‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ Takes Us Back to an Excessively Dull Wonderland

GameStop, Inc.

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This is pretty embarrassing. It has never happened to me before. Maybe I was just tired. I can usually keep it up. And yet during the screening of Alice Through the Looking Glass, I fought and fought to keep my eyes awake but midway through the two hours of CGI-slathered inanity transcended boredom and I found myself having dozed off and missing about 20 minutes of the sequel. What’s most damning is the fact that upon the film’s conclusion I conferred with my friend only to find that I missed nothing of any significance during my 20 minute nap. No moment of character development or narrative importance were missed, and that perfectly sums up the dismal state of affairs that is Alice Through the Looking Glass.

2010’s Alice in Wonderland has the unique distinction of being a movie that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide without the benefit of anyone actually liking it. It’s a movie that greatly benefited from being the first 3D movie in wide release after Avatar, the new technology being all the rage at the time. Six years later, Alice Through the Looking Glass emerges as a sequel for no other reason that the enormous bounty it hauled in at theaters worldwide. Cinema is always the collision of art and commerce, but the sole reason that this movie exists is commerce and commerce alone.

When we last saw Alice (Mia Wasikowska) she was taking over command of her own ship, the Wonder, and preparing to carry the virtues of British imperialism to the shores of China. The sequel picks up towards the tail end of sea faring adventures, Alice and her crew trying to navigate treacherous waters while being pursued by anonymous villains in three ships equipped with cannons. It’s an odd nautical set piece to start off this piece of fantasy, and director James Bobin does give us some interesting visuals that make fairly good use of the 3D technology. Despite the few virtues of this scene, it’s really indicative of the treading water nature of this wholly unnecessary sequel.

Once Alice returns to the shores of England, she’s greeted with the unwelcome realization that her mother (Lindsay Duncan) has sold her shares of the family company to Hamish (Leo Bill), whose hand in marriage Alice shunned at the conclusion of the last film. She wants her daughter not faring on the high seas, but living the proper life of English lady. It’s not long after this that Alice finds herself greeted by Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) who guides her to a mirror that transports her back to Wonderland. In Wonderland, however, all is not well, as the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is suffering with crippling depression following the discovery of an artifact from his slain family. In order to spring the Mad Hatter from his malaise, Alice must recover the chronosphere, a time-travelling MacGuffin, from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). Travelling back through time, Alice must undo certain events in order to save the Hatter’s family and thus restore her friend to all his manic playfulness.

Also included in the plot is the wildly bizarre subplot that explains the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) shift towards evil, which occurred over a lie perpetrated by her sister the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) years prior over some cookie crumbs under her bed. Yes, the Red Queen was driven into a life as a tyrant with a predilection for decapitating her foes because she was framed for eating cookies as a child. That, mind you, makes about as much sense as anything in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

It’s impossible not to wonder if this film was greenlit only after looking at concept art, as the film does have some elements of truly wondrous design. However, the script by Linda Woolverton is lacking in wonder and alternates between nonsense and jokes that fall flat. After a short while it becomes apparent that all the movie has to offer is monotonous CGI settings and banal plotting. Moments attempting levity just don’t work – you could hear a pin drop after each and every attempt at humor. Without a doubt, the biggest audience reaction that Alice Through the Looking Glass could garner is the applause at the in memoriam title card for the Alan Rickman at the film’s conclusion.

The only cast member that truly stands out is Helena Bonham Carter, who seems to relish the absurdist nature of her character. Conversely, most of the star-studded cast do little to avail themselves. Johnny Depp continues his unfortunate streak of horrendous decisions in front and behind the camera. His Mad Hatter is not a character of whimsy, but this ghastly creature that will haunt the nightmares of any poor children that view his painted visage. His high-pitched vocal inflection leaves the character bordering on incomprehensibility for most of the film, and the apparent digital trickery to smooth over his skin adds an extra layer of creepy. Just as unfortunate is Sacha Baron Cohen as Time, more or less recreating characters that the actor has played in films like Hugo.

As far as unnecessary sequels go, it’d be hard to get more unnecessary than Alice Through the Looking Glass. It has its moments of visual splendor but moves at a tedious pace and the computer generate imagery becomes increasingly monotonous. If my experience taught me anything about Alice Through the Looking Glass it’s that parents dragged to this movie with their kids can easily doze off and miss nothing of consequence. Whether going down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass, there’s only one thing on the other side – a pretty bad movie.

Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Overall Score
1.5

Summary

Monotonous and boring, Alice Through the Looking Glass is the embodiment of a wholly unnecessary sequel.

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