|'Bobin ends up delivering Burton Lite - which considering Burton's iffy form of late is really saying something'.|
Whilst there was a lot wrong with Tim Burton's 2010 reboot/reimagining/recycling of Alice In Wonderland, it at least felt like there was a point to the film being made, even if that point was often lost beneath an oversaturation of CGI and a by-the-numbers quest narrative being superimposed upon Lewis Carroll's characters. The same, however, cannot be said for Alice Through The Looking Glass, a sequel which struggles to justify its existence from beginning to end.
Burton may have vacated the director's chair but his style remains firmly in place, leaving director James Bobin little room to put his own stamp on proceedings. It's almost certainly a conscious decision by those holding the purse strings at Disney; but with little of the gothically dark elements of the original on show, Bobin ends up delivering Burton Lite - which considering Burton's iffy form of late is really saying something.
That it's taken the studio six years to come up with a sequel of virtually no substance whatsoever is quite remarkable. Returning screenwriter Linda Woolverton spends much of the film using time travel not very well to muddle through two occasionally intertwined backstories for both Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp) and Iracebeth of Crims (Helena Bonham Carter), or the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen respectively to those who don't give a toss about Disney's artificial rebranding of Carroll's characters. Almost every other character from the first film returns as well, although most don't need to be here and have nothing to do.
Whilst both narratives are flimsy, the real problem is that they actually detract from their respective character rather than adding to them. Not everything needs to be explained, and not every character has to have an origin story. Retconning in reasons behind the Hatter's madness and the Red Queen's oversized head feels completely at odds with Carroll's nonsensical creations upon which the characters are (now very loosely) based, especially when they're as hackneyed and underwhelming as those presented in Woolverton's script.
What rescues Bobin's film from utter failure in the end are the performances of Mia Wasikowska and, perhaps surprisingly, Sacha Baron Cohen. The Australian actress has spent the six years since her breakout performance in Alice In Wonderland taking on roles in a wide variety of cinema and it shows, even if her return to playing Alice Kingsleigh doesn't give her a great deal of opportunities to stretch herself. The British comedian, meanwhile, is undoubtedly something of a marmite presence on the big screen, but there's no denying that he's perfectly matched to the role of Time here. That said, when Baron Cohen wearing a ridiculous costume and putting on an equally ridiculous accent is one of the highlights of the film, you know that several people have dropped a number of quite significant balls elsewhere.