Director James Bobin takes over from Tim Burton with Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. The film has sumptuous visuals, but was it really necessary? I’ve never seen 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, and even I can answer that question.
It’s been three years since Alice (Mia Wasikowska) visited Wonderland for the first time. In the intervening years, she has captained her father’s ship, the Wonder, to China and back to London. Upon her return, she finds that her rejected suitor, Hamish (Leo Bill), has acquired the deed to Alice’s mother’s house and will only relinquish it if she signs over the Wonder to him. Alice discovers all this at a party being thrown by Hamish and while there, she spies her old friend Absolem (Alan Rickman), who has transformed from caterpillar to butterfly. Absolem leads Alice through a large mirror and she finds herself back in Wonderland. She ends up at the home of the Hatter (Johnny Depp), where she finds him in a bad sort. The Hatter, who had thought his family had been killed by the Jabberwocky, now believes his family to be alive, but no one will believe him. This lack of faith is making him grow weaker and weaker. In order to help the Hatter, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) tells Alice that she must go to the castle of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to find the Chronosphere, which will allow Alice to go back in time to find out how to help the Hatter. Of course, messing with the past is not the best thing for the universe, which Time warns Alice of, but she does it anyway. Once the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) catches whiff of Alice’s theft, she is also on the hunt for the Chronosphere for her own nefarious purposes.
The one thing that Alice Through the Looking Glass has going for it is its fantastic visuals. Wonderland is so colorful and whimsical that it’s a pleasure to look at while watching the film. The problem is, that’s all there really is to this movie. This was one hundred percent a cash grab on the part of Disney, hoping that audiences that flocked to see Alice in Wonderland would do the same for its sequel. From what I can tell, this film has only the barest hint of being based on the book Through the Looking Glass, in that Alice walks through a mirror and that’s about it. The whole endeavor just feels unnecessary. I liked Time and the fact that he wasn’t simply a straight up villain, but because of that, you really don’t root for Alice in her quest. In fact, at one point in the story, I actually ended up not liking Alice due to her selfish actions. I know she wants to help her friend, but when the personification of time says what you’re doing will destroy the universe, maybe come up with a new plan. Also, the point where I stopped liking Alice was a point where she could have stopped her quest and finished it out in the present, but she presses on, because I guess she had to be absolutely sure of what was going on. Alice’s actions are the selfish actions of a little girl, not of a woman that has captained her own ship – which I’m sure was unheard of in the late 1800’s, but I could be wrong. The point is, the original Alice stories were about a young girl, not a teen/young woman, so when the filmmakers try to make her more “grownup” and she acts childish, it’s completely incongruous.
The cast is fine for the most part, but most of them are barely given anything to do. Hathaway, Tweedledee & Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), and the rest just seem like they’re simply sitting around waiting for Alice to show up. It’s a clunky transition into Wonderland and to get us into the plot. Baron Cohen is pretty good as Time, but I couldn’t tell if he was doing a Christopher Walken or Christoph Waltz impression. Wasikowska tries to give it her all, but I think even she knows that this movie is a waste of time. I did like Depp as the Hatter, though. I’m sure that his importance to these two movies as a whole comes more from the fact that he’s Johnny Depp as opposed to the Hatter’s actual importance in the source material, but that’s Hollywood for you. I’ll probably be making the same critique about Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse later this week. However, at least Depp looks like he cares. Any excuse for him to put on a crazy costume, I guess. Bonham Carter is also all right as the Red Queen, but she feels like an afterthought and a lost opportunity to establish a new villain.
Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a real waste of time – no pun intended. The visuals are nice – though the 3D is useless – but it’s all window dressing for a story that isn’t really compelling. Skip it.