Tim Burton’s 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland didn’t exactly receive a glowing response from critics, but it ended up making over a billion dollars worldwide.
So it’s somewhat surprising it took them six whole years to get around to the sequel.
The result is marginally better than the disappointing first film, but that isn’t really saying very much.
Summoned away from her life as the captain of her father’s boat on the high seas, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself whisked back to Wonderland via a magic mirror. There, she is reunited with old friends – including the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Cheshire Cat and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) – and discovers she must travel through time to save a very ill Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who’s distraught over his missing, presumed-dead family. To do so, Alice has to steal a Chronosphere from Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), which brings her into conflict with the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
As with the previous film, Wasikowska is suitably feisty and forthright as Alice and Bonham Carter has a lot of fun with what is essentially a Queenie-from-Blackadder impression. However, the highlight is Baron Cohen, who livens things up whenever he’s on screen, not least because he’s given Time a thick Germanic accent that sounds exactly like Werner Herzog.
The main problem is that the film severely over-estimates how much the audience care about Depp’s irritatingly shrill Mad Hatter, who is as difficult to listen to as he is to look at.
In addition, Hathaway is largely wasted this time round, and gets so little screen time and dialogue (despite her apparent importance to the plot) that you start to wonder if they CGI-d her in after shooting wrapped.
Bearing no resemblance to Carroll’s original (what with the previous film having already used up all the best bits from the book), the already thin plot feels decidedly stretched, often filling time with pointless effects sequences.
Similarly, the script fails to do anything interesting or inventive with the time-travel angle, instead using it to give some of the characters unnecessary origin stories.
That said, the production design is gorgeous to look at (especially on Time’s castle) and there’s an enjoyable 3D opening credits sequence, if you like that sort of thing.
Despite a handful of good moments provided by Baron Cohen’s performance, this is a largely disappointing sequel that lacks emotional impact thanks to an underwhelming script.
Review by Matthew Turner