A young girl when she first visited magical Underland, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is now a teenager with no memory of the place, except in her dreams. Her life takes a turn for the unexpected when, at a garden party for her fiance and herself, she spots a certain white rabbit and tumbles down a hole after him. Reunited with her friends the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and others, Alice learns it is her destiny to end the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) reign of terror.
I recently saw Alice Through the Looking Glass which you can read a review for here. I made the mistake of seeing that film before seeing the previous film, Alice in Wonderland. I believe it had hurt me since it caused me to miss out some references. I have now rectified this by seeing it now. It was definitely nice to see how this all started and it did answer some questions for me. After having watched the second film without watching the first, I had doubt whether or not it was necessary and now I can confirm that I was right but that’s not this film’s fault. Yet I still couldn’t help but to compare this film to its sequel.
As expected, this film did help to explain some of the events of the second film which was nice. Also unsurprisingly, we start off by having the characters in much different positions as we learned more about how the characters came to be. Of course the most obvious of these differences is the fact that Alice (Wasikowska) has not been to Wonderland yet. Up until this inevitable moment, even though it was predictable and short which was probably a good thing, it was still interesting enough as we got an idea of what kind of person Alice was which was curious and hungry for adventure but still naive. These qualities just fit her perfectly here.
Once she finally arrived to Wonderland (it might be just me but I don’t know why they call it “Underland”), it was somewhat fun to see her experience everything for the first time through her eyes as the world she was seeing was looking more and more like the world she saw in her dreams while she was younger. The world was very vibrant and full of color and was nice to look at. The special effects which were used to bring it to life were well done too and it felt like there was more of them here. While some have found all of this to be a little distracting, this was not the case here. It did not take long for things to get started, however, as she was thrust into a journey to end the evil Red Queen’s (Bonham Carter) reign of terror. When compared to the plot of the second film (which I saw first), this one is already more compelling as it had more of a focus on Alice and we along with her got to learn about the world. This one did not suffer as much from trying too hard seeing that this was still a relatively new concept at the time. Her naivety both helped and hurt here which kept her going yet her insistence that it was not real became frustrating at times. This just made everything feel more exciting as she felt more involved with what was happening on screen even though some it did not always make sense.
The performances here were good with Depp as the Mad Hatter and Bonham Carter as the Red Queen standing out above the others. Depp, known for losing himself in makeup-heavy roles does so again here, bringing tons of weirdness and eccentricity here with a lot of it working here. He was definitely more fun to watch here as his material was a lot better where it was actually funny. Bonham Carter is still great here with her larger-than-life presence (ironic) often stealing scenes with some great lines which were a lot of repetition of “Off with your head!” but that was fine. Wasikowska was okay here making Alice compelling enough to watch but she was not as interesting as a character here. Just like she was in the second film, Anne Hathaway was okay as the White Queen but she just felt weird and out of place here.
Overall, while an improvement over the second film visually and story-wise, it still doesn’t bring much new to the table but should still entertain kids. I still found myself a little bored.