Believe it or not, we will soon be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Disney has the combo DVD/Blu-Ray all set to launch on 11 Feb 2011.
It’s not surprising that this story manages to keep us entertained after 60 years. The dark, childish flexibility of the mythos lends itself to endless disturbing and fascinating reinterpretations. Here are several that I’ve enjoyed and highly recommend:
A fun and twisted mini-series called Alice released in 2009, in which a 21-year old Alice (now a judo instructor) finds her way back to a futuristic, industrialized wonderland. Tim Curry stars, and Kathy Bates plays a deliciously evil Red Queen.
A long-running series of gratuitously sexy and gratuitously bloody comic books released under Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales started back in 2007 and continues to this day. It covers several generation of Alice’s family and their ties to Wonderland.
A series of books called the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. His retelling has a cool twist – Alice told the story of Wonderland to Lewis Carroll, not the other way around as we believed. Not only did he think it was fantasy, he also got the story wrong. Alice is actually heir to the throne in Wonderland, the place where ideas come from. The Hatter is actually her personal bodyguard, the Cheshire Cat is an assassin with nine lives working for the evil Queen Redd.
Of all the reimaginings of Alice in Wonderland, none were as entertaining to me as the video game American McGee’s Alice, an overlooked masterpiece released in 2000 that mixed interesting puzzles, weapons and baddies in a breathtaking, disturbing and cleverly-designed world (Well, breathtaking for games rendered on the Quake 3 engine back in 2000.)
American McGee’s Alice starts with a teenaged Alice institutionalized, the scars on her wrists and the hollow look in her eyes tell us that she hasn’t adjusted well to her parents dying in a house fire. You can watch the game intro (and entire game walkthru) on youtube.
A casebook packaged with the game, (handwritten by her psychologist) added a spooky level of realism. The cover of the game box got the mood right – Alice wielding a cold stare and a blood-stained butcher knife, her apron covered in blood and runes. The Cheshire Cat is a caricature of a caricature – scrawny and hairless, sporting an earring and evil looking tattoos, and a deep rich voice in the game that I just loved.
The game was wicked fun. Disturbing and entertaining. Creepy atmosphere both visually and the audio score. Fun, problem-solving sections were buffered with cut-scenes and bosses that were problems to solve in themselves – each boss had a distinct weakness, and you’d have a hell of a time beating them unless you figured it out.
I’d give the game a 9 out of 10, and the only thing stopping it from being a ten was the lame-o ending cut scene that screamed, “OK, we’re out of time and money now, give us a quick Hollywood ending!”
Good thing that’s not where the game really ends…
A Dark Extension of A Dark Reimagining of a Classic
Soon, the mythos of Alice in Wonderland will be extended even further. The man who thought enough of himself to include his own name in the game title is back. Yes, American McGee is working with EA games to release another Alice video game called Alice: Madness Returns. This game picks up right were the original game left off. From the previews, we can expect another dark and disturbing retelling of Alice that I wished Tim Burton would have made. You probably won’t want the kids to watch this one.