Andrew Lee Potts
Queen Of Hearts -
White Knight -
King of Hearts -
Harry Dean Stanton
Written by -
Directed by -
Jules Verne's Mysterious Island
Mists Of Avalon
Sword of Xanten
Alice is a judo instructor whose father disappeared when she was young and who has finally found the man of her dreams in the shape of Jack. Jack, though, has issues, issues that kidnap him and take him off through a mirror. Chasing headlong after him, Alice stumbles into a Wonderland far removed from the one of the stories. The Queen of Hearts is in charge and rules through the sale of liquid emotions. These emotions are taken from humans (known locally as oysters) who are mesmerised in the Casino, believing all their dreams are coming true. Alice must find the Casino and save Jack, but she falls in with the disreputable Hatter, the untrustworthy resistance, a paladin knight and faces off against the slavering Jabberwock.
Having mined old children's tale for the reworking of THE WIZARD OF OZ in the shape of the patchy TIN MAN. Where that miniseries struggled to reconcile the childrens' book source matter with the more adult tone, ALICE proves to be altogether more confident of itself. The setting of Wonderland on the narrow ledges of high tower blocks all overgrown with weeds is simply stunning and the various smaller touches such as the casino, the tea room, the bus-cum-lift, the knight's city etc are all wonderfully realised.
There is an unending stream of invention both in the story and in the characters. Yes, it takes the Lewis Carroll books as a starting point, but uses those references well to build up a whole alternative story that is half-sequel, half-homage. The White Rabbit is an organisation of spies, the Hatter is a criminal middleman, the white knight is just plain bonkers, whilst the Queen and King of Hearts are the Disney versions personified. The March Hare becomes a deadly assassin with a porcelain head. Calling the humans oysters and using them as the source of the drug that keeps the Queen on the throne is brilliant and just one of the dark flashes that makes this a story not for the younger audience.
The cast have a field day with the script that manages to be straight and arch at the same time. Caterina Scorsone makes for a very modern, feisty Alice, but retains a sense of wonder and vulnerability that allow for the perils she faces to be threatening. Andrew Lee Potts (Connor in PRIMEVAL) isn't as twitchy as the Hatter might have been, but still makes a great impact. What he lacks in madness is made up by another made to measure nutter turn from Matt Frewer as the age-addled White Knight. Kathy Bates is the model of barely restrained violence as the Queen of Hearts and Colm Meaney manages the difficult task of being both dangerous and meek at the same time. Tim Curry's resistance leader is less successful, but then he hasn't got a lot to do.
ALICE scores by taking the Lewis Carroll stories and populating the new version with (more or less) human characters, avoiding cut price and unconvincing CGI beasties. The only time that one of those wanders in (the Jabberwock) it proves to be the weakest moment of the whole episode.
ALICE takes the word 'reimagining' and restores it to a place outside of derision. With a cliffhanging (or, more accurately, plank-hanging) finale, it guarantees a return to Wonderland for the second half.
Hatter and the white Knight rescue Alice from the Casino, but she refuses to leave her father. Jack takes her to see the leader of the Resistance, known only by his codename - Caterpillar. Mad March is on the trail and everyone ends up back in the Queen's hands, but it's time for the people to remember who they are, Alice's father to remember his daughter and a knight to remember his courage.
The world of ALICE has been set up in the first episode and so there is little new to introduce here, just a plot to wrap up. The main introduction is Harry Dean Stanton as Caterpillar, but he's only on screen for a few short minutes and his departure is a bit confused in terms of what happened to the Queen's ring.
There's a good deal more running around, more punching and more use of guns, but this doesn't mean a lack of imagination. There are the flamingo flying bikes; a terrible idea, but one that manages to work quite well. There is the room of Hatter's torture, all lava lamps and cattle prods and there is the suprise of just who Alice's father turns out to be.
The Casino is escaped and infiltrated too many times to be sensible, but this is a surreal fantasy so to pick up on that would be churlish. There is still enough time in the script for some nice one liners, though things are darker second time around. The cast remain excellent throughout, especially Caterina Scorsone and Andrew Lee Potts as Alice and Hatter. Through their work, the characters come to matter. The supporting cast are also excellent.
ALICE came as a big surprise and remained a delight throughout. Not perfect, but exceptional in many ways this is one of the very best things that Sy Fy (or the Sci Fi Channel as it was) has produced.
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