It really must have taken some nerve to have given this film its title, with the clear expectation that it was going to be based on Alice in Wonderland's sequel book, 'Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There'. It's nothing of the sort. Other than Alice climbing through a mirror any further passing resemblance to the book is utterly discarded in a convoluted, hodge-podge tale involving characters we've already encountered in the 2010 film and just about every one of which here outstays their welcome. In fact, since the story is totally invented why did they misleadingly have to use the mirror device at all? Why not use the rabbit hole again and call the film 'Alice in Wonderland II'? Also, there's now the dubious addition of a lead character, one 'Time' (played by Sacha Baron Cohen), to furnish a reason for imposing an attempted consistent direction and coherence to events rather than the largely disconnected, discursive episodes of Carroll's original work. Furthermore, and to cap it all, the film begins with a preposterous and fatally superfluous prologue in which the now adult Alice (Mia Wasikowska again) has become, of all things, a skilled ship's captain(!) with an all-male, burly and unkempt crew, returning home to London after braving wild and stormy high seas, she now having to face consequences for her having rejected an unsuitable marriage proposal. And this is all before the mirror is entered and the 'proper' story even starts!
Writer Linda Woolverton quite wisely calls the other-side-of-the-mirror domain, 'Underland', though all the characters from Wonderland, which we've got to know only too well from the 2010 film, are present and correct - and played (or voiced) by a veritable roll-call of present-day, mostly younger, British actors too numerous to name. Johnny Depp, he of currently damaged reputation, looks as uncomfortable as ever as The Mad Hatter. (I feel that whenever he plays a fantasy character, be it Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, the wolf in 'Into the Woods', or as here, he never looks completely at ease in the role). He, along with the Alice, the Red Queen (played again by...well, H.B.C. of course) and the 'Time' character are the main players in this hopelessly tangled plot involving time travel in a spherical vehicle, trying to foil the evil machinations of the time lord who, with his huge Gothic castle stuffed with clocks and gadgetry, regulates the time aspects of everyone in Underland, including their pre-determined lifespans.
I was waiting all the time for other characters to appear - but no talking flowers, no white and red knights, no walrus nor carpenter - and the jabberwock is only briefly glimpsed, if it's recognised by anyone at all. Lewis Carroll this definitely is not.
It's a mighty din of a film though there's no denying that the special effects are spectacular. But they had to be, and it would have been a major talking point if they fell short in any way, and they do acquit themselves well if that's what you want to see. However, throwing everything at the screen does not make it any more interesting. Quite the reverse in fact, as ones visual sense quickly tends to tire and be blunted with so much going on. (Unlike the 2010 Alice, which I saw in 3D, I saw this in flat-screen.)
If any child sees this and is inspired to read the original, that girl or boy is in for a big shock, finding that virtually nothing of the book, apart from some of its characters, feature in this over-long film.
The earlier 'Alice' film was directed by Tim Burton, and I scored that with a '5'. This one has a James Bobin as director, whose main claim to fame so far is having directed a couple of recent Muppets films as well as several 'Ali G' TV episodes. Way to go yet, Mr Bobin. Maybe you'll have better material to work with next time.........................3.
20 minutes ago