It’s been three years since Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) has visited Underland (uh… Wonderland). Remember that? She freed the people there from the tyrannical Red Queen’s rule (a bulbous headed Helena Bonham Carter), restored power to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and made the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) SO happy, he danced the Futterwacken! Now Alice is captain of the Wonder, her late fathers ship sailing back from China. But there’s trouble once she’s home in London by way of her ex-fiance, rat-faced Hamish (Leo Bill), who wants her to sell out and be his clerk. But that will have to wait as word comes from Underland: the Hatter is sick! Using a large mirror for transport, she pops into Underland and greets her old friends from the first movie.
Johnny Depp returns as Terrant Hightopp/The Mad Hatter, who’s slowly dying after finding out that his family might be alive after many decades. Alice takes up the cause to find them and, with the White Queen/Mirana of Marmorea’s help, Alice goes to the dangerously secretive castle of half-man/half-machine, Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), to ask for help. The only way to find out about the Hatter’s family is to steal the Chronosphere device and travel back in time, which she does with Time’s warning about messing around with time.
Alice, flying through the seas of time (literally) and being chased by Time, gets to interact and see the backstories of both the Hatter and the two Queens and how their lives played out, but she interferes with one trying to help and makes things worse. Can you say “the Butterfly Effect?” She even pops back briefly into her own world, only to thought a wacko and sent to an asylum for treatment. But she pops back again to Underland and resumes her time travel quest, only to find out that the Red Queen/Iracebeth had the Hatter’s family locked away!
Armed with this new info, the whole Underland gang (including a rejuvenated Hatter) set out to the Red Queens desert vegetable fortress to rescue them, but things go very wrong and Iracebeth gets a hold of the Chronosphere and plans to alter her own history. But Time warns of a disastrous time paradox effect if she does and. . .well, what can I say, the big-headed Queen does exactly that.
Sequels are always a tricky thing, especially when dealing with Lewis Carroll’s immortal novel. Even though there is only about 2 minutes worth of Carroll’s second book in the movie, screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Malificent, Beauty and the Beast) has a winner here. Instead of her fantastically weird compilation of bizarre creatures and stories, as in her first 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie, her solid storyline here has more heart, gravitas, and pathos. And for all you girls out there, it’s overwhelmingly women-empowered as well.
Directed by James Bobin, best known for his The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted films, he has fun with this sequel, making Alice more of an Indiana Jane with her wild adventurous spirit and “never say impossible” battle cry. Wasikowska is wonderful and more relaxed than in first film, carrying the movie with ease alongside Depp, who plays the Hatter effortlessly and with great fun. Then, of course, you have the eye-popping SPFX background and set design that are just marvelous, not to mention Time’s goofy clock-work minions.
Note: You have to sit through a terrible music video of Pink’s new song before the movie, so beware..
In a frighteningly bizarre departure from the House of Mouse, Disney took a left turn into the Twilight Zone (and really wished they hadn’t) with this nightmarish and apocalyptic look at OZ has young Dorothy Gale getting shock treatments and witches with spare heads screaming in glass cabinets. If this didn’t scare you as a kid, nuthin’ did!