By Kricie Crisostomo (Mandaluyong City, Philippines)
The Six Impossible Things Alice Did Before the Credits Rolled
Ushered by the great nostalgia rush of the time, the very same one that catapulted Maleficent, Cinderella, and Jungle Book to their box office glory, Alice Through the Looking Glass is expected to keep the fairytale-adaptation ball rolling, looking to follow the overwhelming success of its predecessor Alice in Wonderland that started it all six years ago. With a stellar cast and the assumed long-awaited return to the Underland, it seems like it is simply impossible for this sequel to go wrong.
Yet it still managed to make the impossible, possible.
Alice 2hru (Alice Through the Looking Glass) starts three years after Alice’s first adventure. The opening scene where she safely captains her ship away from pirates reminds the audience about her stubborn attitude toward the impossible: it is possible if one would believe it is. Fresh from her voyage from the other side of the world, she learns that her mother sold their share of her father’s company and she needs to give up the ship in exchange for their house. Pressured by the impending need to finally grow up and give up the wonder, Alice walks through the looking glass and finds herself back in Underland (not “Wonderland”: she misheard the name when she was a child according to the first Alice movie) and learns that Mad Hatter is madder than usual, suddenly holding on to a child’s hope that his family is still alive despite knowing they have perished in the hands of the Red Queen’s jabberwocky many years ago. It is up to Alice to save him by doing what even she thinks is impossible: sneaking into Time’s castle, travelling back to the past, and saving Hatter’s family.
Even without saying, we all know how it ends. Here are the other six impossible things Alice 2hru did before the credits rolled:
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 1: Fail at the box office with such a huge budget. With a film budget of $170 million, enough to make eleven The King’s Speeches or fifty-six The Purges, Alice 2hru is a letdown grossing only over $282 million—this is considering that the first Alice film grossed over $1 billion. Fortunately, this impossibility has been refuted so many times that Alice 2hru will still be way ahead of other Disney box office flops like The Lone Ranger and John Carter. Low-budget movies turned blockbusters like Paranormal Activity relay on the viewers’ word-of-mouth so most probably, Alice 2hru has failed to impress the audience prior to the rolling of credits.
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 2: A stellar cast with unmemorable performances. The Alice books from where the film is loosely based are populated by whimsical, strange people. And who else could bring these characters to life but an ensemble that includes: the master of oddness and eccentricities himself, Johnny Depp; the ethereal, apt bride of Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter; and the charmingly mischievous Sacha Baron Cohen. Amazingly, as Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and Time respectively, they all fail to inspire awe from the audience. This is not to say that their performances are wanting, in fact, they have delivered what are expected from them: their usual quirky selves. But this is also exactly why the actors are forgettable: we have seen Depp, Bonham Carter, and Baron Cohen so many times (especially the first two) in similar roles and they fade into the surreal background with ease. Anne Hathaway’s bizarre White Queen on the other hand, albeit having shorter screen time but probably clearly remembered as the tragic Fantine in the Les Miserable movie adaptation four years earlier, elicits delight as she dreamily speaks and flicks her fingers, and sashays her way through Underland.
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 3: Overwhelming effects without lasting impression. Just by looking at the crowded, kaleidoscope-ish, toothache-inducing movie poster, one would know this movie will be a feast of visual effects—one that would leave the viewers with a bad case of indigestion. Sadly, the film is as advertised: it bombards the audience with colors, ruffles, and frills that, ironically, viewers can easily shrug off in anticipation—and preparation for the next overly done scene. Even the void of infinitude, where Time’s Castle of Eternity is located, is not spared from dizzying grandiosity.
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 4: Intense music that leaves no feeling of dread. Alice 2hru is an adventure movie so naturally it has a lot of will-keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes like the one where Time is chasing Alice through the Ocean of Time—or at least this is what this scene should have been. Despite the music aptly reflecting the mood of each scene, it fails to elicit any kind of sympathy from the viewers and this is largely because of the too predictable story the film chose to tell.
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 5: Producing a pancake-flat adaptation from a rich source material. The director, James Bobin, said that Lewis Carroll’s Alice books are “unfilmable”. While not a few would agree, it is still not enough an excuse to explain the atrocities of Alice 2hru. The fascinating-sometimes-brutal exchange of ingenious dialogues that play with and make fun of the arbitrariness of language that contributed so much to the greatness of the two Alice books are reduced to bland one-liner puns in the film. The timing is so off the audience would snicker to mask the cringing. And let’s not go to the over-all storyline. One would not be surprised if it were found out that screenwriter Linda Woolverton suffered from chronic writer’s block and were given the green to just write the first idea that comes to mind. The plot of the movie is plain immature they should have hired a younger Alice and marketed it mainly for kids. Carroll’s Alice books may have been childish and nonsensical on the surface but do not fail to amuse both the young and the young-at-heart—something that the movie failed to do.
IMPOSSIBLE THING # 6: A Wonderland without wonder. Underland is supposed to be a land of wonder with all its vivid colors and bizarre characters. Contrasted with the dark, dreary reality, Underland should have been a breath of fresh air, a way out, an escape. However, as the Hatter says by the end of the movie about dream and reality, “Who’s to say which is which?” Which is which indeed! In reality, Alice believes impossible things are possible but the first thing she says when a challenge presented itself in Underland is that it is impossible. In reality, the actors are superb, eliciting genuine emotions from the viewers (Lindsay Duncan as Helen Kingsleigh is inspiring, Leo Bill as Hamish Ascot is delightfully annoying, Ed Speelers’s non-verbals are charming, even Alice played by Mia Wasikowska is more interesting as the odd one out in reality). Also, it is more intriguing to ponder on what would have happened if Alice never escaped the institution than to watch an extremely predictable story unfold in Underland.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is a wonder in every possible way—wrong sort of ways. It is a wonder why we even have this sequel at all. But if you are one of the few people with time to spare, go ahead and look through the glass. You would be surprised what you would find there.
Rating: 2/5BEST QUOTES