Monday, June 4, 2012

Learning Romance in Wonderland (With SyFy's Alice)

Today was going to be a review of Snow White and the Huntsman, but it turns out that when the fire alarm goes off halfway through your movie, there's really not much point in sticking around to see how it ends. So I'll hopefully finish the movie and have the review up later this week, but for now we're going really off topic.

You might remember, in December of 2009, that the SyFy channel released their "two-night event" of Alice, an Alice in Wonderland story with a twist. Instead of going with the usual Victorianism and craziness, they went for cyberpunk, social commentary, and an Alice who does judo.

I quite liked it. I'm something of a connoisseur when it comes to Alice in Wonderland adaptations, and this one quickly became my favorite. Why? Well, two reasons. One, it's fabulously feminist. And, two, it has one of the best relationships I've ever seen on screen.

We're going to focus on the second part of that today.

Here, they're both being chased.
Romantic relationships are sort of a kryptonite to me in movies. They're so very, very hard to do well. In most cases, they come off as extremely one-sided, with one partner chasing the other, usually the woman chasing the man, or dangerously co-dependent, where both people are chasing each other, but it's not a healthy relationship by any means. The people in these relationships usually need the other person "like they need air", which is held up as a good thing, and not the slightly creepy, incredibly awkward statement it actually is.

That's why I love this movie. Miniseries. Thing. We're going to call it a movie.


Also, Andrew Lee Potts is adorable.
There are two principle romances in Alice, forming one of those lovely love-triangles I talked about here, and actually following the same basic format. Alice, she of the judo and the falling into Wonderland, starts the movie ostensibly in love with Jack Chase/Jack Heart. He has a problem with telling the truth about his name. He's the Prince of Wonderland, not that she knows that, and has been hiding out in her world. He has a lot of ulterior motives, we later learn, but he does truly care for Alice. At the beginning of the movie, she's introducing him to her mother.

Then Jack is kidnapped, Alice chases after him, and winds up in Wonderland. Thinking Jack's an innocent in all this, she finds her way to Hatter, who runs the Tea Shop, of course, and asks for his help. He agrees to help her, though it becomes clear several times that he's not doing anything altruistically. Hatter is part of the resistance against the Queen of Hearts, and he wants the ring that Jack gave Alice to use in the fight. That ring, a powerful stone called the Stone of Wonderland, is her only bargaining chip. She wants to use it to save Jack. Hatter wants to use it to overthrow the Queen.

Hatter and Alice battle back and forth, running from the Suits and the White Rabbit as they try to stay out of the Queen's clutches. Eventually, Alice shrugs Hatter off and decides that she'll go after Jack on her own. Immediately captured, she is taken to the Hearts Casino, meets the Queen, and discovers Jack's true identity. The Queen sends her to be tortured until she says where she's hidden the ring.

Here's the thing, though. Hatter comes after her. He and the White Knight break into the Casino, knowing it's certain death, break her out, and run like hell. Then, Hatter again asks Alice for help with the Resistance. This time, she listens.

Let's just recap so far. Hatter and Alice started out with mutual distrust and have now moved on to being able to say, I trust you and I think you might have a good idea of what to do here. At the very least, I will hear you out. That's a big step. But more important than that, they've both made the other better.

Hatter rescued Alice. He stopped thinking just of himself or the Resistance, and now he's thinking about helping her and getting her home. Alice listened to Hatter. She's willing to hear about the Resistance, and accept that she's not the only one looking out for her.

They've changed each other.

Jack breaks out, and Alice and Hatter are shocked to discover that Jack is in the Resistance too. He asks Alice to go with him, and for once, Hatter has nothing to say. He argues against her trusting Jack, but eventually offers no defense and just tells Alice that it's better for her anyway.

Alice goes with Jack. Hatter follows them. Then, when Jack and Alice are ambushed, he fights to free them, and is captured too.

The key part of love, the real part, is wanting your partner to be happy even if you're not. It's wanting your partner's joy above all else. Sacrificial love. Alice has made Hatter a better person, and in return, when he's in the Hearts Casino, Alice goes to look for him as soon as she escapes. He's looking for her too. They have their last stand together.

And then, here's the key part, there's the end. Hatter comes to say goodbye after the Queen has been vanquished, Jack made King, and the Looking Glass reopened. Alice is going home, and Hatter doesn't ask her to stay. It's not her world, and she would be unhappy there. Jack does ask her to stay, and she refuses. We get the impression that she would say yes to Hatter, but he knows not to ask.

It could have ended there, and I would have liked it all right.

But it kept going.

Alice goes home, sees her mother, wraps up a few things, and then there's a knock at the door. Instantly you know it's Hatter. Who else could it be? Alice knows it too, and immediately embraces him, much to the bafflement of her mother, who still thinks she's with Jack. What isn't said, but what is implied here, though, is the most important part. Hatter came through the Looking Glass for Alice. He gave up his Tea Shop, his life, his friends, because he wants to see if this will work. Because he knows that Alice wouldn't be happy in Wonderland, but he could be happy in her world. So he's willing to give it a shot, and he loves her enough to try.

It's what separates this relationship from the one she had with Jack. There, no one was giving up anything, and it was superficial. When he later asked her to stay, he didn't understand that she'd changed, but he hadn't. They didn't make each other better, they didn't make each other anything. 

Love isn't just declarations, suicide-pacts made by mental teenagers, or romantic comedies that end with a wedding. It's two people with baggage making each other better, more honest, and then sacrificing to be together. Putting the relationship first, and knowing that they're still okay if it's not there, but they don't want to do without it.

That's love, and that's what I want.


  1. Kind of loved this review a LOT. Great insight into what makes real relationships great,and how we neglect to translate that in film or stories. I hate it when the love story seems so quick, superficial, and easy--that there's no growth, no real sacrifice. Going to have to check this out. If only for a three hours of Andrew Lee Potts. Golly, what a cutie! ;]

    1. Thanks so much! I find that problematic romantic relationships end up sinking my enjoyment of a lot of things, so when there's something where the romance is done right, I tend to go a bit wonky with my love for it. I hope you really like the movie, and of course the Andrew Lee Potts viewing time! :D

  2. I've always loved Alice and Hatter! This article is truly on point about their whole relationship. I have to admit, Halice is my #1 OTP in all of television. I just finished a fanfic I wrote taking place 3 months after the end of the series.

  3. I've always loved Alice and Hatter! This article is truly on point about their whole relationship. I have to admit, Halice is my #1 OTP in all of television. I just finished a fanfic I wrote taking place 3 months after the end of the series.

  4. Do you know of a show that has the kind of relationship they do Alice And Hatter. I watched the show and have been obsessed!Love the review!