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Doesn't shine as its parent's premier did but still promising
Of course it is early so far to say in confidence yet but based on this episode premier: this is the first more and less decent Alice in Wonderland adaptation since my all-time favorite version of 90's with Tina Majorino and Martin Short. This is a sequel to the original book, so not a direct adaptation just like recent Tim Burton's version was. It is OUaT's version of Wonderland but I am glad that so far this spin-off is more Alice Wonderland rather than Once Upon a Time.
Wonderland the main asset of the original book is the world itself. Considering that it is only a TV show and, judging by OUaT, not the richest one in budget terms, I prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. In terms of special effects, the reality turned out to be if not quite the second one but still pretty close. I loved almost everything: from deem and gloomy Asylum where Alice's path in the series began (surprisingly, directors didn't try to save money even there: quite many parts of the Asylum are completely CGI made) to the dreamlike surreal landscapes of Wonderland. CGI is not better than it was in the first season of OUaT but in this context, little graphical details only add dreamlike delusional feel to the world Alice appears in. To my taste, Burton's version of Wonderland was way too detailed, it was way too fleshed out. So fleshed out that it lost its "dream" feel which certainly was in the book and was supposed to be in the adaptation. I hope the readers, especially fans of the original book, follow my logic here. Usually I am against bad CGI but here it actually served the dreamy and surreal context of the world.
All in all, I liked the creativity of graphical design, I liked that the amount of special effects in just this one episode is more than in the first 2 seasons of OUaT all together, I liked the carefulness with which the creators have approached this particular book adaptation: they managed to preserve the adventurous feel of the parent show but also didn't lose the overall book atmosphere which I so hoped to see in this story. Even if you don't care about surrealism and the book, if you were fine with the CGI quality of OUaT season one, you should be fine here also.
Actors- to those who say that the acting was bad: I disagree. Sophie Low shows us the finest Alice performance I have seen in a while- definitely better than Mia Wasikowska's performance. Sorry but where the heck was Sophie when Burton was making his movie? Sophie and Mia both perform a mature version of book Alice but in quite similar ways with an exception that Sophie actually acts and her mimics change. Her talking style and behavior is a bit modern, to my taste (I just don't believe that this girl was raised in Victorian London) but maybe I am bit picky here. Overall, solid performance of the main protagonist. Michael Socha, who plays the Knave of Hearts, didn't open up quite yet (neither in acting nor as the character) but it seems that the script writers do have couple As in their sleeve regarding this character for future episodes and I will be waiting. Peter Gadiot (Cyrus) plays his part in the show well enough but just to the point. His performance is not superb but neither the script so far demands it. Loved the white rabbit (voiced by fabulous John Lithgow), just want to see him more and more. The new version of Cheshire Cat was odd but I still was glad to see one of my most loved characters right in the first episode. Despite of slightly altered personality, this cat still didn't lose its charm and I do hope we are not done with him yet. More cat and the rabbit!
Emma Rigby as the Red Queen (Red Queen, not Queen of Hearts) is the only one from the cast who slightly disappoints with her wooden acting (in this sense, can't help but compare Rigby to fabulous Helena Bonham Carter and not to the merit of the first one). However, the actress is pretty (so are her dresses) and her character doesn't irritate which is already something. Appearance of Jafar takes by surprise but it was a joy to see Naveen Andrews on a screen one more time. After all, with the wooden Red Queen around, charismatic Jafar is exactly what we needed (well, I needed for sure at least).That it is with the cast. Let's hope together for Hershey and Stan's at least cameo appearances in future episodes. No Alice adaptation is fun without the Hatter and Queen of Hearts!
Story again, too early to judge yet but so far it seems to be more complicated than the Burton's version. After 2010 Alice in Wonderland, which disappoints terribly with its simplicity, any plot differentiated with at least a bit of creativity will be met with applause by me. And so far the first episode promises to provide us with something special.
Outcome- so far not great but quite decent. Worth attention, worth watching: if you are a fan of the parent show Once Upon a Time, if you are a fan of the original book (adaptation is not perfect but point me the one which is), if you are neither of the first two mentioned but you just like fairy tales. Who knows?- if you didn't like OUaT you still might like this spin-off. It is fun, it is fresh, it is adventurous. It is a new story and more and less meticulous adaptation of the book. For that thanks to the creators. Seems that it is going to be a fun ride and I, personally, can't wait to see what this roller coaster hides behind the corner.
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