Tim Burton films have always been hit and miss with critics over the years. For every Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Beetlejuice (1988), there is a The Planet of the Apes (2001) or Dark Shadows (2012). When Alice in Wonderland (2010) was released it was met with very mixed reviews and for this, the sequel, Burton has been replaced by James Bobin, he of The Muppets fame. So is there a fresh need for concern this time round?
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent her last couple of years out at sea. Being the captain of her father’s old ship “The Wonder”, she returns home from China with many artefacts, and soon bumps into her old fiancé (Leo Bill). She comes to learn that in her absence, her mother (Lindsay Duncan) sold the deed to her house, and only if Alice sells her father’s ship can she save her mother’s home. She then stumbles across a mirror after a fight with her mother which takes her back to Underland. Things there are not good. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is depressed and believes his family who he thought was deceased, are actually alive. Using a device called the Chronosphere, which she steals from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), Alice tries to go back and help the Hatter find his family again, whilst also avoiding the scorn from her old nemesis, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
Although the main focus of the film revolves around Alice trying to help The Hatter, it is made quite evident that the Hatter is a very secondary character. Not to question Depp’s ability to committing to the character, but he was really held back in this. I was expecting to see him flourish and be as colourful as the Hatter generally tends to be, but the moments are very few and far apart.
Despite being a big fan of Mia Wasikowska, overall, this venture felt like a let-down at times. There is a good theme underlying throughout about how important the time we spend with our loved ones is and now it should not be taken for granted. But the whole thing felt a bit too forced and for some of the scenes you will sit and wonder to yourself “Was that scene even necessary?” And again although the film itself does look magnificent in terms of how colourful it is and how magical it all tries to be, the whole thing just feels too hollow.
Though it feels like this could be part of a new franchise, I really hope it just ends here. One Alice in Wonderland film provided plenty. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen provided some brief moments of humour but not enough. I walked in with an open mind but when you see people younger than you leaving the cinema in groups, it is quite hard to remain optimistic.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is on general release now.