By Jack Dignan
Tim Burton's 2010 live action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, admittedly, has a lot going for it. Personally, I don't think it's all that great of a movie, but it has credibility. The cast is phenomenal, the director can sell movies and the visual effects were breathtaking. It was both an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's two books, as well as an adaptation of the Disney classic, and to make things even weirder, it was also a sequel. It's a strange, strange movie, and while I don't think it worked, others do, and it raked in over a billion dollars. So, six years later, we have a sequel. Yay? I don't know.
Alice Through The Looking Glass continues the story of Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska), who has just returned home after spending three years sailing around the world. But, before she knows it, she winds up back in Wonderland (or Underland? It's all very confusing), where she discovers that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who she considers to be her "truest friend" is very ill, dying because of the memories he has of his deceased family. She asks Alice to bring them back to him, and the only way she can do that is to approach Time (Sasha Baron Cohen), although, Time just so happens to be in correlation with the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
The first Alice in Wonderland adapted both of Carroll's classic novels, leaving Alice Through The Looking Glass with the struggle of adapting from material with nothing left to adapt. The struggle, it seems, was a battle the film's writer, Linda Woolverton, couldn't win. The plot is overstretched and confusing, Alice travelling through time for a majority of the film in a poor attempt to tell these character's uninteresting and rather stupid origins. Scenes are repeated, storylines are dropped and the dialogue is horrendous.
I always gave Woolverton credit for writing The Lion King, despite all of her other films being terrible, but today I discovered it was rewritten by 2 other writers, based on a story that was conceived by 24 different people, so yeah, all credibility Woolverton previously had is now completely lost. Whatever it is that made The Lion King so brilliant, I'm starting to think it has very little to do with whatever it is she wrote for it. Between this, Maleficent and the first Alice in Wonderland, I'm really not sure if I'm prepared for another Linda Woolverton movie in my life.
Like previously mentioned, the first film was a visual treat, even if the story wasn't all that special. It was a whimsical environment taken right out of the imagination of a child, and it looks fantastic. Alice Through The Looking Glass has great visual ideas, I'll give it that. You can really tell they tried hard to make it something unique and special, but the final result is laughably bad. The effects are absolute garbage, and it was right from the opening shot that I knew this would be the case. The film opens with an entirely digital ship sailing through the sea, and oh, how it was bad. Very, very bad.
On top of that, the film, much like its predecessor, has an immensely talented cast, yet they're all put to waste. Mia Wasikowska, obviously, leads us on this adventure, and as her character is time travelling for a lot of the movie, nobody else is really given much screen time, including the top billed actor, Johnny Depp. The characters are needlessly thrown into a few of the scenarios, but for nothing more than a brief and unnecessary appearance, although the saddest waste of talent is of Alan Rickman, who devastatingly passed away earlier in the year. I was really looking forward to hearing his voice on screen for one final time, yet he has, and I'm not joking here, literally three lines in the entire film, two of which were in the trailer. It was vastly disappointing.
There's plenty to complain about with this film, but it's not completely awful. There is an attempt made at making it a fresh and visually stunning film, but it does fall flat, and while the cast are wasted, there is one standout, and no, it's neither Depp nor Wasikowska. It is, believe it or not, Sacha Baron Cohen's Time. He doesn't get an awful lot of laughs, but hey, he did make me chuckle once or twice, which is more than any other character managed to do. He's the only one here who looks like they're genuinely enjoying themselves, as the opposite can be said for nearly everyone else, especially Anne Hathaway who just looks sad the whole time.
To sum up, Alice Through The Looking Glass was never going to be good, but it really shouldn't have been this bad, either. The writing is terrible and the effects are even worse, and it doesn't help when none of the actors seemingly don't want to be there, resulting in stale and underused performances.
1 1/2 Stars