Monday, August 5, 2013

Alice (live action TV mini-series), via Netflix

Alice is a sci-fi/fantasy mini-series based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice, a martial arts teacher, is dating one of her students, Jack of the chiseled good looks. Alice has had commitment issues in the past – her father's disappearance when she was a child left her with a lack of faith in lasting relationships – but she thinks Jack might be the one. She even takes Jack to meet her mother. Then, Jack gets a text telling him to run. He tries to act normal and convince Alice to go with him, right that minute, to meet his family. He even pulls out a ring, a family heirloom, and essentially proposes to her. Alice understandably freaks out at the suddenness of all this and tells him “no.” He leaves, after which she realizes that he left the ring with her. She rushes to give it to him, only to find him being beaten and kidnapped. When she chases after him, she falls through a mirror and into Wonderland.

Supposedly, this is not a reimagined Wonderland, but rather Wonderland as it has developed in the decades since the original Alice visited it and overthrew the Queen of Hearts. This Wonderland is a dystopian world in which real-world humans are captured, pacified, and held captive in the Queen of Hearts' casino, where their emotions are essentially milked out of them and distilled into teas that are then sold to the Wonderland populace. Alice is determined to rescue Jack and her father, who she learns has been in Wonderland all this time. Her only ally is the Hatter, and she's not entirely sure she can trust him.

I think this might have gone over slightly better with me if it had been presented as a retelling of the original story, rather than as a sort of extension of it. The Wonderland of this mini-series had very little connection to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, and because it was supposed to be a future version of it, it needed to feel more connected than it was. How did Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts evolve into a casino owner who sold emotion-teas? Actually, how did any part of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland become what it was in this mini-series? I could see the references, but they seemed to just be dropped in the show, with little thought given to how they came to be.

Even if this had been a dystopian retelling instead of some kind of weird continuation, I don't know that I would have found it to be anything more than mediocre. For some reason, in addition to turning Wonderland into some kind of dark, dystopian, sort-of-industrial land, there were also a lot of retro elements – Alice's outfit, the music, etc. I think the retro elements were intentional, but...why? It was kind of cheesy.

Alice, whose martial arts skills meant that she could join in on the action scenes a little, would have been a more enjoyable character if she hadn't been so stupid. She started off fairly well. Although her mother disapproved of her flat-out rejection of Jack's sudden offer to visit his parents and become engaged, I thought Alice reacted in a very rational way. Unfortunately, in Wonderland she became possessed with an urge to save someone, anyone, and that urge prompted her to rush off to the casino-prison over and over again. This, despite not having a plan, nor any allies aside from the Hatter (who figured they'd all get killed if they even tried to rescue anyone) and the White Knight (who was odd and hugely annoying).

There was romance in this, but it was insultingly predictable. The paths to everyone's happy endings were very clearly marked out well in advance, which made the attempt at a love triangle almost laughable.

All in all, this mini-series was mediocre.

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