In 19th century London, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is whisked back into Wonderland. Again. Because, you know, money.
Alice Through the Looking Glass loses much of the charm that could be found in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, although that film had problems of its own. This sequel is hampered by many elements that were not handled with enough care.
The narrative as a whole is problematic in that it shares very little resemblance to the source material that bears the same name. This aside, the plot simply carries little weight throughout the length of the film. Not to mention that narrative conveniences and redundancies lead to eye-rolling revelations that move the narrative from plot point to plot point seemingly to little end.
A pun-laden script replaces the whimsy of Carroll’s voice with cringe worthy bits of dialogue that plaster character motivation and theme at such a superficial level that even children would respond by saying: “Duh!”
The cast does the best that they can with the script they are given. Wasikowska leads the charge well, and a supporting role from Sacha Baron Cohen holds up the back end. But even the best of acting could not make the dialogue here read as natural. Thus spells the downfall of Hathaway, Depp, and Bonham-Carter, whose performances are more lackluster here than on the first go-around.
The major pitfall of this sequel is its inability to maintain audience interest. Stakes are never raised. Tension stems from a subset of characters delaying the inevitable, an inevitable that never really reads as particularly problematic and only proves consequential for the time it takes to quell a yawn.
Given the surprise success of its predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass looks and feels like a cash grab. The visual aesthetic remains somewhat glossy in its fantastical imaginings, but there is a clear paring down of high profile CG set pieces, where the best we get is a Transformers-like series of metallic creatures and a garish looking, rust-colored material that spreads like a fungus. Even with the handful of good acting performances, the overall vision of the film is muddy and uninviting.
Take the film from a different perspective: Alice here is written as an incredibly incompetent heroine. If she had just trusted her friend, they could have saved a bunch of time in finding a solution to their problem. If she had listened to Time, who is less of a villain and more of a level-headed authority over his own domain, the fate of all of Wonderland would never have been threatened in the first place.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)