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Categories: Movie Reviews

It’s not worth your time, argues Joanne Russell.

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“Alice in Wonderland” was the remake we thought would be bad, but were pleasantly surprised with. However “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is unfortunately the opposite.

It seems contradictory to criticize a picture based on the works of Lewis Carroll for being too unrealistic. More specifically, it’s not as much an issue of realism as it is reasoning, which again might sound contrary to the obvious absurdity that populates Carroll’s visions. But when everything is nonsensical, the plot and the characters generate little purpose or drive. Motives and emotions become pointless and hollow. It’s a bit like watching a program for toddlers; it’s full of colours and sounds and commotion, but it serves merely as a distraction, instead of as thought-provoking entertainment. And even saying Alice Through the Looking Glass would be a film children would enjoy is insulting to children. To anyone not enthralled by the manifestation of key elements from the original stories, this lack of engagement is an insult to the intelligence.

The plot of this sequel tells the story of Alice (Mia Wasikowska)’s return to the magical world of Underland. Unfortunately the Hatter (Johnny Depp) is in a horrible state as he has lost his joy and believes his family (who he once thought had perished from the attack of the Jabberwocky) are alive and missing. With the help of her friends, Alice must travel through time to save the Mad Hatter and Underland’s fate from the evil clutches of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and a clock-like creature known as Time (Sacha Baron Cohen).

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The story itself is a tired attempt to flesh out the Hatter and the Queens’ backstories via an over-complicated time travelling concept, which then lacks the subtlety and nuance to have us invested in any of it. Not only does the movie take the lazy routes through the use of backstories, the whole staging and execution invokes no subtlety and winds up being tedious, and that is to say nothing of the film frequently detouring to the side characters fooling around. The solutions come too fast, and there seems to be few challenges standing in the way of Alice and company. Even the Red Queen’s threats feel a bit shallow at points, and she is nowhere near as menacing as in the first film.

I never minded Tim Burton’s re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland, it was fun and it was true to the characters created by Lewis Carroll. It created a dark yet playful wonderland. So it was successful, often a big mistake in the world of Hollywood. If you make money, they’ll never let you die. So another story was written, this time a re-imagining of the second book Carroll dedicated to his young heroine. Once again Burton proves he knows when to call it quits. He does remain as a producer but not as a director. And as the movie moves on, the difference between the 1st part and the 2nd becomes all too evident.

You’d think James Bobin, who directed two of the most recent Muppets films, would have some idea as to how to conduct a children’s film with backbone and substance. Instead we are given an uninspired mess that was a clear cash grab. The attempt to fill in Burton’s seat cripples Bobin to replicate his vision, rendering the whole production severely downgraded. Sacha Baron Cohen’s appearance (and first appearance in a Disney film) is made clear due to the link he has with Bobin as the latter directed most of the Da Ali G Show episodes, which emphasizes the bizarre choice of director for this film. 

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The characters fall flat. The acting is unimpressive. Mia Wasikowska is probably the only member of the cast who deserves any praise, and I thought she did an even better job playing Alice here than she did in the first movie. Everyone else, though, especially Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway, should be embarrassed. Johnny’s Mad Hatter was one of the best things about the first one, but here he’s just really strange and irritating. Although we see the same characters and actors we loved in the first film like Matt Lucas as The Tweedles and recently departed Alan Rickman as Absolem, they serve no purpose other than to appease the fans of Alice In Wonderland, and are subsequently given little screen time because of their lack of purpose. They had key parts in the first film, but in this sequel many of them are dropped into the background where they manage to make a few fun comments or look cute before disappearing again. Even the characters’ make-up looks cheap, and feels like a mediocre imitation of the first film.   

For a film so greatly invested in the concept of time, Alice Through the Looking Glass ends up being such a staggering waste of it. Its a failed attempt at continuing the beloved Alice in Wonderland series, trying too hard by alluding to the first film by using similar phrases like ‘curiouser and curiouser’ which end up disheartening the viewer through cheap implications. It is loud, colourful and frantic but rarely fun or engaging. It’s a major disappointment and a major step back from Disney’s other recent live-action fairytale adaptations. Essentially, the film lacks the charm and novelty the first film had.  Alice and her world has lost its muchness.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is out now in cinemas.

Joanne Russell

Film Studies graduate from Queen's University Belfast. Producer of an award-winning short film 'Days Gone By.' And currently running a film review blog (mydoanne.blogspot.co.uk).

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Posted on Jun 1, 2016

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