Film and Theology: Alice in Wonderland

I had quite a hipster experience this week: some friends and I rode our bikes down (skinny jeans rolled up, of course) to the beach to watch Alice in Wonderland.  (For more on Long Beach’s great movies on the beach, click here).

(Spoiler Alert)

I enjoyed the movie much more than I expected (though it did make a big-headed ginger the villain – what’s that about?)

Here are the theological themes I noticed:

1. Free will – From the beginning, all the “good guys” (a mixture of talking animals and goofy but lovable humans) know that there will be a specific day when Alice will kill the evil Jaberwokie.  They have seen it foretold in the oraculum (a picture-scroll that shows them the future).  Even so, Alice maintains her free will throughout the story, making her own choices rather than following the destiny someone else has chosen for her (shown clearly through the nixed betrothal to a blubbering ginger boy in the “real world”).

At one pivotal scene, the white queen (Anne Hathaway) tells Alice that she must choose for herself, because it will only be her up there fighting.  In the end, Alice makes her own choice, and it leads exactly where the foreknowledge of the scroll said it would.  A very biblical idea, indeed.

2. Delayed awareness of mission – Much like Neo in the Matrix or the Penvises in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (and perhaps to a lesser extent Aragon in The Lord of the Rings), Alice is the last one to realize and acknowledge her chosen-ness.  While a noble and over-matched insurrection looks to her as their only hope, she insists she is not “the one” they are looking for.

Why is this a compelling narrative for us? There is clearly a tension in us, where we want to see her take her rightful place as a warrior, rather than living for the lesser things she wants to return to. We want to shout: “Don’t you see how important this is, Alice! You must stay and fight, not try to wake up or return to a trite life of waltzes!”  Perhaps we can say the same thing to ourselves: “You were chosen for a great mission, Bob!  Don’t settle for less!”

Tim Burton, you subtle theologian, you.