It's hard going to the movies when you are the sort of person who can't watch most commercials/television shows/movies/etc. without identifying all the ways in which the message is designed to encourage systems of privilege, particularly when you're dating the sort of person who a. enjoys the philosophy of film and b. does not distinguish between aesthetic judgments and moral failings. But nonetheless, sometimes I struggle out of my safe, feminist blogosphere and engage in example of pop culture.
Like last night when Hypatia's Boy and I went to see Alice in Wonderland. (Or, Tim Burton imagines what Alice in Wonderland would be like as an action flick). Spoilers probably follow.
Let me start out with the two parts I unabashedly loved about the movie. (Outside, of course, of my ongoing, one-sided passionate romance with both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter) (For reals tho, would totally marry them both in some sort of harem-ified love fest)
1. There was no love story. This movie has a central protagonist (such as it was) who is a 19 year old girl AND NO ONE MADE OUT WITH HER. Not even Johnny Depp. I understand that this was a Disney movie (more on the obvious intrusions of Disney execs below) but still, I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a central protagonist who was a woman that didn't have some sort of sappy "love makes my ovaries complete" (sub-)plot. Actually, I'm pretty certain that it was Alien, but no one will rewatch that movie with me for me to confirm. If Alice can be the progeny of Ripley, I'm totes down with that.
We (eventually) get to Wonderland because Alice runs away from a proposal for marriage, and when we get back from Wonderland, Alice turns down the proposal to become an economic imperialist. Do you know how that warms the cockles of my fuck-gender-norms heart to watch a nice movie that isn't all about marrying off the womenfolk (and usually to totally lame-o menz)? There was a little hint at the end that they might make it into some sort of sappy bullshit love story, but they didn't! A win for women who have shit to do with their lives that doesn't involve doing men's laundry all around!
2. She killed the Big Bad all by herself. Again, this would be unremarkable if it were Alexander in Wonderland, but given that Alice has two X chromosomes, this is completely amazing. We finally, after a series of boring but totally color-corrected scenes get to The Big Conflict (whether or not we care about the Big Conflict shall be addressed below), Alice steps out (in armor) with the big sword and slays the fucking monster all by herself. No one throws her a sword, no one tells her when to strike, she has to bring her ovaries to the battlefield and cut the monster down because of her own strength of will and confidence. Just like in every children's movie that revolves around a boy. This was the part that I was really worried about. That instead of Alice killing the monster, all of her little (dude) friends would each lend a hand and help her drench the battlefield in blood. I was, in fact, totally prepared to walk out of the theater if that happened (mostly because I really wasn't that invested in the movie to begin with, but still, I have to have my principles).
But alas, I was safe.
In kind of a neutral comment, I realized while watching the movie that I had no idea the storyline of Alice in Wonderland. As in, whether or not the plot was dramatically different ('twas) or just jiggled about so that they could cast someone over the age of consent ('twasn't). Which is weird, because I'm totally familiar with the tropes and cultural effects of AiW, I can talk about the Mad Hatter, I can follow the White Rabbit, I know about the drug references, etc. But I really was uncertain as to whether or not the plot involved Alice being the prophesied Big-Bad slayer. Which is, when you think of it, a kind of large thing to be uncertain about.
Things I hated about the movie:
1. I'm totally over CG-ified movies. We saw it in 3d, and I totes understand that the movie theaters/companies have realized that asking us to pay more than $10 AND watch more than 25 minutes of outright commercials is probably not going to happen and so now they have to gimmick up the movie experience so everything is 3D (with a FOUR DOLLAR UPCHARGE) or Smellovision or something ridiculous. Seriously. While CGI is way better now than it was 5 years ago (seriously, go watch the first Harry Potter movie. And LOL), still, it's totally unnecessary to CGI everything. It's boring. I don't like watching 3D movies because it gives me a headache. Also, the tech isn't there to make it seamless, particularly with full body movement.
2. Anne Hathaway makes me homicidal. That's about it. There were a couple of moments that both Hypatia's Boy and I thought that she would turn out to be the real bad guy. That would have improved the movie. But seriously. She does these arm floating things that can only lead me to assume that she was late or something on the 2nd day of rehearsal and pissed off Burton and so he directed her to look like a complete ass. Or she just can't act. Or both. Seriously.
3. ZOMG, movie was BORING. Nothing happens for a reason. Or everything happens for a reason. But nothing happens because you give a fuck. There was a lot of running back and forth between castles. Long lingering shots on scenery that appears in EVERY Tim Burton flick, far too much CGI, and nothing that made you give a damn. As much as I like the re-telling of the Alice character as bad-ass-sword-wielding-savior, the whole "you were part of a prophecy, let me tell you the climax of the movie from the beginning, now struggle to accept your destiny" storyline IS REALLY FUCKING BORING. Especially when YOU TELL THE WHOLE PLOT OF THE MOVIE RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING AND THEN DO NOT VEER AT ALL. Like, do the whole destiny thing, but get us to the climax in a different way. Movies aren't student philosophy papers. You don't have to write an intro telling me what you're going to do, write the body in which you do it, and then write the conclusion in which you tell me what you did. That's an awesomepants outline for an intro to phil paper comparing and contrasting Rousseau's General Will with Rawlsian Original Positions, but it really makes the audience disengage.
Now, I understand that this was ostensibly a children's movie. However. Johnny Depp + Helena Bonham Carter is not a children's movie. Might be an adolescents' movie, but that means that you can complexify the plot a little. Kids are smarter than Hollywood gives them credit for.
4. Weird intrusions of shitty Disney tropes in a Tim Burton movie. The most obvious part was at the end when the Mad Hatter did his flaghalgnelihvs-dance. And suddenly it's Johnny Depp being CGI manipulated into an unamazing hip-hop dance to shitty techno music, just like in Shrek. At least all of the animals talked so we weren't subjected to "that annoyingly hip talking animal." There were a couple of other totally Disney execs excesses in there, but I forget them, because it's been more than 12 hours since I saw the movie, and I'm all ready forgetting it.
Bottom line - awesomepants on kick ass women, sadpants dance on really boring. I wouldn't see it again.