A cu­ri­ous se­quel

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

Alice Through the Look­ing Glass, like its pre­de­ces­sor, owes very lit­tle to Lewis Car­roll.

Tex­tual ad­her­ence is some­what be­side the point when serv­ing as a se­quel to some­thing that’s also cherry picked. But, lest you think that a six-year gap and the ab­sence of Tim Bur­ton in the di­rec­tor’s chair might have al­lowed for a re­turn to the glee­ful ab­sur­dity of Car­roll, it doesn’t.

Screen­writer Lin­daWoolver­ton has again dis­posed of the source ma­te­rial in fa­vor of­some­thing­more­lin­ear— a story about Alice (Mia Wasikowska) look­ing for Hat­ter’s (Johnny Depp) fam­ily.

Di­rec­tor James Bobin’s film trudges on through the lushly de­signed world an­swer­ing ques­tions we never asked, like, “What was the Mad Hat­ter’s child­hood like?” And, “why does the Red Queen have such a large head?” In other words, it’s an Un­der­land ori­gin story.

We meet Alice some years af­ter the first film faced again with the prospect of los­ing her in­de­pen­dence. Last time she was flee­ing a pro­posal.

This time her liveli­hood is in jeop­ardy— she’s a sea cap­tain now, and a good one. So when life gets frus­trat­ing in the real world, Alice climbs through a mir­ror and is trans­ported back to Un­der­land. Her old friends have been wait­ing for her to fix an­other prob­lem: The Mad Hat­ter.

The night­mar­ish Hat­ter, who has de­vel­oped a more pro­nounced lisp, is wal­low­ing in life-threat­en­ing de­pres­sion be­cause he’s found an ob­ject that makes him be­lieve his fam­ily is alive.

This was not some­thing that seemed to af­flict Hat­ter in the first film, but maybe he’s just re­ally good at com­part­men­tal­iz­ing.

Alice de­cides to be a no­ble friend and take on Time to get to the bot­tom of what re­ally hap­pened on the day when the Red Queen (He­lena Bon­ham Carter) un­leashed her Jab­ber­wocky on their vil­lage. Time, you should know, is part clock, part man (Sacha Baron Co­hen) and sounds a lot like Werner Her­zog. His se­quences, and his lit­tle steam­punk com­pan­ions are ac­tu­ally a high point. It’s the one time Bobin can re­ally get out from un­der Bur­ton’s suf­fo­cat­ing prece­dent.

Time talks a big game and can also de­cide when some­one’s time is up, but his own com­mand is de­pen­dent on a larger than life clock that’s pow­ered by an­other de­vice which also func­tions as a time travel ma­chine. That’s what Alice steals to ca­reen back through time to try to cor­rect the orig­i­nal sins of Un­der­land — a quest she con­tin­ues even af­ter she learns of the pos­si­bly cat­a­strophic con­se­quences of her ac­tions.

While it may sound in­trigu­ing on pa­per, on the screen it’s less than en­chant­ing and the plot gets less and less com­pelling as it goes on.

There are some in­spired vi­su­als, like a land­scape of glim­mer­ing pocket watches sus­pended in air. Alice must walk across the enor­mous hands of a tick­ing clock to gain en­try to Time’s head­quar­ters. It’s a great idea and looks won­der­ful, but it’s just air­less and void of sus­pense in ex­e­cu­tion.

Ex­cite­ment and won­der are fairly hard to con­jure up when your Mad Hat­ter is con­sumed with daddy is­sues, your pro­tag­o­nist is non­cha­lant about ev­ery­thing, andthe odd­i­ties of this world are sud­denly get­ting sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tions and back sto­ries that re­ally only show how aw­fully or­di­nary ev­ery­thing once was.

It’s a shame, too, be­cause the Alice sto­ries could be so won­der­ful on the big screen. It may be time to scrap it all and try again.

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