Disney provides a sequel that no-one actually asked for
Alice Through The Looking Glass is, quite literally movie-making by numbers. The end-product is tick-boxing, almost as if it is following a guide called Pretending To Be Weird For Dummies, but it was only ever made due to the admittedly very large numbers of the first film. Six years ago Alice In Wonderland made a worldwide total of $1,025,467,110 at the box office. It currently ranks at number 23 of the highest grossing films worldwide. It’s therefore not unsurprising that this film was made, though the fact it took six years to get it done is and the fact its sequel film is equally mediocre is no excuse at all. Interestingly Alice Through The Looking Glass was predicted to earn $55–60 million from its opening weekend but instead earnt only $27 million. Alice In Wonderland earnt $116 million in its opening, a difference with its sequel of 70%. Considering it earnt so much money Alice In Wonderland had a frosty reception with critics and audiences alike. Clearly the people sat around the table who greenlit Alice Through The Looking Glass cared more about getting money out of its audience as opposed to actual enjoyment or satisfaction. Deciding to see ATTLG was due to curiosity and to quote the 1951 animated Alice In Wonderland, “Curiosity only leads to trouble.”
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent the past three years sailing the high seas upon her father’s beloved ship ‘Wonder’. Alice returns home she finds that her family’s finances are so poor that they will have to either give up ‘Wonder’ or the family home. It’s at this point that Absolem (Alan Rickman) in the form of a butterfly calls her back to Wonderland. The Mad Hatter/ Tarrent Hightopp (Johnny Depp) believes that his family may actually still be alive. No-one else believes him which is causing him to fade away. Alice must use a time travelling device stolen from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to save Hatter. Old foe Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) wants the time travelling device for a different reason, to get revenge on her sister White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Will Alice succeed in her mission to save Hatter, will she be intercepted by Time or will Wonderland be destroyed forever through her trying to change time?
SPOILER ZONE (SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU WISH TO AVOID SPOILERS) The main problem with this film, its fatal flaw if you will, is that so much of it is so utterly pointless. Time tells Alice from the outset that she can’t change time. But she tries anyway, for an hour of the film’s running time, only to find out that she can’t and in the process may have destroyed Wonderland for ever. Not only does it lead to feelings towards Alice akin to my current view of Bran from Game Of Thrones ( I still can’t hear the phrase ‘Hold The Door’ without nursing an internal sob) but there’s also an ironic feeling of having had your time wasted. Time is established as a villain who accent-wise seems to be impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger yet arguably (this may have come about due to my less than satisfied feelings towards this film) he was surely trying to do the right thing? Alice is the one who nearly destroyed everything, yet she is the one lauded and celebrated from stopping it happening..?
Anyways…the big problem that Alice In Wonderland had was that it tried to be weird. The ridiculousness of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter personified this problem with a truly grating performance. Mercifully he has less screentime in this one but it is still enough to make you wince and feel slightly creeped out. It’s a combination of make-up, costume , performance and vocal choice that I just do not understand. Wasikowska is wonderful as Alice, an actual wonder to watch in a land filled of synthetic versions of it.In fact I’d argue the film’s best moments are when Alice is bringing that wonder into the real world – how society views her with such ill-regard and her brief stay in the ‘care’ of female hysteria speicliast Dr Bennett (an underused Andrew Scott) are moments when the film feels real fresh and lacking the self-consiousness that lingers of the rest of it.
A surprising appearance of Richard Armitage as King Oleren reminded me of Middle Earth and how Peter Jackson managed to create a fully fledged world that athough different from ours seemed equally real. That has not happened with AIW or ATTLG. Instead we’ve been given two films that try to be quirky and strange yet are truly not – neither film has heart to it – and are instead synthetic manifestations of it. The first film may have succeeded on trying to profiteer from the ‘strange’ but the huge defeat of its sequel suggests that people have learnt their lesson. On a grander scale it’s hard not to ponder what this huge loss means for future Disney films. Nearly all of Disney’s upcoming slate is of remakes or reimaginings as they seemed to be safe entities with a pre-sold audience. Just a few weeks ago with Jungle Book (click here to read my review) Disney proved it could do it well. But after this, I’m not so sure now. Hollywood has taken an approach of putting all of its eggs (monies) into one safe basket (a film based on a book/previous film) yet the scale of ATTLG box office after numerous others may require a change in thinking.
A huge budget and elaborate sets yet no-one appears to have worried about the plot. It’s a mess.