Tim Burton took a classic story and turned it into a live action adaption in 2010, with great actors and some pure silly, curious fun and now here we are 6 years later, the actors have returned but with a new director at the helm, James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted and I kid you not, Da Ali G Show). This time Alice (Mia Wasikowska) must return and save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) by taking on Time (Sacha Baron Cohen).
With no real exception, the actors chosen to take on the parts from Alice to Tweedledee to Red Queen were all dead on, accepted with very little hesitation and though that would sound like bringing them all back for a second turn would make it just as so, but it does not work that way. Though all the actors are more than capable, they’re affected by the way in which the film uses them, or in this case does not, apart from very small moments, most of the cast take the biggest of back seats and the entire focus is on Alice, with a secondary on Hatter, Time and Red Queen and the first three of which feel slightly wooden performances, whereas Helena Bonham Carter’s return to Wonderland is just as brilliant as it was the first time around. Many of these issues can most likely be traced by to the writing and direction but it still feels much less like a group of entertaining performances and more like some actors thrust together without much to do. As well as Cohen’s part being far from what is advertised and gradually becomes disappointing throughout the film.
This film has quite a few issues as a whole, the story is overly simple and and after all the fanfare, very little has actually happened but as a consequence of the attempting to make a more complicated story they have in fact removed a lot of the fun elements from the first film and created something slightly darker and duller. It does have it’s funny moments, but it also feels as though a lot of the dialogue is removed from the first film which could be said is to continue the characters with consistency but it comes across as lazy and unoriginal, which is really a shame as it was written by Linda Woolverton, who also wrote the first as well as the scripts for The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Most of the time films such as these will have that extra layer, to make it more enjoyable for the adult portion of the audience, a hidden depth that will not be apparent to the younger viewers but this film does not, it’s one layered and that layer is fairly thin. Then there’s the special effects, when this year we have seen the live action remake of The Jungle Book with its splendid visuals, this one drops the ball and the effects start to feel somewhat outdated.
This sequel has taken what was simply a fun, silly film for all ages and tried to take it in such a direction that has removed what was fun at all originally, it’s lacking that vital sense of wonder and curiosity. The story is lacking and that characters don’t quite all get their moments to shine, there are brief moments of the quality of the first film but they do not last long. Though with Bobin next tackling directing the Men In Black, 21 Jump Street crossover hopefully that will be more in his wheelhouse and he will not do to those what he has done with Through the Looking Glass. So to answer the question, is it a successful sequel? The answer would be a quite certain no.