I know the last Alice in Wonderland film made a lot of money, a LOT of money (seriously, over $1 Billion what the hell people?), but was anyone really clamouring for this sequel? Especially not 6 years after the first film. But we’ve got one, so I dragged myself down to the cinema to see it.
The first Alice film was a pretty average live action adaptation of a Disney classic, and considering what they’ve done since with Cinderella, and especially the Jungle Book, the bar has truly been raised. Tim Burton did not return to direct this sequel, instead being directed by James Bobin whose film credits only include the two recent Muppet movies (although some of his tv credits are fantastic).
Anyway the whole cast of the first film return, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, and an assortment of others as the supporting cast who get virtually nothing to do in this film. Also joining them is Sasha Baron Cohen as Time, who as he continually tells us in the film it the personification of time.
Now if you enjoyed the performances by most of these actors in the first film then you’re in luck, because they are back doing much the same stuff, but somehow even more annoying. Depp’s Hatter is so grating every time he’s on screen with his accent that jumps about (I’m assuming this was an acting choice, but it’s a bad one) and is just frustrating. A Razzie nomination may very well be coming his way for this. Bonham Carter mainly just shouts, as in the first film, and makes the Red Queen a truly uncompelling villain. Sasha Baron Cohen completes a trifecta of strange acting performances that just don’t work. All three for some reason decide to adopt speech impediments, and I cannot for the life of me work out why. The only reason I could think of was that it’s being played for laughs. And if that is the case then falls a long way short of that, and would just be mocking people with actual speech impediments. I do have to give some props to Wasikowska, who does make Alice a strong, likeable character whilst many performances around her just frustrate the audience. Finally Richard Armitage is in this film for about 2 minutes, I can’t for the life of me figure out why, but I hope he got paid handsomely for his time.
Almost as bad as most of the characters is the story. It’s dull, unimaginative, and makes very little sense. There is something about the Mad Hatter wanting people to believe that his parents are alive, but no one will so he becomes depressed and for some reason this means he is dying. Alice then has to steal the chromosphere from Time and save them so that the Hatter will get well again. Whoever thought of that plot should really have gone back to the drawing board and kept on thinking, because I spent the whole film confused as to why the Hatter was dying, and wondering if anyone in the cinema actually cared. There are also subplots with Alice as a ships captain who is going to lose her ship, which never really goes anywhere, and a big drama over who ate a tart when the Red and White Queens were young. It is genuinely as bad as it sounds. For all that I liked Alice, she never really had any character development over the film, she ends up essentially where she ended the last film, which just begs the question, why did they bother making a sequel?
The success of the first was mainly wrapped up in its groundbreaking visuals. It was one of the first, just after Avatar to use really make use of the big step forward in visual effects around that time. But it’s really just more of the same here, there’s nothing ground breaking. When you compare it to what was achieved in Disney’s last film, the Jungle Book, it’s a long way behind that. Most of the effects are pretty fine, but that isn’t enough any more.
Alice is not a good film, I did not enjoy the couple of hours I spent watching it. The characters in it are such classics, but for the most part find themselves pushed to the side as part of a poor story, or played incredibly annoyingly. The visuals will probably be enough to entertain some younger children, but won’t be enough to make this the box office smash that the first one was.