I can’t say I was a huge fan of the first Alice. It was visually stunning and inventive, but it wasn’t a movie I ever felt I needed to see again… or maybe even the first time. This sequel, however, is actually quite a bit better. If you have the opportunity to choose between the two, this is the one you should see.
The opening of this installment was a wonderful setup for the story as well as immediately establishing Alice as having grown up and having become a force to be reckoned with; she is no longer the naive girl in search of confidence and acceptance. Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak) carries the character and the movie with confidence and commitment.
Johnny Depp (Black Mass) reprises his role as the Hatter and the center of this tale. It is another of his great and weird performances, but also endearing. The plot opens up the heart of the Hatter and, through him, Alice’s heart to her life. Helena Bonham Carter (Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children) also recurs as their opponent. It is a perfectly good performance, but not as effective at bringing me into any sympathy with her character. Anne Hathaway (The Intern), however, was somewhat lost in this film, though key to the plot.
In a bitter-sweet turn, this was also the last film release that included Alan Rickman’s (Eye in the Sky) talents. Though just his voice, his sonorous tones elicit a warm sadness for those that enjoyed his work.
The only new major character was Sacha Baron Cohen’s (Les Miserables) Time. Again, here is an actor known for oddities and the bizarre and this creation is no disappointment. He was less well defined than the returning population of Wonderland, but he certainly found ways to entertain.
Director Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) and writer Wolverton (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent) tackled this sequel with the intent to make a good movie, not just create a money-grab. While they succeeded on the first goal, within its fable-like genre, audiences never found it domestically. It does, however, deserve a look. It is a wonderful tale of adventure and life. It almost falters in its intent before gathering itself up and moving forward… and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about those choices. Ultimately, it does work, and in a very satisfying way.