Alice Through the Looking Glass is the hyperactive sequel to Alice in Wonderland from 2010. The Mad Hatter is still mad, the evil queen is still evil, and Alice herself is still without real character.
Alice in Wonderland was a box office success, but was lukewarm received by the public and critics. The sequel, this time not directed by Tim Burton but by James Bobin, who is better known from the last two Muppets films, is a film that nobody was really waiting for. All the actors are back, however, for this second effort. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is not very present through and keeps himself quiet. One or two scenes with Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen are funny but she works on the nerves. This is mostly a film about Alice (Mia Wasikowska) and the new character Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s a highlight of the film, but that’s because he is new. The rest of the characters have become rather tedious. They were only good for one film.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is mostly chaotic. While the story by Lewis Carroll has this dreamlike quality, the movies amped up everything and the result is manic. And while Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland attempted to add a coherent story with nonsensical additions about a prophecy and a battle at the end, Alice Through the Looking Glass never stops for a single moment of rest to tell a story that might grab your interest, or to sketch out some interesting characters. The only mildly interesting parts is where we learn some little extra about the background and history of the Wonderland characters.
You get the feeling as if you’re in a computer for two hours. The effects are quite pretty, with the exception of the first scenes in the real world that really come across as unbelievable. It was a confusing start because I didn’t know whether to take the opening scenes seriously or whether they were already part of the dream world. But although the imagery is beautiful, it never feels real, and, although this is to be expected from an Alice in Wonderland movie, you need some endurance to stick with it. The story moves at a breakneck pace from one computer generated scene to another and it takes some concentration to stay with it. If you can’t, the film with storm over you like a disco hurricane and you’ll exit the theatre exhausted.
Occasionally, it is visually inspiring. The style is actually closer to the film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) than to Alice in Wonderland. But the pace is so high that you can hardly enjoy the imagery because it is gone before it registers on your retinas, and it never really feels original. The inspiring parts are immediately cut off by childish animation too.
This is best fit for old children or very young teenagers. For younger kids, the story is too haphazard and confusing and for older teenagers or young adults it is too childish. The biggest miss is that Alice herself is not interesting. During the whole movie, she is just present to keep us with the numerous plot twists. She’s calling out single lines like: “the Mad Hatter’s family!” or “The Chronometer!” while running from one thing to another. It’s just that the film is so chaotic that she has to explain everything what is going on. And as the film is winding down at the end, we suddenly have no story and no real characters to keep things going, and Alice can suddenly only talk in clichés.
The film is so haphazard and superficial that it is hard to stay invested. A lot is missing, like antics by Johnny Depp and I wanted more of the invisible cat. Instead, we have a good mister Time and an occasionally beautiful movie but also a chaotic and childish one. The story is so stuffed that Alice is doing nothing but explaining everything and she doesn’t have time to be interesting.