I have a confession to make. I have never actually read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. I know, it’s terrible. Believe me, I feel an immense about of shame right now. It’s something I’ve thought about several times, but have never gotten around to it. I say that because these movies could be faithful adaptations or share nothing other than characters and titles, and I would be none the wiser. Most of my Alice in Wonderland knowledge comes from the animated Disney movie. Well, the old animated Disney movie. I know most of the Tim Burton directed one was animated as well, but you know what I mean. Since that Tim Burton movie made a metric crap ton of money, a sequel not directed by Tim Burton was made. And since my wife loves most things related to Alice in Wonderland, I found myself seeing Alice Through the Looking Glass.
I can definitively say that this is most definitely a movie. And it is a movie that has characters from, or characters that resemble characters from Alice in Wonderland. And this movie was released in theaters…on Memorial Day weekend. And I saw this movie, while sitting in a chair… But seriously, I thought it was okay, I suppose. I’m just kind of apathetic towards. I didn’t really have any strong feelings toward the first movie, and this movie didn’t really do anything to sway me one way or the other. I didn’t exactly dislike the movie, but I can’t say that I really liked it either.
The movie starts with Alice captaining a boat, The Wonder, and they’re running from pirates. Everyone thinks they’re trapped when they’re chased towards a shallow, rocky area, but Alice sees a way through. Through some cunning maneuvering, they are able to make it through safely. And here’s my first problem with the movie. This was supposed to show how great of a captain Alice is, but it just came across as silly to me. I feel that when doing a movie in which part of it is set in the “real” world and part is set in a “magical” world of sorts, then you really need to differentiate the two. The “real” world should be as real as you can get it. There should be no need to suspend disbelief while in the “real” world. This way, the “magical” world will seem that much more magical. If you want to show how great of a captain she is, fine. Have her out maneuver the pirates in open water. That would be more impressive and believable than getting a boat to tilt at the right time and angle so that you don’t hit jagged rocks that were under the water and could not actually be seen.
Another problem I have with the movie is the Mad Hatter. I never really thought of the Mad Hatter as a main character type character. But then, Johnny Depp was cast as the Mad Hatter, and suddenly he is a main character in these stories. The zaniness gets old pretty quickly. And while the zaniness is a bit toned down in this movie, there were other issues. The main one being that I could not understand a lot of what Depp was saying. He took the accent up a notch, and it was just too much. Secondly, they tried to pass off this story of the Mad Hatter dying because people didn’t believe him when he said that he thought his family was alive. And his health took a really quick turn for the worse when Alice suggested that people who died cannot be brought back to life. And it was just a bit ridiculous in my mind. He’s not a fairy. He doesn’t need people to believe or clap for him to live. They gave him a backstory that confirms he’s human. Just a wacky human. Humans don’t suddenly get sick because people don’t believe them.
The main part of the story ends up being a history lesson on parts of Wonderland. We get to see how the relationship between the Red Queen and the White Queen devolved into them becoming bitter enemies. We see how the Mad Hatter grew up as the outcast eccentric of his family, and why the group was just sitting at the table Alice finds them at in Alice in Wonderland. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with those segments. It’s just that they’re answering questions that didn’t really need to be asked. When you’re in Wonderland, it should be about discovering new and interesting characters and areas. I don’t believe that historical exposition should be in Wonderland.
To me, the most interesting parts of the movie involved Time. That’s the person, Time. His castle has the whimsy you expect from Wonderland. The Seconds are adorable, fun, little creations. Yes, there are a lot of “time” puns and wordplay, but I do feel like that’s part of the Wonderland charm. In previews he’s portrayed as the villain, or antagonist, but it’s much more complicated than that. The character has a purpose. He has a job to do. It’s not a good job or a bad job, just a necessary job. The passage of time is necessary, and that includes everything that comes with the passage of time.
Buried within this movie is a good lesson about not being able to change the past. You can only learn from it. And not letting the past control the future. But it’s taught in such a way that it’s easy to lose the lesson. In the end, I do think that if you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll likely enjoy this one. If you didn’t, then I wouldn’t bother seeing this movie.