Alice Through The Looking Glass

**

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Alice Through The Looking Glass
"This movie is a candy-coloured mess."

It has been six years since Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland became his highest grossing film, with more than $1 billion taken globally. That big pile of cash for Disney probably explains the, albeit rather late, arrival of this sequel, rather than any critical acclaim - Burton’s film met with mixed reviews at the time, with praise for its visual effects and costuming offset by complaints about a lack of narrative heft, character development and humour. Burton’s contribution the second time around is reduced to that of a producer role, whatever that means, and The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted director James Bobin is at the helm. Sadly, nothing seems to have been learned in the interim - this movie is a candy-coloured mess.

The story - a very clunky and underwhelming story it has to be said, which starts off with a feminist bent before mashing an origin tale into the mix - sees Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now several years older since her last dive into the topsy-turvy nonsense realm of Wonderland, drawn back into that world by the bright blue hookah-smoking caterpillar-turned butterfly Absolem (Alan Rickman’s last film role, sadly) in order to cheer up the Mad Hatter. Hatter is again played by the human clothes peg known as Johnny Depp, once more decked out in a costume and make-up that seem designed to offend the eyes and with that lisping, whimpering and thoroughly grating voice to boot. For reasons that do not entirely make sense (like a lot else in this film, though are the filmmakers allowed the excuse that this is Wonderland?) old Hatter is depressed because the memory of his dead family - killed at the hands of the same Jabberwocky creature that was seen in the last film - is now weighing heavily on his mind.

Copy picture

With the Hatter facing death by depression, Alice hears of a mysterious time travel device called the Chronosphere, wielded by Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) himself. Helped by former allies the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Mirana of Marmoreal AKA The White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice snatches the Chronosphere from Time’s giant cathedral-like fortress which houses his Great Clock of Time, and goes back into the past to save the Hatter’s family. This section of the film is where things should really be getting going, but by this point it has already repeated the mistakes of its predecessor, and then some. And no time machine can save it.

For one thing, the use of CGI effects, with the saturation dial on 11, remain overwhelming, but again the result is just a endless spew of utterly weightless creations. There’s plenty of colourful splashes and digital magic dust sprinkled about, but little sense of a real unique vision or any tactile qualities underpinning it all. There is nothing you will see here that filmmakers such as Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro haven’t already done before and better. Only rarely, such as the depiction of the outer landscape of Time’s fortress being itself a giant clock face with huge rotating hands, with an interior that looks like a cathedral designed by a lunatic, does something memorable get conjured up.

Likewise the characters remain flimsy. Its impossible to feel invested in Alice’s quest because her relationship with the Hatter - himself an irritating chap - has never been convincingly built. And for a film about a world of whimsy, the entire affair is almost totally lacking humour despite all the various bizarre beings milling about. Only a few of the cast, those not buried under layers of prosthetics or reduced to voicing CGI bloodhounds (like poor Timothy Spall) seem to know how to give their characters the right bit of spark - namely Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Hathaway. Both these performers know just how to play at being mad in a mad world (the way Hathaway mincingly glides about never ceases to be amusing) while giving a few good winks at the audience. But everything else is just noise or candy floss thrown at the screen.

It is sadly too late to grab that Chronosphere and ensure that this film was never made, but here is hoping Disney look to the future, retire this franchise now, and maybe focus on Star Wars and superheroes instead.

Reviewed on: 26 May 2016
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Alice returns to Wonderland to save the Mad Hatter.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

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