When making a sequel it’s important to capitalise on the momentum of success. To keep the cycle of productions within a reasonable time of the original film otherwise you risk releasing a sequel no one wants or cares about. Sure, maybe the critics and fans are somewhat turned off by the Transformers films but they are released succinctly to capitalise on the full financial potential. I’m not saying I like either of these film series but it’s also not pleasurable to watch a creative team sink the best part of a year and a couple of hundred million dollars into something that is not only torn to shreds critically but is financially incontinent.
Six years have passed since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland a film which grossed over $1 billion worldwide and at the time of its release was the fifth highest grossing movie of all time (Not adjusted for inflation). It was not a particularly faithful translation of the Lewis Carroll novel and received a mixed response from its audiences. However with the re-popularisation of 3-D, a big name director at the helm and a high profile ensemble cast (Headed by Johnny Depp at his most box-office bankable) it turned over a massive profit and a sequel was almost inevitable. That it would take six years for production to churn out the next film in the Alice series (and almost certainly the last) was a fault that Disney has paid for exponentially.
Alice Through the Looking Glass feels like a film processed by committee, with Tim Burton unwilling to return as director the project was overtaken by James Bobin (Who has had some great successes in the past) but the story is a concoction of several unformed concepts. Alice now appears to be auditioning for a part in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, there is the new character Time played by Sacha Baron Cohen (because when your plot is a complete mess the addition of time travel makes everything much easier to comprehend) and the continuation of the Hatter’s storyline which intertwines with the Red Queen’s storyline which intertwines with the White Queens storyline. All this amongst Alice attempting to be an independent woman in Victorian London having to deal with the sexism enforced on her by the cartoonishly silly Hamish Ascot. What I did enjoy about Alice Through the Looking Glass were the glimmers of potential, the concept of time and mortality being something we should cherish rather than disdain but it’s lost in the void of scenery chomping acting, a confusingly muddled screenplay and naïve series of resolutions.
Perhaps it’s pleasing to look at the tangled mess of a poorly designed sequel being squashed at the box office but it worries me that studios will get the wrong message. That instead of putting money towards more original projects they will double down on more “safe” projects such as further sequels, remakes and reboots. Just because a film is a sequel it isn’t necessarily an ill-conceived project, there are plenty of good sequels, but it’s growing so ludicrously out of hand that there are so few original films produced a year, especially big budget movies. As someone who is more willing than most to overlook the over saturation of sequels/remakes I’m hoping that the failure of lacklustre features such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, and last’s years flops Pan and Fant4stic, will promote a rethink in the repetitious nature of the production of blockbusters. On the plus side the highest grossing films of the year so far have included Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Zootropolis which have all been of a very high standard and hopefully the correlation between higher quality movie production and critical and financial success will prompt a revision of how mainstream films are developed. Here’s hoping.
(Also I would give Alice Through the Looking Glass 2/5. It’s a messy film with an occasional charm, just not occasional enough.)