Alice Through the Looking Glass, 2016.
Directed by James Bobin.
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Richard Armitage, Andrew Scott, Lindsay Duncan, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.
In an age where Hollywood cannot go more than two years tops without cashing in on a sequel to a smashing box office success, it is absolutely flabbergasting from a business perspective that Alice Through the Looking Glass is just now being released a little over six years after Tim Burton rebooted the iconic characters and story with Alice in Wonderland. That movie made over $1 billion too, begging the question, why was there no immediate follow-up?
Well, after having watched Alice Through the Looking Glass, it seems safe to assume that creatively there wasn’t much of an interesting direction to take things. I realize that has never stopped Hollywood before, but even the most casual of moviegoers will sense that something is terribly off regarding the presentation and narrative of this second modernized CGI Alice in Wonderland feature. There is no spark, no soul, no life, but rather a whole lot of pretty things happening on the screen that wholly fail to resonate on any meaningful level.
Do the special effects team and costume designers deserve credit for making Alice Through the Looking Glass stand out as visually spectacular and pleasing? Absolutely, everything from the purple dress (that also contains a number of other colors and designs embedded on the fabric) Alice wears throughout the film, to Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter get-up, to the conceptual design of time as an actual place, and more, is certainly all fascinating to behold with a great degree of wondrous imagination. The actual visual effects are also beautiful, although after having seen something like The Jungle Book I must admit that the mouth movements of the fantasy inspired creatures and animals, along with their general juxtaposition to real-life actors do not look as fluid. It’s actually quite jarring most of the time, and the only gripe with otherwise fantastic effects.
Unfortunately, it is all a hollow effort considering that again, there isn’t much in the way of characters or a story to care about. There is an attempt to tie all of the subplots together as a central theme regarding the importance of family, which is something that will certainly play well for younger viewers and general families checking out the movie, but it is so ham-fisted by the end of the experience, one is left just feeling as if director James Bobin took one simple idea and stretched it out over two hours of blindingly beautiful colors and computer wizardry.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is also most definitely one of those two-hour movies where you begin to feel every minute. It doesn’t help that seemingly half the movie depicts Alice traveling through time in a Chronosphere, which looks a lot like sailing in a giant hamster ball through an electricity field of many different colors showcasing glimpses of different time periods; it’s well, time travel. It is fun and pretty to look at the first time, but there is so much time traveling going on that eventually viewers will grow tired of the sequences, and at some point even begin to lose grasp of the plot, aside from the very general idea that the Mad Hatter is sad and needs his family saved.
For as soulless as the entire experience plays out however, it cannot be denied that the ensemble cast show up as reliable as ever. Mia Wasikowska continues to make a great Alice regarding both physical features and personality, Johnny Depp is as eccentric and bizarre as you would expect him to be, Helena Bonham Carter is pleasantly nasty as the evil Queen, and Anne Hathaway is fine in her role, but the real awesome addition is Sacha Baron Cohen and his particular style of comedic delivery portraying Time as a person.
The movie itself isn’t offensively terrible to the point where you’ll be raging in the lobby demanding your money back, but it is rather unremarkable, even more so than the film Tim Burton gave us six years ago. Alice Through the Looking Glass is the sequel we didn’t need but had to get at some point considering how bankable the franchise is, and might still be.
The question to ask now is what is next, and in a perfect world, I would tell you the big studios in Hollywood would finally ditch family-friendly Alice in Wonderland and put the true twisted nature of the story on screen (preferably with a video game adaptation of Alice: Madness Returns), but realistically this will probably still make a decent amount of money, and Johnny Depp is going to need to offset the alimony money SOMEHOW, so prepare for about five more by 2030.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★