Alice in Wonderland, whether you’re talking about the original Disney classic or the modern Johnny Depp interpretation, straddles with surprising dexterity the line between creativity and acid trip. From the overall plot to the visual representation of the Mad Hatter’s world, Alice in Wonderland is a feast for the senses and mind. So imagine how it scrambles the brain seeing it in Blu-ray 3D.
Although Disney’s original Alice in Wonderland has just released on Blu-ray Disc, the Johnny Depp version is also a relatively recent addition to the 3D home theater, and it’s definitely the more notable of the two. Depp’s Mad Hatter first appeared on Blu-ray Disc in June 2010, but it wasn’t until the holidays that his 3D counterpart hit the market. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, since the theatrical release included a 3D counterpart and thus wouldn’t have been a hard translation to 3D home theater systems, but it was probably due simply to a lack of 3D TVs at the time. No matter, let me assure you that whatever the case, Alice in Wonderland on 3D Blu-ray was worth every minute of the wait.
From the opening menu, everything on this 3D Blu-ray Disc requires active-shutter 3D glasses. Seeing the Disney castle introduction in 3D is a treat for Disney Parks fanatics like me, but when you go into the 3D movie’s actual menu, the pen-and-ink sketch treatment on what looks like papyrus is nothing short of fantastic. As the main icons await interaction in the foreground, the pen-and-ink artwork background meanders visually through various elements that pop out such as the Cheshire cat’s smile, a saucer from the tea party and multiple static images that fly past the camera.
The 3D excellence scales back somewhat between the main menu and the scenes in Wonderland, as the “real world” scenes before Alice partakes of the cake don’t really have the best 3D “effects.” However, the scenes do have great foreground and background depth of field, so while the people don’t necessarily look dimensional, the whole scene looks good because of the effective depth of field. There are no “gotcha” effects in the least; it just looks as if you’re there.
Once you hit Wonderland the “gotchas” start to surface, including a dragonfly and horsefly flitting about and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum getting tossed into a spiky bush, but cheap 3D tricks are generally kept to a minimum. Like the “real world” opening scenes, the 3D in Alice in Wonderland’s fantastical settings have more to do with depth of field and “natural” depth rather than anything that was faked or forced simply for the 3D release. In every case, the 3D effects throughout the film are augmented expertly by the surround channels. And perhaps best of all, there is no crosstalk whatsoever. Period. In fact, I’m confident in saying that Alice in Wonderland on 3D Blu-ray is the best 3D Blu-ray experience I’ve had, and I’ve reviewed about two-thirds of all 3D Blu-ray movies released thus far.
Several scenes in particular stand out for their 3D power, including the first scene where viewers see the jabberwocky. As the flying beast destroys the White Queen’s village and the knight takes the Vorpal sword, the depth, environments and 3D immersion are absolutely phenomenal, with flames licking off the screen and burning buildings belching embers into the air and toward the sofa. There are a few gotcha moments with blue flames and weapon swings, but their intrusion is kept to a minimum if for no other reason than the rest of the scene is fantastic.
Later in the film, as Alice is surrounded by the card soldiers, the 3D TV screen seems impaled as the tips of the soldiers’ spears lunge toward the camera (well, toward Alice) as they encircle her and try to retain the Vorpal sword. The climactic Jabberwocky scene has a few great effects as well, but it’s ironically not the best of the film. The Mad Hatter and Knight fighting on the battlefield while Alice and the Jabberwocky fight on the ruins provides a great sense of 3D scale, and the Hatter poking the Knight in the eye is probably the funniest gotcha effect you’ll see. But aside from the Jabberwocky’s tongue licking out toward the viewer, the Jabberwocky itself doesn’t really have best 3D effects. Instead, it’s the rest of the climactic battle that engulfs him that really makes the scene.
To be clear, I’m one of the folks who views Alice in Wonderland with a bit of a questionable eye. I know the story is a classic, and I know this newest film’s box office results shows that people love their Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, but really…isn’t it just a weird flick? Yes, it is. But watching it in 3D for some reason makes a bit of the weirdness float away. For so many 3D Blu-ray releases, the depth is a nice touch but doesn’t necessarily fit with the vibe of the film. With a plot and setting as weird as Alice in Wonderland, though, the 3D helps viewers themselves cross the line between creative and acid trip, adding to the overall experience like few 3D movies before it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched at least three other 3D Blu-ray Discs that made my jaw drop. But in terms of the quality and overall “fit” of effects and content, Alice in Wonderland in 3D simply can’t be topped.
Click this link to buy the Alice In Wonderland 3D Four-Disc Combo set (Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy) from Amazon.com.
- Score: 9.5
- With outstanding effects, great complementary surround sound and zero crosstalk, Alice in Wonderland on 3D Blu-ray is the best 3D Blu-ray experience I’ve had so far.
— Jonas Allen