While the 2010 film was not to everyone's liking, it was to mine. I have not seen it again since I first saw it in the theater, not because I didn't want to, but because I stubbornly want to own the expensive 3-D pack, even though I don't own a Blu-ray 3-D player and may never have the proper equipment to watch such a disc. That film was eye candy to me, and though it was definitely not perfect, it had more weight to it than this latest feature. The Tim Burton predecessor had a touch of darkness about it, but it did not go overboard, and it did feel magical to me. Though the characters were not all that charming, it would be wrong of me to lie and say that I was not charmed by the thing as a whole, that opinion traveling down and affecting the way I saw the whole display.
This new movie here is too light, too empty, too unassuming and assuming in nearly all the wrong places, too uninspired, too mundane, too...too PLAIN and generic. Some things I like, others...well...but there isn't anything TO dislike, is there? It rehashes formula and tropes, always playing safe by trying to go by what it thinks made other pictures work.
The sailing scene at the beginning was by far the worst scene in the movie. I try to see the good in films and milk out my best reactions to them, but I could not wrench anything up and out of me toward that scene. I had to convince family to come to the movie with me, and that pre-credits sequence did not help matters any. I went into the movie hoping for the best, as my expectations were high after the 2010 film, but I had heard that this newer film wasn't doing too good with critics and box office, and that Tim Burton was barely attached now, yet I still held out hope.
Well, if there is one positive thing I can say about the movie, after the pre-credits sequence the film never falls that flat again. The rest of it is bouncing on a toddler trampoline, finding places where it begins to soar, but the trip up is oh so brief, and the shortened plunge back down pulls with enough negative force that you can feel your stomach churning, as you can tell exactly when you are starting to go back down down again. It isn't a pleasant hop and down. It is a disappointing one.
I feel sorry for the actors and actresses attached to this. They have to hit the same notes over and over again. When I was little there was a live-action adaptation of "Alice Through the Looking-Glass" that enchanted and frightened me (though delightfully and nostalgically so), and the concept of the Looking-Glass and what lay behind it was dark and mysterious. In this newer movie the Looking-Glass is simply a prop, having no meaning to it at all but to be a way for Alice to keep hopping back and forth like the little White Rabbit from her world back into Underland repeatedly. Notice I said "hopping". It has lost the magic. There is no plunge down a dark hole in a tree into the unknown. Instead there is a self-assured hop and plunge over and over and over and over in this where it is turned into a lame kick for action.
Oh. THERE is a word to describe the movie. "Lame". It has no kick, it is disabled like the Hatter, and there is barely anymore magic to wring out of this. It doesn't build up to an exciting enough finish, the happy endings and "let by-gones-be-bygones" happens too easily, and I'm sorry, but here's a spoiler: In the film, the great tragedy occurs and all is lost. Everyone is seen frozen for a little bit, and it momentarily shows the effects of the failure. Oh. Well...now what? This must have stumped the screenwriters too, for then the impossible literally happens right there on the screen before our eyes, in relative slow motion, showing that in a world of fantasy it is still possible for things to feel like a cop out, and that those who perform those cop outs will try to label it as "magic". There are times where such cop outs are accepted and are blissfully corny, while there are other times where it exposes the whole charade for what it really is and lets the thinker know that something is not right with this vision, that there is indeed NO vision.
I have come to the conclusion after watching this movie that there is no more to be found by examining this world these films are trying to present. It is not a resignation full of content that the vision has been realized, but an irked notice of abdication giving up hope that things can better. What kind of film is it that lives in a subset of a film genre that prides itself on whimsy and whole-hearted family fun and bonding that leaves the viewer tired and dolefully resigning back to the world of the secular he or she came from? To say a few words further, I don't believe it is a good, or even a well-made one. ):
So, how did the other family members feel about it? Well, I asked them afterword. They told me they were pleasantly surprised and that they actually kind of liked it. One person was staring at the ground throughout the film while the other kept resisting the urge to pull the phone out of her pocket. I would like to believe them, but I have seen this movie for myself, and...well, with that I think I will rest my case.