This unnecessary time-traveling obsessed sequel is a tiresome waste of a talented cast.
“Alice in Wonderland” was released 6 years ago, and while it was not a wonderful film, it was inventive and fun. Tim Burton has a unique style that suited Lewis Carroll’s source material quite well. By combining aspects of both Alice novels into a single film, it didn’t leave much material for a sequel. But has that ever stopped Hollywood from cranking out another entry in a franchise? Besides the name, “Through the Looking Glass” shares virtually nothing with the second book, except for a quick Humpty Dumpty cameo atop a living chess board. Instead, this travesty focuses on parental misunderstandings and time travel. Yes, time travel.
The year is 1875 and Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has become a fearless Captain of her father’s ship, “The Wonder.” Upon returning to England, she learns her mother has signed the deed of their house over to the smarmy Hamish (Leo Bill), who intends to return it in exchange for the ship. Threatened by Alice’s success, the men of the shipping company would rather see her as a clerk than braving the wild seas of the Orient. After a berating from the men and a scolding from her mother about a woman’s place, Alice runs off and soon finds herself through a mirror and back into the “Underland.”
Given the recent cultural battles of feminism and equality, and the film’s opening dialogue, one would expect the story to focus on Alice’s strength as a woman, and her lofty optimism being reinforced. Instead, the plot quickly dismisses those relevant issues and instead drops us into a rabbit hole of time travel and other nonsense. (The bad kind of nonsense, not the good, Lewis Carroll kind.) The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), whose full name we learn to be Hatter Tarrant Hightopp, is deathly ill with some form of delayed guilt and depression that apparently only Alice can help. The conflicting reasons why he is ill, and why he believes ONLY Alice can help him, we’ll leave to the audience to discover and digest. Even more maddening, is her method to help the Hatter. She must meet Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), borrow/steal his one and only time travel device(?), and then bounce back and forth between timelines faster than you can say “Back to the Future 2.” The oddity of this being that just TAKING this time travel device apparently causes time to begin fracturing.
During Alice’s travels we learn that the Mad Hatter had a falling out with his father right before his entire family was fried by the Jabberwocky. Similarly the Red Queen “Iracebeth” (Helena Bonham Carter) had a psychotic falling out with her family over a silly sisterly lie regarding stolen tarts. The writing which was fun in the first film instead now falls back on second rate psychology and tired tropes of misunderstood individuals who feel unloved. It’s shocking that the the sole screenwriting credit goes to Linda Woolverton, who also penned the previous film, “Beauty & the Beast”, and “The Lion King!” Woolverton also wrote the screenplay to “Maleficent,” which might explain the annoying subplot which tries to make us sympathetic for a villain. (Bad people aren’t bad, they are just unloved.)
If they had spent more time on a good script and less time thinking of clever full names for old characters and mildly amusing time puns, this might have been worth seeing. Instead we’re served the cinematic equivalent to fast food.
Note: This film has terrible Time Science, rivaling that of “Terminator:Genisys.”