A book can never be ruined by a movie—”There it is, still up on the shelf” —though this rule may not apply to James Bobin’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, a film so misbegotten that it must, somehow, poison its source.
In this Underland (Alice got the name wrong, as we learned in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland from 2010), the bland characters sit around waiting for Alice to do the proactive thing and help them. In a preamble, we see Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as a Victorian sea captain in the South Seas, an occupation that gained her no respect. Hamish, the chinless suitor she once spurned, is now Lord Ascot, and holds the mortgage on Alice’s house, forcing her to take a job as a file clerk. When Alice escapes this fate by jumping through the mirror, she discovers the Mad Hatter, whose real name is Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp), is depressed. “He’s grown darker,” says a bystander.
The Mad Hatter turned into the Sad Hatter after the Jabberwocky’s rampage in Tim Burton’s prequel. To bring Tarrant back from a lethal swoon, Alice must brave the castle of Time himself. The place is ruled by a Werner Herzog sound-alike (Sacha Baron Cohen) in a steampunked-Samurai outfit. Time is the overlord of a giant clock; this machinery of fate is powered by “the chronosphere.” Alice intends to steal the widget and voyage into the past.
Destroying the time-space continuum to cheer up a bedridden moper may not be the best idea a film ever had. As for Depp’s horror-clown Hatter, he lays around staring off into space through painful-looking contact lenses.
In the wrong hands, prequels strip the fascination out of all tales of enchantment, and explain everything you wanted to suppose about. Every character here is diagnosed, instructed in good behavior. This movie takes the curiosities of Wonderland and turns them into a plasticized theme park.
‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is playing in wide release in the North Bay.