In this style

In this style

This afternoon, as I was doing what is generally known as “waiting half an hour for a bus in cold, wet weather”, I had a quick browse in a nearby bookshop, which is usually good for the brain. I did learn that Stephen Hawking had demonstrated not only that time had a beginning, but that our universe is pear-shaped, which probably explains a great deal. However, that knowledge isn’t particularly useful for me (it’s not the sort of thing you can really say at parties), so I went off to a different section to find some less taxing fare.

That came in the shape of a book full mostly of pictures relating to the new film version of Alice in Wonderland by Tim “Nightmare Before Christmas” Burton.

Well, one of the first things I noticed was that about a third of it was full of Alice’s relatives, who never featured in the book, in a clear sign of a misguided attempt to give the protagonist a “back story”, which seems all the rage these days. Of course, it goes deeper than that: it seems that it’s not the original story, or not quite, but Alice’s return to the fantasy world of her childhood. That explains why she’s suddenly 19 years old.

Burton, apparently, never really liked the original book and thought it felt more like a series of unconnected events than a real story. Well, yes, Mr Burton, that’s the point: the whole thing is a dream.

Having got that far, of course, the great man could have let somebody else film it. Of course, it would have looked very different, and I love Burton’s deliciously insane visuals, but at least it would have been done with a great deal more respect for the original. It seems that Burton’s only role in life these days is to let Johnny Depp practice his English accent. Although perhaps you shouldn’t take my word for it: obviously (because it hasn’t been released yet) I haven’t seen it.

I’m sure, in its own right, it’s a great film. And the pictures look gorgeous. And in the book, they were helpfully annotated, allowing me to glean, for example, that Alice, much to her mother’s dismay, refuses to wear a corset. And the picture of the Mad Hatter’s hat was also annotated.

And that particular page, dear friends, marked the point at which I snorted with derision, snapped the book shut and made for the bus stop.

If you’re familiar with the original illustrations by cartoonist John Tenniel, you’ll no doubt recall that the Mad Hatter’s hat has a label which reads: “In this style 10/6”. According to the book of the film, this is the “Mad Hatter’s number”.

It’s possible, I suppose, that this has some significance in the film. Whether it does or not, it seems that somebody is ignorant of, or wilfully ignoring, the fact that 10/6 is actually the price in pre-decimal British currency: ten shillings and sixpence.

The error may not be Burton’s, of course. It may simply be that the people who put the book together decided the picture needed an annotation, any annotation, and they just couldn’t be bothered to perform a quick search on the internet to get the answer. Whatever: it says something of modern film-making that so much energy can be expended shoehorning a whole galaxy of tedious characters with motivations into a fairy-tale that already has more characters that you can shake a jabberwocky at, but nobody has any time for a five-minute session on Google.

Still, I did get a good laugh at the MPAA’s justification for handing it a PG rating: for “fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar”.