Review: Alice and Once Upon A Time in Wonderland

“We’re All Mad Here”

Alice in Wonderland is a story that has been revamped multiple times. In this article I will cover both Syfy’s Alice (2009) and ABC’s Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (2013-14)

 Alice, a mini series, is unique compared to other renditions because there is little magic involved. In fact, most of the magic in the story is all sleight of hand, and is exposed as such. While the original story has much to do with a wacky world filled with mad people, Alice is without much madness. It is simply an escape, created by the Queen of Hearts, from a world filled with negativity. However, because of short cuts and control problems, the world of the Queen is close to being destroyed. In the mini series, Alice comes to Wonderland to save her boyfriend. Instead, she tips the scales in favor of the resistance.

Alice is an enjoyable mini series from start to finish. It captures the audience’s attention by starting with an old-time noir-mystery plot that then blasts us into the past with stock market bidding rooms and Vegas Casino settings. Director Nick Willing does a marvelous job in creating a world where science is advanced and things could happen (IMDb). Although there are only two episodes in this series, each is about an hour and a half long and tell half the story.


Alice is particularly unique because Alice Hamilton has supposedly never previously been to Wonderland. She lives with her mother as a single Martial Arts teacher, her father having been missing since she was ten. The story offers more insight into the life of Alice as it continues (e.g. her fear or heights, flying and repressed memories about her father).

However, Alice, is similar to its fellow movies because of its main characters and battle against the Queen. The difference in its similarities lie in how these are represented. Main characters represented in this movie include a (Not Mad) Hatter, the Mad March, the dormouse, Jack Hart (Prince of Hearts), the King of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, Walrus, Carpenter, Caterpillar and Dodo but I don’t want to say too much lest I should spoil it.


Once Upon A Time in Wonderland is a completely different story, however, spinning off from the original Once Upon A Time series (also by ABC). In direct contrast to Alice, this series begins with a young Alice climbing out of an exploded bomb type hole in the ground excited to return home. She runs across her father’s land to their house and bangs on the door eager to be let in, only to find her father presumed her dead. In the following scene the hook is dropped: the father in his study paces speaking to a friend of his asking him why Alice would lie about where she’d been. Determined to convince him she’s not a liar Alice begins her journeys into Wonderland again.

In Once Upon A Time in Wonderland we meet multiple Disney stories recreated to form a different plot. Kitsis, the creator and writer, does a wonderful job of imagining a new Alice. While this Alice does ring true to her English roots, Kitsis redesigns her to be a product of Psychiatric reform and heroism. Shortly after returning home from what was his rendition of the original Alice in Wonderland, Alice ends up finding her father with another woman. Her life is torn apart having lost her love to the Queen and Jafar, her partner. She is sent to a psychiatric facility by, what appears to be, an evil stepmother who can manipulate her father’s mind. There, she is to be given a treatment to lose her memories about the Genie she fell in love with…that is, until the Knave returns to break her out.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND - ABC's "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" stars Emma Rigby as The Red Queen, Naveen Andrews as Jafar, Sophie Lowe as Alice, Peter Gadiot as Cyrus, John Lithgow as the voice of The White Rabbit and Michael Socha as The Knave of Hearts. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

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Wonderland is one of many realms in this rendition. It is defined by magic and the ability to possess it. Agrabah, is a neighboring realm in which magic also exists, but to a different extent. Both share many similarities including cruelty and sacrifice to be part of royalty as well as deceit and self-fulfilling prophecies.

This series stood out to me because of the depth they were able to achieve with the characters. In each episode we are not only given insight into the character’s mindset but also a flashback explanation as to why. Throughout the story we are also given glimpses into what Kitsis and the other directors thought Alice’s first adventure in Wonderland was like. Alice turns into a warrior after meeting Cyrus (her genie/lover), she frees the Knave (who had lost his heart), she turns into a savior for the Queen, and eventually they even involve a Greek Goddess. Other character developments include: Cyrus goes from human to genie, the Knave must learn to deal with his emotions, the Queen regrets abandoning the man she loved for power and Jafar abandons the love of his father.

From what I’ve heard after completing the 113 episode series, there are many mixed reviews. Personally, I loved the plot line and its twists whether it included the Queen’s love of games or the love Lizard had for the Knave. To be honest, I began watching a couple of episodes prior to the second season’s airing. When it was over, that’s when I determinedly watched the entire thing start to finish. No regrets.

Whether you are a creative writer or someone who simply wants a new look at the Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll invented, I think you will enjoy both renditions listed here. For those of you interested in a movie type series I would recommend Alice which is filled with action scenes and a true adventure. For those of you looking for fully developed characters within a fun story line, I’d recommend Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.


(all pictures for promotional purposes only)

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