What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Alice Through the Looking Glass: Dead eyes, shouting and Anne Hathaway

Posted May 27

I have a traumatic relationship with Tim Burton’s first Alice in Wonderland film. My wife and I were on a cruise in August of 2010. The movie had just left theaters and was about to hit DVD. For whatever reason, Royal Caribbean was allowed to show movies like that inside their ships’ staterooms. On our ship, in our stateroom, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was the only thing that ever came on the TV in English. I must have seen it (or at least parts of it) 14 times in a five day span.

Oh, by the way, I didn’t even like it.

So now comes the sequel, {{a href="event=1"}}Alice Through the Looking Glass.{{/a}} The whole cast is back. Mia Wasakowska and her dead eyes are still Alice. Johnny Depp still falls somewhere between charming and irritating as the Mad Hatter. Helena Bonham Carter is still the Queen of Hearts, which is less of a character than a volume and pitch.

Alice has returned from Underland and become a sea captain. The movie opens as her ship is in a battle with pirates. Why? I don’t know. I assume at this point Disney is heavily invested in big pirate. She survives and makes it back to England, where she finds out that her former suitor, Hamish, now owns her company and her mother’s home and if Alice doesn’t give him her ship, he will leave her mother homeless.

How in all of this Alice ends up back in Underland escapes me. I mean, I watched the movie. I saw her walk through a mirror and into a study filled with living chess pieces, a growling tiger skin rug and Humpty Dumpty, but why she felt like it was the ideal time to leave her current predicament, I have no idea.

In Underland things aren’t much better. The Hatter has gone mad, which shouldn’t be a big deal, given his name, but apparently it’s a problem for the other characters. Oh, also he is going to die. Why? I think he was sad or something. I’m not sure.

Anne Hathaway is there doing all the things people hate Anne Hathaway for doing. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Time (not Father Time, but Time itself). There’s confusing dialog and plenty of visuals that would freak you out if you go in on acid.

Storywise, there is very little you can take out of Alice Through the Looking Glass, but this movie isn’t really about story. Like it’s predecessor, the movie is written in a sing-songy tone that rhymes some times and other times simply annoys. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland films are about a certain look. Think of any New Found Glory album cover. That’s the look. The kind of thing that fits right in on stickers and shirts you would buy from Hot Topic.

Alice Through the Looking Glass can be beautiful to look at at times. The time travel sequences play great in 3D. It just takes a while to get to any of that.

Other times it can kind of look gross. Burton, who by the way only produced this movie, but of course new director James Bobin (The Muppets) is beholden to the visual aesthetic Burton set up in the first film, likes bright colors set against dark, gloomy backgrounds. There is also a roundness, a fish-eye lens effect to some characters’ appearances. I don’t know. Maybe if I felt like my parents didn’t get me I’d see the beauty in it.

Is the movie good? I mean, not really. It’s also not really bad. I think it’s the kind of thing that really knows its audience. If you find value in Tim Burton’s “dark takes” on classic stories then you’ll probably like it. If you call movies “film” or “cinema” you probably won’t.

Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network. He can be heard weekday mornings from 6-10 on "The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri" on Buzz Sports Radio.


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