“Alice Through the Looking Glass” Review: Lots of Colors, Not a Lot of Substance

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

If Disney actually had access to a looking glass, they would see that there was no need for Alice to go through it in the first place.

This Lewis Carroll sequel’s sequel returns to the world of Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska). Written by the legendary Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan) and directed by James Bobin (The Muppets), the story begins with Alice manning her father’s ship. After safely arriving in London, things go awry and Alice is forced to escape through a mirror (sorry, looking glass) that transports her back into Wonderland. From there, she finds out that The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has been thrown into a sea of depression. Hoping to save him, Alice attempts to travel back in time and save his family.

Let’s ignore for a moment that we now know Johnny Depp is an alleged domestic abuser (though we really shouldn’t), Alice Through the Looking Glass still isn’t a good movie. At its core it is an inherently flawed film. Most of its problems are not execution problems (though the execution is never very good). Its problems all stem from its existence.

As a sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass is trying really hard to be a prequel. The time travel storyline is already overplayed, but is especially dangerous when attempting to do studies on characters that are allegorical in nature. There is simply no real interest on delving into the backstory of characters that are so one-note.

This tiresome plot device is exacerbated by the fact that when characters travel back in time, they have no real impact on what happens. This is a real thing that the movie does. Alice can interact with the people she meets, but her actions have no impact on the scene’s end result. Alice’s job is to watch what happens and learn from it. Therefore, the audience’s job is to watch Alice watch others. The audience is watching someone watching a virtual reality movie. Ugh.

All of this is not to mention that as a sequel, Alice Through the Looking glass is far too small in scope. It feels like a bonus feature to the first film, if anything. There are very few new characters, and the storyline adds very little to the universe. It’s entirely a movie for those who enjoyed the first movie, and no one else.

On the whole, the film is a little too green. Or rather, a little too heavy on the green-screen. While that might be a pretty dumb criticism of an “Alice in Wonderland” film, the point about this movie not deserving to exist stands. The problem with the CGI in this case is that there’s not an interesting story to back it up, and so the visuals become uninteresting. This is also the reason that a lot of amazing talent is wasted among the actors. The cast is seriously A-list, but isn’t given a lot to do.

If the movie does something good, it’s in the prevalence of strong female characters throughout. Ignoring CGI actors, female main roles outnumber male main roles and the female characters are often considered the brave ones. That’s nice. At least kids will gain something from this movie.

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