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Friday, 29 July 2016

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016).


Alice Through The Looking Glass
(2016).



In a move that I think we can all agree was a mistake, I actually watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in cinemas when it came out. It was a supremely disappointing experience: The film was pretty, albeit in the exact same way all Tim Burton films are pretty, but totally empty, substituting pretty scenery and CGI for plot, characters, and good writing. One thing that stuck with me about the film was just how absurdly straightforward it was, in that you were essentially told the entire plot at the beginning of the film, and then got to watch it play out precisely how you were told it would.

Set three years after the events of Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through The Looking Glass follows Alice, now a sea captain, as she returns to London to find that her mother has sold her shares in her trade company, and that Hamish, the man whose proposal she rejected in the first film, is pushing for her to sell her ship to him to save her mother's house, and become a clerk. Travelling through a mirror, Alice finds herself back in Underland, where she discovers that the Hatter is deeply distraught, believing that his family might have survived the Jabberwock's attack. Convinced that he's delusional and urged by the other Underland residents to make his delusions real, Alice steals the Chronosphere, a device that powers the great clock of time, and travels into the past to save the Hatter's family, with Time himself in close pursuit.

What a lovely promo picture.

So, I guess the film gets credit for not literally sitting the audience down near the beginning to lay out exactly how the plot's going to pan out, but in spite of that, the plot is just as predictable. Alice goes back in time but finds that she can't change anything, because she's either too late or accidentally causes the events she's trying to stop (are we ever going to talk about how Alice is apparently indirectly responsible for the Queen of Heart's head injury? No? Okay, then). In doing so, she learns that the Hatter's family is still alive - it's odd that she didn't believe it in the first place, since it was never that unbelievable - and they go rescue them. Chekhov's Gun about your past self seeing your future self causing the end of time is fired, and Alice must race to restore the Chronosphere. Alice returns home having learned a valuable lesson.

It's kind of a boring, tired story, and an absolute minimum of effort has been put into it. The plot twists and turns are all extremely obvious from a mile away, the pacing alternates between glacially slow and lightning fast (when the writers wanted to rush through a section to get to something they are vaguely interested in), and bizarre asides are occasionally added in, such as a scene of Time at a tea party, or - even more weirdly - a five minute section where Alice returns to the real world and becomes a patient at an insane asylum, with Andrew Scott as a sinister doctor. That last section seems to only be there to work Andrew Scott, who says about three lines, into the film, and maybe to drum up some trailer footage, because it's never referenced again afterwards.

Oh wow Andrew Scott is playing a villain, I am shocked.

When it actually becomes time for the big lesson moment, it doesn't feel like the lessons actually have anything to do with what's happened in the film. Alice has a big speech about how time gives before it takes and how all time is a gift, but that's not really been a theme of the film so far. Her decision to support her mother rather than try to keep her ship (although she keeps it anyway, as her mother refuses to sign the papers) is a little better foreshadowed, but it left a sour taste in my mouth, as the film insists that you should immediately forgive family members for selling your property and doing their best to ruin everything you care about.

A young Hatter, who is identical to old Hatter.

The film is very pretty, but once again, it's a totally empty kind of prettiness, because nice scenery and costumes (and a lot of CGI) is really all this film has, especially as its all-star cast of actors barely have any lines at all. Some of those actors make more of their limited lines than others - Stephen Fry throws his all into the Cheshire Cat's handful of lines, and Richard Armitage plays the Queen of Heart's father in full Thorin Oakenshield mode for the one scene he's in - but none of them are especially prominent in the film, not even Johnny Depp, who gets pride of place on every poster for the film.

All in all, I probably wouldn't have watched this film if I didn't have a gap in my review schedule, and I can't really recommend it to others. Maybe as someone to have on in the background as you're doing other things? Ultimately, it's a very empty film, but if an hour and a half of beautiful nothing is your thing, then check it out.

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