By Michael Kaye
Alice Through The Looking Glass (Reviews)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a difficult book series to adapt to the screen. Most attempt to do so fail tremendously to capture the spirit of the novels, which are essentially a magical mystery tour filled with all sorts of fascinating and colorful characters. So far the best adaptation has been the classic Disney animated film from 1951. Unfortunately, because Disney loves money and 3D was on the rise, they hired Tim Burton to tell his version of Alice in Wonderland in 2010, the year after Avatar broke all sorts of box office records. The movie's not good, for all the same reasons that Burton's reimagining's are not good: he forces his style onto properties like he's trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. It just doesn't work. So for better or worse, Burton has stepped back and handed the director's chair to James Bobin for the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Here's the story. Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.
Yeah, this one's not good either. Good news is there are a few improvements made to the original, however, all of the problems are still there, as well as some new ones. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the movie looks amazing! The highest compliment I can give to this movie belongs to the production team, who have actually injected some much needed color to the world of Wonderland (no, I refuse to call it "Underland!") I never liked how washed out everything appeared in the original film, it just felt unpleasant.
While she's certainly no Kathryn Beaumont, I thought Mia Wasikowska did a great job as Alice. I'm disappointed that she's not getting more work outside of various indie projects, cause she really has the acting chops of a leading lady. Also, the voice cast for the creatures in Wonderland did a solid job as well, such as Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Timothy Spall as Bayard, and the late great Alan Rickman in his brief role as Absolem.
Finally, Danny Elfman's score is as great as it's ever been. Sure, most of it is just repeated music from the first movie, but even that was memorable in its own right. Even in the worst of Burton's films, you can always count on the music being the one consistent positive.
*cracks knuckles* And now we get to the fun part, where I get to the bottom of why this film just doesn't work.
I'll start off with the surface problems. I could just tell while watching this movie that most of the actors were phoning in their performances. The biggest offender is definitely Johnny Depp, who's got this whole "clown with makeup and a silly hat" routine drilled into his subconscious, to the point where it's hard to get excited for any movie he's attached to anymore. Screw the trailers for doing complete disservice to Sacha Baron Cohen, who doesn't actually get much to do except stand around like a confused Werner Herzog. As for Helena Bonham Carter, I have no idea what the hell was going on with her performance!
I really hate to do this, but I have to put some of the blame on James Bobin. As the director of the film, he needs to take some responsibility for many questionable decisions made throughout the film. I'm not gonna act like all of them are his fault, but the one I want to point out is the performances and making them feel believable in such a CGI heavy world. The reason his Muppet films were good was because it's easier to act against something tangible as oppposed to acting against nothing. This is something that Bobin needs to work on if he's going to continue directing major blockbusters like the upcoming MIB23.
Finally, the ultimate reason why this movie doesn't work is because it's standing on top of a broken foundation. From a narrative standpoint, this is a completely pointless sequel, as both the animated movie and the 2010 live action film combine elements from both novels to create a stand alone film. There is literally no reason for this movie to exist aside from a financial obligation. We don't need to see the origin stories for characters like the Mad Hatter or the Red and White Queen. And while I am a sucker for time travel stories, this was the wrong property to inject such a story.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is not a good movie. It's not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, as there was still effort put forth in the production. But this is clearly one of those examples of an unnecessary sequel, one that was only greenlit because the first movie made over $1 Billion, at the time when that was much less common. If you must go see this movie, at least go to support James Bobin, and to pay your final respects towards Alan Rickman.
Alright, now it's your turn. Do you have any interest in seeing Alice Through the Looking, why or why not? Also, what is your favorite and least favorite Tim Burton movies, both directed and produced? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, stay tuned for more content coming your way!