Alice Through the Looking Glass Review: A Depp in the Wrong Direction


Director: James Bobin

Writers: Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Lewis Carroll (novel)

Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway

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Release date: May 27th, 2016

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


2/5

Best part: Sacha Baron Cohen.

Worst part: Johnny Depp.

A-lister extraordinaire Johnny Depp has had, even by his standards, a bizarre past twelve months. On top of hilarious run-ins with foreign governments, the actor was forced to confront his mother’s passing, a costly divorce to Amber Heard, allegations of domestic abuse, a dwindling worldwide fanbase, and a string of critical and commercial flops. His latest misadventure, Alice Through the Looking Glass, has done nothing to part the dark clouds hanging over his current predicament.

In amongst misfires like The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, The Tourist, Dark Shadows, and Mortdecai, 2010’s woeful Alice in Wonderland and its sequel add to the actor’s ever-growing list of crushing cinematic hiccups. Part of 2016’s collection of sequels nobody asked for, this installment continues ‘acclaimed’ filmmaker Tim Burton’s bright, shiny, unwarranted vision. This time around, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is an accomplished ship captain coming home after over a year on the high seas. Cast out by her bitter ex-fiance (Leo Bill), she falls back into Underland with a thud. With help from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Absolem (Alan Rickman), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Bloodhound (Timothy Spall) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas) among others, Alice seek to cure the Mad Hatter(Johnny Depp)’s sadness.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is an unnecessary and underwhelming homage to Alice in Wonderland‘s legacy. Based very loosely on Lewis Carroll’s seminal works, the movie delivers few original ideas or twists. Plot-points including the Hatter’s long-lost family and the Red Queen’s backstory fail to justify this sequel’s existence. Although covered in Burton’s grimy fingerprints, director James Bobin (The Muppets) is left to pick up the scraps. This time around, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) returns from exile with a new antagonist – Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen). So that’s…something. Despite said talented cast and crew, everything about this production – From the typecasting to its overwhelming reliance of style over substance –  comes off as pure self-indulgence.

Alice Through the Looking Glass haphazardly toys with several intriguing ideasTime’s dungeon-like domain is operated with textbook precision. Each person’s soul is encapsulated by a stopwatch, with human life determined by Time’s current mood. Leaping between his own motivations and Underland’s well-being, the character – supported by Cohen’s Werner Herzog/Arnold Schwarzenegger impression – provides a welcome spark of life. Sadly, the movie delivers a mind-numbing assault on the senses. Packed with unconvincing green-screen vistas and brash CGI characters, the experience is more tiresome than entertaining. In this day and age, over-the-top performances from Depp, Carter, and Hathaway are no longer interesting. Meanwhile, talented actors including Rhys Ifans, Lindsay Duncan, and Geraldine James are underutilised.

Like many of 2016’s new releases, this fantasy-adventure reeks of sequelitis’ unbearable stench. Dragging a talented cast and crew through the mud, the uninspired direction and leaden screenplay make this yet another strike against Depp’s once-glowing reputation.

Verdict: A useless, mind-numbing sequel.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows Review – A Clueless Mystery


Director: Guy Ritchie

Writers: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney (screenplay), Arthur Conan Doyle (novels)

Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jarred Harris


Release date: December 16th, 2011

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Countries: USA, UK

Running time: 129 minutes


 

2½/5

Best part: Downey, Jr. and Law’s chemistry.

Worst part: The convoluted plot.

The massive success of 2009’s Sherlock Holmes brought an energetic mix of convincing detective story, boisterous action adventure and witty buddy comedy. This perfect mix sadly doesn’t cross over into the sequel; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Robert Downey, Jr. & Jude Law.

Having said that their are still several elements that make this instalment an adequately entertaining thrill ride. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starts with a bang as tensions mount between France and Germany over the threat of annihilation. Bombings in both countries lead Holmes to the investigate the infamous and psychopathic Professor James Moriarty (Jarred Harris). With Watson (Jude Law) forced to his side once again, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) must stop Moriarty from continuing his assault on Europe and promises of global destruction. With a successful first film under his belt, director Guy Ritchie (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) directs with an increasing level of excess.

Noomi Rapace.

Failing to capture the charm of the original, Richie over uses his visual style to the point of irritation. With every twist and turn in this steampunk crime story, every few moments is cluttered with inconsistent editing techniques, over-used slo-mo/speed up and constant zooming camera movements. Holmes’ detection of one clue after another soon becomes tiresome as we are forced to watch one confusing effect after another in quick succession. Where Richie’s techniques do work however is in several of the action sequences. Particularly in the beginning as Holmes, in an old Chinese man costume, is confronted, by several thugs. the quick cuts and swerving camera movements create the look of an 18th century Bourne film. The slo-mo also works in small doses in these scenes. The very artistic and climactic chase through the woods at the dodge of cannon and gun fire is fascinating to watch. Like many sequels, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows struggles trying to find its point; leading to it becoming instantly forgettable.

Jarred Harris.

The story itself is largely incomprehensible and grinds to a deafening halt in the second act. In sticking too close to the comedy and character relationships for the most part, there is a noticeable loss of purpose and urgency in their journey. The relationships thankfully work as well as they did in the original. Downey Jr. and Law still work very effectively together as Holmes and Watson. Playing it a little too comedic at points, Downey jr.’s consistent charisma creates an ever enlightening interpretation of Holmes. Jarred Harris as Moriarty, Noomi Rapace as Sim, a card reader thrown into their travels, and Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s Brother Mycroft all deliver dynamic performances, yet suffer at the hands of their small and to some extent thankless roles. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows benefits greatly from a stellar cast, well filmed Kung Fu fights and chases, explosions aplenty and convincing performances. However its problems in pacing, gimmicky visual style and story inconsistency sadly keep it from matching the explosive innovation and quick wit of the original.

Obviously, thanks to his recent professional and personal turnarounds, Downey, Jr. can make anything on Earth seem even remotely exciting. In fact, despite the momentous problems festering in this drab sequel, he, Law, and everyone else involved, at the very least, make an effort to piece this mystifying puzzle together. Third time’s a charm, I guess!

Verdict: An underwhelming and convoluted sequel.