Alice Through the Looking Glass – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Alice Through the Looking GlassAlice Through the Looking Glass – 2.5/5 –  Over the last few years Disney has gone about creating live action versions of their animated properties.  This renaissance of sorts started with Alice in Wonderland.  Facing some mixed reviews, it skyrocketed success opened the door to many other retellings of the classic fairytales.  From that success spawned this sequel.  Alice Through the Looking Glass does try to capture the essence of the first film, but ends up stumbling to the finishing line with a lot fluff and pizzazz.

Premise: Alice returns to Wonderland where she must go back in time to save the Mad Hatter

All the previous cast members return from the first film.  In some of the most prudent roles, you have:

Mia Wasikowska as Alice

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Anna Hathaway as the White Queen

Helena Bonham Cart as the Red Queen

There are many more that you can reference at the IMDb page.  At the forefront is Alice.  To summarize, Mia does a good job in bringing us back to something familiar.  With not a lot of setup, her character helps center us on a focal point.  By creating a character that is unique in her own right; Mia brings a bravado that is sparked by commonality and thrills.  There isn’t much character depth for her this second time around, but she does a good job in creating something beyond the standard archetype of a heroine.  From here, the rest of the cast falls into place.  What you find is that they become rehashing versions from the first story.  You see that they have progressed some, but there isn’t anything different when they come on screen.  There is a great sense of creating colorful personalities within each of the characters (CGI and real).  Even with that individualism, there isn’t any one character that stands out as strong, pristine or magical.  The sense is left to a ‘glazing’ factor; where the characters are brought for certain situations at the expense of further character development.  The only cast member that gets some development outside of Alice is the Mad Hatter.  If you can look past the obvious clichés and predictable ruse, there is fun to see in the dialogue.  When the characters interact with each other it is whimsical at heart.  After a while their niche does die out after a string of repetition and hammering the same jokes over and over.  You come to find that they become plot driven elements.  The new stand out role to be found is:

Sacha Baron Cohen as Time

He brings something fresh to this revolving door of misfits.  With a very striking charismatic personality, Sacha brings about something different from the rest of the cast.  He is an outright pompous character, but one that is layered with his own human like flaws.  With a lot of comical hijinks and unhinging one-liners, Time helps provide the excitement for this cast of characters.  For everyone else that isn’t part of the main cast, they are the typical background structures you find in fantastical films.  They do nothing but provide a ‘living/breathing’ world for the characters to play in.

The direction can be described as fantasy combined with generic storytelling to produce a linear thread.  There isn’t anything that stands out distinctly like the first film.  The standard draw of the direction forces a story to play the card of rehashing bits and pieces from the first.  What you come to find from the first scene is a forced plot to bring Alice back to Wonderland.  Even if the standard elements were going to be used, the feeling of ‘let’s go back’ should have been brought through something more imaginary.  Through this, we still get a taste of what has happened that leads to reintroducing Alice, her life and why she decides to go back.  Once the convenient storytelling takes place, the rest of the script is dripped with plot holes, fragmented turns and forced characterization that puts some reason for Alice to go on a time traveling journey.  The direction plays loose and free with the history and lore; while trying to link this to the rest of the characters.  This kind of direction makes assumption without any real explanation for the audience.  This wouldn’t have been bad, but the drippings of generalities contrast heavy against the magical intrigue the film tries to allude to.   All the audience is left is with two things to remember:

  1. Alice must save the Mad Hatter from dying
  2. Alice must go back in time to save him

The key elements are left to general directives that places key characters in position to move the main story.  Outside of the fact that the main thread is thinly introduced; the use of other genre elements makes it even more of an endearing task for the audience.  Once Alice is back in Wonderland, the story takes on genre elements of ‘investigation’ and ‘mystery’ like stylings to connect past moments to the present.  These elements are forced through to bring a thoughtful factor while encompassing the fanatical complexion of Wonderland.  The intertwining can be slightly appealing, but it doesn’t hide the flaws of the story building or character progression.  In fact, it tries to simplify an experience for a world that screams the potential for imaginative tales.  The sense of awe and wonder is pushed to the wayside with a focus on standardized backstory layering.  With Alice having to go back in time, face Time itself and stop things from becoming undone, it drowns out characters and elements that made the first at least adventurous.  What you have is the following:

Alice gets to point A > A piece of the puzzle is found > Alice confronts a challenge > Alice moves to point B

This scenario repeats itself through the middle act.  This becomes hard to witness, but littered throughout is a limelight of wonder when the characters can actually be awkward and bizarre.  This helps bring a genuine feel, especially when Alice or others has to confront Time.  As you move along through these repeated scenes, it leaves the whole ‘wonder’ of Wonderland broad and the colorful cast restricted to the sidelines.  There is a typecast flaw in the script, creating a direction that is focused but uncreative.  Once we enter the last act, the underlining journey to save the Mad Hatter helps create something slightly gripping, but it feels a little too late.  With most of the film left to generic direction, you see the twist coming full steam.  Because this happens, the climax is only somewhat thrilling.  There is a production of that true ‘bombastic’ allure that gives us a sensationalized kind of appeal, but the obvious intent falls into a dulling pattern.  When we finally enter the epilogue, it brings a completed feeling for all the characters.  Even for how we got here, in the end there is a thought of leading off into happiness that will hopefully stay true for every character.

The cinematography is something that stands out for the better.  With the visuals, there is a sense of grandeur felt throughout.  No matter if it’s a look at the Victorian Age of London or the vast openness of the landscapes of Wonderland, you feel the vividness of the aspiring worlds.  Even as the film takes you into the CGI heavy palace where Time exist, there is stark passion to creating pure magic (even if the story doesn’t).  Even though the overall trait of the visuals is imaginative; at times it does comes off as very unbelievable.  The CGI through the time travel looks clunky and some of the characters distract from the aesthetics of the overall world.  For this slight hiccup, the transition between the real and fantastical realm is still wondrous for the audience.  The score is mute at best, only playing in the background because it is ‘supposed’ to be there.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a film filled with many flaws, but the slightness of the weird and brashness of the colorful cast can keep you keenly looking forward towards the finishing line.  Even for the mishaps, there is fun that can be found.  If you’re a fan of the first film, I say hesitantly check it out.  Otherwise, I would recommend this as a rental for the rest of the movie goers out there.

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