"Underland, your time is up."
In a year where we are getting sequels to ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, ‘Now You See Me’ and even ‘God’s Not Dead’ to me the most pointless inept one out of them all is ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’. From a financial standpoint the film it admittedly does seem logical, the first one made over a billion dollars on the worldwide box office (just saying that makes me depressed, especially as it out grossed ‘Inception’ which came out the same year) but it wasn’t exactly met with critical praise, and the fact that it has taken Disney six years to get around to making a sequel doesn’t suggest it was at the top of their criteria.
Facing financial ruin, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Underland (because remember, that’s what it’s called in this universe) through a magical mirror only to find that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is acting madder than usual and wants to discover the truth about his family, forcing Alice to travel through time, embarking on a race to save the Hatter before time runs out.
So just to get it out there, I hate Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, hate it more than words can thoroughly express. It turns Lewis Caroll’s book of nonsense into a terrible ‘Lord of the Rings’ rip off with a plot that hasn’t even heard of the word cohesive, bland characters, ugly CGI and a complete lack of any imagination whatsoever. The sequel……is very much the same. There is no originality, no imagination, no sense of artistry to it, just rehashed garbage that we have already seen hundreds of times before, not just within the previous film but in a dozen other films before it.
Admittedly this instalment is brighter and more vibrant than its predecessor and for a brief period looks as if it more willing to embrace the surreal nonsense of Caroll’s original novel. But as the thin plot continues to stretch itself out it becomes more and more apparent that this adaptation only has one thing in common with the novel, its title. Now this is not a huge crime, many films have differed drastically from their source material, both thematically and narratively (if you don’t believe me then ask Stephen King what he thinks of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’). But this could have been any terrible fantasy film, why did they have to drag the name of a classic novel down with it. It’s not as if they would have been accused of plagiarism either because Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ has more in common with Caroll’s work than this.
What’s even the point of complaining? I had this issue with the first film so obviously it’s not going to change with the second. Instead let’s talk about what else is wrong. The character designs are about as weak as one could imagine, with everyone being reduced to a cheap caricature with no more depth than the obviously artificial CGI that constitutes them. This would be fine if it was just a story of episodic randomness (like the book) but if you’re trying to tell some weird story about the importance of family values involving wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff then how are we, as an audience, supposed to become invested in the story when we don’t give a damn about a single character.
Alice’s character remains as flat as ever, the script tries to make us root for her with three techniques. First is focussing on what Alice isn’t, she’s a non-conformist who won’t let others tell her what to do. The only problem with this is that the script never really tells us what Alice is, we only know what she isn’t. Secondly it tries to portray her as an empowering icon but this is only really projected by having her do physically brave things, but once again we never get an isnight into her actual character so it means nothing. Thirdly it tries to make the villains of the film slightly less sympathetic than Alice, so she’s basically the hero by default.
The other characters are just as flat though, and none of the actors really bring anything to their roles. Johnny Depp is still stuck doing that thing where everyone is a variation of Jack Sparrow, Helena Bonham Carter is just shouting and Anne Hathaway’s job is to stand around and look like a princess. Meanwhile Sacha Baron Cohen is just doing a weird impression of Werner Herzog so it’s hard to take any of those scenes funnier, which means this is by a long way his best comedy of 2016.
Story wise it’s just as bad as the first one, doing an incredible thing of taking an illogical, absurd and nonsensical story, trying to put sense into it and ultimately making it even more nonsensical.
Vibrant to look at occasionally, but from its story to its design as well as its characters, ‘Alice Through the looking Glass falls very flat.