When I published my review last week for "Alice In Wonderland," I intentionally didn't read other reviews first. I've certainly read a ton of them at this point, due in part to the way many of you kept throwing other reviews at me as a way of refuting my opinion on the film. "But look! A.O. Scott liked it! And he's smart!" Yes... yes, he is. Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes page for the film, there are a number of smart critics who appear to have given the film a passing grade, although a close reading of many of those reviews would reveal a big of ambiguity as to just how much they actually enjoyed what they watched. I actually considered running links to various reviews, both pro and con, but I don't feel like attacking or nitpicking every individual reaction is something I want to start doing. But I am fascinated by the general division here, and there is no denying that there is a fairly serious difference of opinion on this one.
Why does that happen? Why are there some films where people seem to have a generally accepted middle-ground of opinion, and others where critics are driven to polar extremes? I think "Alice" is a good case study for the question because, in this case, I can see where some of those battle lines have been drawn, and even if I disagree with the reasoning, I can understand what's causing it.
There are many viewers who seem perfectly happy to simply bask in the familiar with each new Tim Burton film. And if what you want is what you've already seen, "Alice" more than delivers that. My complaints were not so much that I think he ballsed up an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's work, although he did, but more that there was nothing in this movie that I haven't seen from Burton already. I think he is enormously talented, but I think that talent is slowly ossifying, locked into a rigid set of expectations of what a "Tim Burton film" is supposed to be.