Film scores

Soundtrack review: Alice in Wonderland (Danny Elfman – 2010)

alice
What I will remember though is one of the best opening themes Elfmam has ever written.

In 2010, the infamous Lewis Carroll story of Alice and her trip to Wonderland got the Tim Burton treatment. Inspired by my favorite cartoon as a child, the 1951 Disney adaptation, the film stars Johnny Depp (of course), Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter (of course), Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, and Mia Wasikowska and features the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, and Timothy Spall and tells the story of a nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh, who is told that she can restore the White Queen to her throne because she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature that is controlled by the Red Queen and terrorizes Wonderland’s inhabitants. Danny Elfman wrote the score (of course).

It’s been six years since its release but Danny Elfman’s Alice theme is still buzzing around in my head. That’s rare because I listen to hundreds of scores and it takes a pretty great theme to stick around for so many years, just as fresh as when I first heard it. After so many years of crafting special themes for characters from Batman to Beetlejuise, Tim Burton gave his favorite composer a chance to go down the rabbit hole and let his imagination go wild.

This story is the very definition of fantasy from the land in which it takes place to the characters that inhabit it. All of Tim Burton’s films border on that but here we’re talking about a character everybody knows and has feelings about. It’s a characters which intrigues both adults and kids and the composer took his usual trademark fantasy sound that we all know and love and gave it one of the “drink me” potions that alters it just a bit. Then he added the choir which really makes the entire theme. It’s catchy, I can’t stop humming it, and it makes the entire score.

The infectious composition that makes the choir just another character in the story chases us throughout the score without hiding or trying to change. It comes back in”Alice decides” and even stronger in “Proposal / Down the rabbit hole” and small motifs from it and bits of the choir recur all through the score. Plus we get five reprises and the more the better. The theme is so wonderfully woven in the fabric of the score that it gives it all that special Alice sound.

Except this theme we get the usual Danny Elfman dark and stabbing orchestral fantasy sound that never gets old. It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it never rests. You know what you get when you come to a Tim Burton / Danny Elfman film and this one doesn’t disappoint. What I will remember though is one of the best opening themes Elfmam has ever written.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 51

Album excellence: 64%

Highlights:

Alice’s Theme

Little Alice

Proposal/Down The Hole

Drink Me

Alice Reprise #1

Bandersnatched

Alice Reprise #2

Alice Reprise #3

Alice Escapes

Alice Decides

Alice Reprise #4

Going To Battle

The Final Confrontation

Alice Returns

Alice Reprise #5

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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