johnny Depp does as Johnny Depp does, for better or worse. I liked his performance though, he kept things from going a bit stale. The voice cast all sounded great, even the incongruous Barbara Windsor's swashbuckling mouse.
The visuals are the usual mix in these scenarios of breathtakingly pretty and occasionally rudimentary, but more often than not it looks truly amazing. And the score is the usual Danny Elfman choir and strings affair, good as it ever was. Points off for finishing on an Avril Lavigne ballad though. Bad form.
Still, you can't help but think that it's very much Burton-by-numbers these days. Same score, same look, same Depp, same lack of narrative drive, same kohl-eyed hero. I wanted to love it, but it just didn't totally click. Terry Gilliam did something far more interesting with the Alice story in Tideland a couple of years ago, and Jan Svenkmajer twisted the story nicely twenty years ago, and unless you set out to make a faithful adaptation you really need to do more with the source material than this to make something truly essential.
It's good, certainly worth going to see. Whether it'll be as good in 2D i couldn't say, although I was impressed that they have managed to graft a 3D look on to footage that we shot in standard 35mm at the beginning and end of the film. If you've got kids, probably in the 8-12 range, I think they'll love it. For everyone else it's a matter of how much love you've got left for the Burton style.