Visually Stunning, Ultimately Mind Numbing
Back in 2010, Disney released Tim Burton’s version of Alice In Wonderland. It was a divisive film in which some people loved it and some people hated it. It was never meant to be a true adaption of the Alice books and the best way to look at it was like the TV series, Once Upon A Time, which is a series that contains characters that we enjoy but not cannon to the original story. So if you sit back and watch Alice In Wonderland as a fictional tale based on the original fictional story, you can enjoy the characters, the locations and Tim Burton’s vision. You will also realize after watching Alice Through The Looking Glass that Alice In Wonderland is a masterpiece compared to this film.
It starts off where Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is captain of her own vessel evading attackers and treacherous waters. We soon see Alice reunite with people from her past which causes her career to fall into shambles. Fortunately, she is summoned by the blue butterfly and oracle, Absolem (the late Alan Rickman), who informs her that she needs to desperately return with him because all is not well in Underland. Alice is informed that her best friend, The Hatter (Johnny Depp), has grown even madder and darker since she last saw him and the residents of Underland fear for the Hatter’s life. Alice journeys throughout time in order to correct events in the past that could lead to saving The Hatter’s life. Along the way she has to face the likes of The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and a new character, Time (Sasha Baron Cohen). Can Alice save The Hatter and Underland before she runs out of time?
It sounds like a good premise and I think it really had great potential but it was poorly executed. Tim Burton did not return to direct this film, which is always a bad sign, and instead we get director James Bobin (The Muppets). The good news is that everyone from the original movie returns and they all do a fine job. Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter jump right back into their characters as if they had never left them. The problem is that the story becomes so confusing and boring at times, that it becomes a chore just sitting through it hoping for it to just end soon. I heard a kid in the audience asking her father, “How much longer is this?” I wanted to know that answer too. For the record, the film is almost two hours long but feels like three. I felt Sasha Baron Cohen’s character and performance just sucked the life out of the film whenever he was on screen. He isn’t necessarily a bad guy as the trailers would have you believe, he’s just weird and boring. The previous Alice film was filled with weird characters, and that’s OK as long as they are fun and clever. Nope. Not this time (or should I say Time).
I’m going to have to get into SPOILERS in order to explain why this movie was so bad, so if you are planning to see the movie, skip the following paragraph.
Hatter finds evidence of the first hat that he ever made and he believes that if the hat was not destroyed by The Red Queen’s Jabberwocky in the first film, this must mean that his family was not either and they are still alive. Alice and the residents of Underland believe the Hatter is really losing it and by not believing in him, he becomes darker and is slowly dying. Alice is informed by The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) that if she goes back in time and prevents The Hatter’s family’s death that she may save The Hatter. Again, it sounds like a good idea, until it begins. Alice steals the Chronosphere, a portable time traveling machine, from Time which enables her to travel to the past but in the process also puts actual time in danger. What they were trying to do here is do their own version of Back To The Future, but it fails miserably. Alice first goes back in time to prevent the Jabberwacky from killing Hatter’s family, but she fails. She then goes back in time several times in order to change the past with hopes that it would alter the present and fails each time. It becomes annoying each time to see Alice fail over and over but instead of giving up, she just goes back in time to another event and tries to prevent that event from happening and fails every single time. She finally learns that you can’t change the past. That’s great, but why did we have to see her fail so many times? We also are introduced to back stories of characters we have no interest in learning about. We learn about the Hatter and his family and how his father always thought he was a disappointment. Other characters we learn about are the two sisters, The White Queen and The Red Queen and how The Red Queen became so angry. They were definitely ripping parts of this story off from the play, Wicked. Turns out that The Red Queen should have been the real Queen all along but The White Queen as a child lied to her parents about leaving crumbs under her bed and the Red Queen runs off into the village, bumps her head and that is why she has such a big head. Alice tries to stop The Red Queen from bumping her head and guess what? She fails again. Then Time introduces this idea that if someone from the past sees someone from the future it destroys them and all of time. Why? Because he said so. It also turns out that Hatter’s family was alive all of this time and shrunk down to the size of ants and The Red Queen is holding them prisoner in her ant farm for all of these years. You put all of this together and it just makes for a boring, confusing and frustrating story.
End of SPOILERS.
Another problem with this film is that there is a 6 year gap between this film and the original. Six years is an awful long time for people to wait for a sequel. The original was a financial success and the old saying is true, “strike while the iron is hot.” Most fans have moved on and are not interested in a sequel to Alice In Wonderland. Back then Johnny Depp was a superstar and lately he has fallen out of favor with the movie going public. Look at his recent films Mordecai, Into The Woods and Transcendence. All of those movies under performed at the box office. Depp hasn’t had a hit since the last Pirates movie.
What could have made this movie work is if we got to see Alice return to Underland and be sent on a quest and meet “interesting and fun” characters. Coming back to prevent Hatter from dying is a bit morbid and didn’t really work. Other than The Hatter, the previous familiar characters have very minuscule supporting roles. I would have loved to seen more of The Cheshire Cat and The Tweedles. They bought back the voice actors for this sequel, use them. One thing that you have to appreciate about Tim Burton is he has a way of creating new characters, or altering classic characters, to be fun, sometimes weird, but again fun. With Burton not directing this time, it’s like the cast had to remember how they performed their character from the original movie and hoped that they got the same magic back. It’s not all bad. Like I had mentioned the performances are great. The 3D that occurs while Alice travels through the oceans of time is fantastic but other than that, the 3D doesn’t add anything. The visuals are beautiful and if you are one to appreciate cinematography, you will enjoy what is on screen. Danny Elfman also returns to do the musical score and he does another fantastic job.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those movies that after you have seen it once, either once is enough, or you wish you had never seen it to begin with. If you enjoyed the first film, it wont ruin that experience for you at all but it just makes you feel that a sequel was not necessary or it’s too bad we didn’t get a better sequel. What would have been nice was to get a prequel of a young Alice’s adventure in Wonderland, which most thought the original was going to be.
They introduced a lot of puns for the character, Time. Like “How Time flys”; “I have too much Time on my hands”; “Time is on my side”; “Time waits for no man.” Here is mine. “Don’t waste your Time.”
I give this 2 out of 5 stars.