Movie Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

With an underwhelming story plastered with expensive CGI, Alice Through the Looking Glass stands as nothing more than a run-in-the-mill sequel fodder as its titular character hops from one meaningless set piece to the next.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp).

The inevitable sequel to Alice in Wonderland finally comes out in theaters. Like the Transformers, it challenges viewers on how much CGI they can take before the novelty of the technology wears off.

In fairness, the high production value does provide well rendered visuals. The costumes are elaborate and distinctly its own. The movie continues to be inspired by the illustrations that accompanied early editions of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic novel, thanks to Colleen Atwood and the production design team.

The regular cast still has the same costumes reflecting their personality with a little twist. Alice now wears a Chinese inspired dress that is of course, inappropriately loud among her peers. While The White Queen is still in frothy Victorian white, The Red Queen is now wearing a battle ready Elizabethan dress with organic armor. The new addition is Time, a human clock demigod.

Fortunately, these efforts aren’t wasted on a cast that bring their characters back to life without phoning it in, which is usually what happens in long gestating sequels. Anne Hathaway’s forced affectations and Sasha Baron Cohen’ indistinguishable accent aside, acting is still decent all around.

Unfortunately though, even without Burton in the helm, this franchise continues to disappoint.

Back in 2010 CGI was magical. James Cameron’s Pocahontas Avatar came out in 2009, sending moviegoers flocking to the next creation and enabling Alice in Wonderland to earn $1 billion.  Several years later after more effects heavy game adaptations, unnecessary sequels, and remakes Alice Through the Looking Glass arrives at the tail end of the digitized movie experience. As a result there’s nothing to distract you from its flaws.
Alice hops from one meaningless set piece to another, turning into a tour guide for the audience to show how much CGI the producers were able to afford. While Underland and Wonderland are detailed thanks to a Hollywood budget, the world building isn’t unique. The former is just a giant clock while the latter are whimsified small villages with improbably-named inhabitants. If the script weren’t too literal, they both would have benefited from a more creative mind.

Worse, our heroine is thrown into a senseless plot as the movie tries to make money from whatever nostalgic affections you still have with the main cast. Alice goes time traveling while delivering obvious lessons about learning from your past with the main purpose of saving the Mad Hatter from sadness. It’s a paltry excuse of a premise, but hey, money.

After stumbling through back stories and talking to talking animals, Alice reaches the end of her journey which culminates into nothing more than another sequel that merely repackages the appeal of the first – loony CGI characters, anthropomorphic game pieces, Helena Bonham Carter screaming her head off (pun intended), Depp with an eccentric portrayal compensating for what is basically trick or treating and the reliable Mia Wasikowska as the titular heroine.

If you have an attention span of a ten year old, you may find this sequel amusing. But if that were the case then why not just borrow a DVD copy and watch it at home with cheaper popcorn?

My Rating: 3.5/10

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