“Looking Glass” is colorful yet underwhelming
Is there really a reason for this sequel to exist? The executives at Disney feel so considering the $1 billion Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” grossed back in 2010. Truly these are different times when one judges success by the box office numbers and not public criticism. That was the old Disney way considering if it wasn’t for the polarizing reaction to “The Sword in the Stone,” we wouldn’t have gotten Walt Disney trying to make “his” version of “The Jungle Book.” On the other hand, Lewis Carol did write two books on Alice’s adventures in the strange Wonderland, so I guess a sequel is needed. However, what we got was an entry that strays farther from the source despite its good intentions to better than the first one.
Mia Wasikowska returns as the curious Alice Kingsleigh who returns from her trip to China, as depicted in an opening which appears like a scene taken from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Not much to say about her character as takes on a spunky attitude and sees life as an adventure. However, her family is in debt as the only means to save her mother’s home is to sell off her ship to the snooty suitor from the first movie (Leo Bill reprising his role) in a possible move of revenge on his part.
Before a deal can be struck, Alice returns to the strange world of Wonder-oh, I’m sorry- UNderland where things are brighter and more colorful compared to the dreary and murkiness of the first film. Director James Bobin (The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted) brings a new variation of the topsy turvy world that appears more whimsical and less grim. Almost every scene has a bright blue sky and only the intense moments have darker shades of black and navy blue. While some practical sets are used, most of the effects are CGI and sadly appear more cartoony and less lifelike. Sometimes, I feel actors get lost on a green screen as opposed to making us believe something is right in front of us. Most notable is Alice’s first descend into the mirror as she takes moving chess pieces and a living tiger skin rug as a natural occurrence.
Not everyone is happy as The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is falling into a deep depression when he feels unsure if his family is alive or dead. While Depp’s performance is not heavily used like the previous movie, there’s something strange about this take her. While the Hatter in Tim’s take was wild and manic, I found myself wondering why Depp would change that here. Instead this Mad Hatter seems confused most of the time and talks in a soft lisp that feels unintentionally comedic. It’s like Jimmy Stewart trying to do an impersonation of a cartoon character.
With her best friend under sorrow, Alice decides to help out by paying a visit to Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) with plans to steal a device that can travel though the past. She believes that she can find a way to save the Hatter’s family so he won’t be under so much guilt. This is an element that was obviously not in the original book as the story of “Looking Glass” was an allegory for chess. Personally, I found the book more unique taking Alice’s journey and putting it on pair with a parlor game. It made for something unique to look into how an innocent girl’s quest to be queen can be seen this way. Unfortunately, that is no the case here. Any material from Carol’s book is tossed out to make way for something far removed from the source as Alice goes from one time period to the next as her venture serves as an excuse to see the origins of characters like the Cheshire Cat or the Queens. Even stranger is the time machine that looks exactly like it was a prop modeled after the craft in George Pal’s 1960s “Time Machine” making it weirder to see sci-fi cross with fantasy nonsense. On the other hand, a set of clock minions can mutate into giant Transformer robots, so why complain?
When “Looking Glass” is not trying to be a prequel, it revives its previous villain, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) with a plan to steal the time machine Alice took in order to change her sister’s past. Without giving too much, her plan only provides as an excuse for Carter to just walk about, yell obnoxiously and act like a brat as opposed to being a threat like that last film. And when you do find out what her sister, The White Queen, did to make her life so miserable, it makes one to wonder why she didn’t just apologize about it in the first place to avoid such a chaotic mess?
Honestly, I didn’t care much for this sequel and in-between the six years it took to get this into production, I would have been find without it. Characters like the March Hare, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum get side-linded with minimal lines compared to how prominent they were before. Most of the cast feels like they showed up for a paycheck considering the three lines spoken by the late Alan Rickman as the Caterpiller show how disrespectful they were to the source. Why even have these characters return when they don’t even make an impact? You could have just cut them or replaced them with other characters and the movie wouldn’t change at all. Even some give off hammy and bizarre performances like Anne Hathaway who is reduced to waving her hands like ‘The Wizard of Oz’s” Glinda the Good while talking exposition in an air-headed manner.
The only redeeming factor, surprisingly, is Sacha Baron Cohen as the new character Time, who oddly gets played up like a villain when he doesn’t even intend to be mean that way. True, he does monitor those who kick the bucket and lives in a dark castle, but Cohen’s performance saves this character from being a one-note creation. Time comes off as an eccentric creature that is so obsessed with timelines that even he works like a clock literally. There’s a lot of effort and creativity going into this one character which feels like a mix between a Flash Gordon villain and a Rolex watch.And while I’m not fan of Cohen’s work, I admit when he plays a side-character, there is when I feel most comfortable. Its almost like his wild energy is restrained as he knows exactly what to do with the material he gets, even if its minimal.
As for the rest of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” there’s not much that can be said. Its a harmless sequel that tries too hard to be expansive, but doesn’t have much necessity value. Plotlines go left and right while characters either chase after each other or try to find a working motive. I also have to question there are odd times when it does have a small dose of darkness that barley goes anywhere. About midway, Alice transports into the real world to find herself trapped in a Victorian asylum without proper transition. A character explains how she ended up there as opposed to showing how she was taken. Something tells me there are missing scenes here. But if the movie is not interesting in clearing this up, than so what? Why should I care for the near death of the Mad Hatter when Alice is busy trying to mend things with the Queens, the Hatter’s family and trying to avoid destroying the fabric of time when she already has done so much damage? For a movie that crams so much and does so little to invest me into what’s happening, I tend to wonder why a raven is like a writing desk more often than the plot holes in this movie. Not the worst, but better recommended as a rental.
Posted on May 28, 2016, in In Theaters (Sort of), Uncategorized, Why the Hate? and tagged adaptaion, Alan Rickman, Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Back to the Future, blog, Disney, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, Lewis Carol, Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska, Nonsense, prequel, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sequel, Summer Blockbuster, Tim Burton, Time, Time Travel, Underland, Wonderland. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.