Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass is Gorgeous to Watch, But Underwhelming to Experience

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Ben Daniels- The sequel no one wanted to a movie no one liked is finally here, folks! And this sequel wouldn’t have even existed if the people who disliked the first one didn’t give it an astounding $1 billion at the box office, so shame on us! But, while I do think Alice Through the Looking Glass is slightly better than the abysmal Alice in Wonderland, it is still an absolute mess and seems to do everything wrong in its storytelling.

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice returns to Wonderland and sees the Mad Hatter dying of sadness after suddenly remembering his deceased family. Alice feels that the only way to bring him back is to travel back in time and keep his family from dying. Meanwhile, a villain named Time, who is a literal personification of time itself, is after her and a bunch of other plots unravel throughout all of this.

This small synopsis alone leads me to the first problem I had with the film. There is too much going on! They cram so much into its 113-minute runtime and it all feels so rushed! It never gives the film any time to breathe and instead just jumps from one story to the next and tries to connect it all together and the final result is one gigantic mess. In fact, so much was happening that I even forgot certain plot points and then when they were mentioned again, I just thought “Oh right. That happened.” It got very tedious to keep track of everything that was going on and the film would completely change focus in mere seconds.

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The film goes out of its way to answers some of the dumbest questions. “Why is the Red Queen’s head so freakishly big?” Not a single person asked this because the strange world of Wonderland made something like that seem believable, since anything can happen there. But they decided to answer this dumb question with an even dumber side plot. Not to mention that they made the fact that her head is so big a tragedy! Even though it is meant to be humorous! It’s like they’re saying “Oh no, her head is hilariously big! You better feel bad for laughing!” That is not what you’re supposed to do. If an outcome is meant to be humorous, then ether don’t answer a question no one cares about (the preferable solution) or make the reasoning behind said outcome equally humorous. When you try to make it come off as a tragedy, it does not work and it instead comes off as a weak way to make your audience feel some sort of emotion. It’s like when Maleficent answered why Maleficent is the only fairy that can’t fly. Who cares?! These are questions that some dumb 5-year-old would ask, not a general audience!

Also, this side plot even gives us a reason as to why the Red Queen and the White Queen hate each other. Another question no one asked. If you watch this film, trust me, you will find that the reasoning is perhaps the dumbest, laziest reason that could ever be thought up of. With all of these side plots to answer dumb questions shoehorned into the film, you can tell that this sequel was never planned and only exists because the first film made so much money.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, the writing here is absolutely terrible. Aside from the examples I have already given, there are still plenty of other reasons I can give. How many time puns do you think can be crammed into a film? Turns out, a lot! Ever single scene talks about time or makes a pun about time. They even went as far as to literally say “Time is a villain.” That is some of the weakest foreshadowing I have ever seen. And it all ties into this theme about time that honestly I couldn’t care less about. There are plenty of other themes and lessons coming from this film as well but everything is so rushed that it doesn’t give you time to actually care about anything that is going on. All of it is very in your face and it comes off as preachy.

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The film also shows complete disregard for the world itself. One of the scenes (as also seen in the trailer) has Alice being sent to a mental institution. Why did they do this?! This is meant to be a film set in surreal, weird, fantastical and imaginative world which is meant to give us an escape from reality and to invest us in this world, and to bring such a real life element into it sucks you right out of the world of fantasy the film is trying to build. It brings realism in a surreal film and it keeps your audience from being invested in the film and its world.

Speaking of real world elements, all the parts where Alice is not in Wonderland are a total bore to sit through. They try to shoehorn in a bunch of stories in the real world as well and it only feels like it drags on and on. During these moments, the film felt like a chore to watch.

The visuals are gorgeous, as is the directing and cinematography. I saw the film in IMAX 3D and while I wasn’t as blown away as I was when watching The Jungle Book, it is still definitely a feast for the eyes. But the visuals cannot make up for its weak storytelling. It is very disappointing to see director James Bobin, the director of the fantastic The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, make something so dull and lifeless.

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Also, the characters are just as underwhelming as they were in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland, the exception being the Mad Hatter who is easily my favourite character of both films. Played by Johnny Depp, the Mad Hatter brings a bunch of laughs and steals the show. All the other characters, however, are not as good. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska is just as boring and undeveloped as we remember her being in the first film. The Red Queen, played by Helena Bonham Carter, still does nothing but yells and acts obnoxious. But it doesn’t end up being funny, just annoying. The White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway, is equally over the top as she flails her arms and hands about in a poor attempt to act “princessy.” However, Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, is actually not a bad character. He definitely has his moments and could have been a very cool villain, but unfortunately they don’t really make the effort to allow the character to reach his full potential.

Despite all of these problems, however, I do think there is quite a bit of fun to be had with this movie. It definitely has its moments and some unique ideas, they just needed to be fleshed out more. I wouldn’t say the film was all bad, because it wasn’t. If you watch it, I’m certain you will be disappointed overall, but it would be hard to deny that you did have some fun as well.

Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a big disappointment. It certainly isn’t as bad as everyone else is making it out to be as it does have some shining moments, but those moments only show what the film could have been. Many of these ideas did have potential, but they were bogged down by messy storytelling and boring characters. I feel if they gave the film a little bit more time, it could have been something much better.

Film Grade: C-

Special thanks to our pal Benji Daniels for writing this awesome review. Be sure to check out Ben’s awesome blog, Animated Galaxy and follow him on Twitter for more Disney reviews and coverage! 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. bob kramer says:

    I do not know what film Mr. Stein was watching but the one I saw today was wonderful and kept my interest through out the whole film. AND there was a
    great message of caring for family, friends and admitting when we are wrong. This Alice is a film for adults as well as the younger ones. The sixty girls in the audience plus over one hundred adults really like the film. Perhaps Mr. Stein had his review thought out before seeing it with an audience!

    Like

    1. Mitchell Stein says:

      Hey there Bob! Thanks for the comment. I didn’t in fact write this review, I was just the webmaster who published this review. The review was written by a team member of ours, Ben Daniels, who I asked to cover it because I’ve never been fond of Tim Burton’s work. For that reason, I seeked out a friend who is a particularly big fan of those films, which might bring some understanding why it was a disappointment that this film did not deliver as we hoped. I’m glad that Disney’s latest film did entertain you, and that the magic of the recent film had an impact, but our review isn’t the definite decision, it’s just an opinion of a member of our team. I’m glad that there are differing opinions when it comes to films, as that’s what keeps things interesting and fresh.

      Believe us when we say we want to enjoy these Disney films, we wouldn’t be running a Disney fan-site if we didn’t. I am glad that you enjoyed it though, and I’m sure many others have as well. Thanks for sharing your opinion with us and it was interesting to hear your thoughts on the film.

      Like

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