Somehow, Alice Through The Looking Glass Is Worse Than The Initial Effort That Spawned It.
Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Director: James Bobbin.
Writer: Linda Woolverton, adapted from the book by Lewis Carroll.
Cast Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Reformed goth kids in their late 20s and early 30s remember a time when Tim Burton was a legitimately important director, a guy who helped their angsty, black and JNCO jeans-adorned worlds make sense. Alas, such esteem is but a faint memory at this point as the once-beloved director’s clout has waned through lackluster efforts that feel trite and lack any form of passion.
The worst of that bunch? The unfortunate live-action Alice in Wonderland adaptation, a film that someone (a Disney exec!) somewhere (in California, probably!) somehow (international box offices!) thought deserved a sequel.
Perhaps the success Disney has had of late in adapting their iconic animated movies to live-action, CGI-filled romps with Cinderella, Maleficent and The Jungle Book spurred this call. But the ends don’t justify those means, as Alice Through The Looking Glass — with Burton now serving as producer instead of director — features almost the exact same characters as the first run, as well as the same CGI fatigue that plagued it.
Three years after the events of the first movie, this tale finds Alice (Mia Wasikowska) now serving as the captain of her father’s former ship. After she returns from sailing around the world, she finds out that her former suitor has acquired her family’s home and now wants her ship in exchange for the house. As she’s wont to do, Alice uses her whimsy to escape reality and finds herself on another journey to Wonderland, where there are yet more challenges to be faced and life lessons to be learned.
Back in that fantasy, she finds The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) depressed with his own familial troubles and suddenly compelled to consort with the personification of time (Sacha Baron Cohen), who warns that improper use of his powers could halt the progress of the universe and screw up the space-time continuum. Of course, Alice doesn’t really give a fuck about that, allured instead by the prospects of the time travel that he affords.
Unfortunately, that call paints her as a selfish and almost as a more malevolent figure than even the Queen of Hearts (still annoyingly played by Helena Bonham Carter), and has the audience cheering for Time as he tries to stop Alice from messing things up worse.
These baffling plot choices aside, it’s the visual elements of the film that really ruin it. Nothing has any weight or heft to it. It’s like the movie had enough of a budget to fill the screen with CGI, but not enough to make its locations have any sense of variety.
Also not great is the recurring issue where it’s impossible to understand what the hell anyone is saying. The cadence employed here is supposed to be part of the “humor,” but ultimately it just gets in the way of the aggravatingly pithy dialogue. Worse, it makes the film feel at once rushed and too dense, with no room to breath anywhere within its two-hour run.
On the more positive front, the movie does touch some on feminism and ladies being awesome in face of crappy guys! But efforts in this regard feel like mostly like an afterthought. Plus, these themes are so bogged down by the rest of this film’s dreadful nonsense that their redeeming qualities don’t buoy things much at all.
Really, the best thing about the movie is that it affords viewers the chance to see the Cheshire Cat as a kitten. A much better movie would be just following the kitten as it tries to learn to disappear. It’d sure as hell would be better than this soulless and by-the-numbers Burton facsimile.
If time travel were real, using it to right that wrong would actually be a decent idea.