Only really distinctive from the rest of Burton's work in the range of it's colour palette, Alice in Wonderland is pretty much Burton painting by numbers. The dark undertones that Burton is fantastic at weaving into his superficially whimsical films are only skimmed into with Alice. It's not so much a thin crust of quirk atop a deep chasm of darkness, but a layer of quirk atop a crust of darkness crowning an abyss of, well, nothing really. That is, apart from one character, but more on that later.
The film doesn't necessarily follow Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, or its sequel Through the Looking Glass (both written by Lewis Carroll in the 1800s). It's "inspired" by both, and we get a 19 year old Alice who returns to the magical kingdom, only to find it transformed from Wonderland to a less cheerful and more depressing "Underland" suffering through the reign of the Queen of Hearts with her fearsome Jabberwocky scaring all the inhabitants into submission. Alice is tasked with helping the White Queen reclaim her throne by slaying the Red Queen's beastly champion (in what, in light of the rest of the films wackiness, turns out to be a rather mundane battle scene). With all the stock character's from the actors' back catalogues and Burton's it's the White Queen that stands out. She doesn't feature on screen as much as her scarlet sister, but for me was a lot more interesting. In the world of insanity, Anne Hathaway manages to tread the highwire of unrivalled kindness and purity that the Queen is supposed to be with such carefulness that it's obvious she's only so kind because she fears what she is capable of. She needs a champion because if she were to kill anything she'd be started on a slippery slope to becoming her sister. By far my favourite character in the sea of of eccentricity.
My biggest problem with the film is that I'm clearly not the target audience. I'm sure people who are into Burton's shtick will enjoy it a lot more than I did. I feel like I missed out on a visual treat as well, I imagine the well executed use of extensive CGI would really make the world of Wonder/Underland pop when you were watching it in full HD and 3D in a cinema at the release.