I have never seen the first Alice in Wonderland. In fact, the only remnants I remember from the original Disney animated film was the parts that gave me nightmares as a child. But I wanted to see this movie as an experiment in whether or not it was a bad idea to see a sequel without watching the first movie.
I may have picked the wrong movie for this experiment.
The very first ten minutes of the movie did not even look like “Alice in Wonderland”. In bewilderment, I leaned over next to my wife (who saw the first movie), and I quietly asked if there was any explanation for the odd disjuncture I was feeling. She shrugged and said that she couldn’t think of an explanation for what we were seeing based on the first movie. Little did I know that the incoherence of this film was going to get worse. Much, much worse.
This movie exists in two worlds: the Real World which is mostly gray and filled with boring people and sexist men, and Wonderland which has no rhyme or reason for any of the rules governing this universe. Perhaps the point of Wonderland is that it makes no sense, I don’t know, but if there is no rhyme or reason to why things are the way they are, then not only does the story tend to fall apart, but almost all tension and consequence evaporate from the entire movie. And if there is no tension and consequence to the movie, what in the world is the point of watching it? Besides… much of the nonsensicalness of the film struck me as laziness, not whimsicalness.
Johny Depp’s white, chalky design for the Mad Hatter did not make very much sense to me, and I found that his lisp and the obviously painted-on gap between his teeth were both extremely distracting. As the movie progressed, it only got worse, because there are a few scenes that go into the Mad Hatter’s past life. See, the Mad Hatter has two parents and many siblings, none of whom look ridiculously painted and whimsical like Depp does. This forced me to ask the question of why the Mad Hatter looks so different? Not only that, but there’s a scene that delves into the Hatter’s childhood, and not only is the child actor who plays young Hatter not chalky white, but he also doesn’t have the lisp or the gap in his teeth like Depp’s character does. This complete disregard for continuity is rampant throughout the whole film. The Red and White Queen’s parents are also not chalky and white; they look rather human.
Later, I asked my wife if there was an explanation for this, and she said that in the first film, the evil Red Queen demanded that everyone look white and pasty. However, there’s a few in-the-past scenes where the Red Queen isn’t in control yet, and Hathaway and Depp are still pasty white and ridiculous looking.
This does not even touch on the fact that Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen was an insufferable character, and all the quirkiness this movie tries to give her fails almost completely. And good God, when they reveal the reason why the Red Queen was so evil in the first place, I mentally vomited all over the place because it was the stupidest thing in the entire world. I want to ridicule this point so bad, but I know there will be people who will watch this film despite all the negative things I have to say, so I will not delve into spoiler territory.
This also doesn’t touch on the fact that the very first scene where the Mad Hatter and Alice talk to each other creates massive holes in the movie; the Hatter’s requests/demands create him into an extremely unlikable, irrational character, and I felt almost no sympathy for him. Alice, on the other hand, seems to break what was initially established about her character; she’s created as this strong heroin who doesn’t believe that anything is truly “impossible”, and in one of the beginning scenes of her trip back to Wonderland, she tells Hatter that his claims are “impossible” without any hint of irony or self-awareness.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time character was an absolute waste of an opportunity. They never take advantage of having a being that represents time itself, and they never really treat him as a reckoning power, nor do they ever really establish what exactly he can or can’t do with his time powers. Instead, they just settled for putting Cohen in a ridiculous leotard and have him act like a mustache-twirling cartoon.
I did like the themes in this movie, however. I thought the emphasis on family and redemption was really nice. If the themes weren’t enveloped in a heaping layer of incoherence and inconsequence, then I would be prone to give this movie a bit more leniency.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is all style with a near complete lack of substance. I cannot just write off a movie as whimsical when it has absolutely no reason for why anything in this movie even happens. If they’re going to make a movie with no established rules or consequences, then I am immediately going to assume that whatever conflict gets established, it will be instantaneously be resolved without any sort of clear explanation whatsoever (and sure enough…). Not only that, but everyone in this movie is obnoxious and over-the-top, and not in a good way, and I’m giving this movie a 2 out of 10.