Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) has been sailing the high seas on her ship The Wonder, getting into various scrapes that she is ready and able to extricate herself from in the name of adventure, but the time has come to return home to London and her mother (Lindsay Duncan) where she finds things not quite as she left them. Basically Mrs Kingsleigh is about to be turfed out of the family home thanks to the machinations of Alice's cousin Hamish (Leo Bill) who at a society gathering informs her that there is a choice to be made: either she gives up the ship to him and her mother loses her house, or they keep the house and he gets the valuable ship. As Alice wrestles with this dilemma, she notices a butterfly is in the room with her, and she begins to remember...
Remember what? Remember Wonderland, of course, in the sequel to a film that was curiously one of the biggest movies of the twenty-tens, easily passing the one billion dollars mark in profits, even though it was much maligned by many who saw it. Not to say that it didn't have any fans, as there were a fair few who were captivated by a Tim Burton movie that focused on a female protagonist and plonked her down in a wild and woolly fantasy landscape that had a star in practically every role, finding it novel enough to support. The naysayers were more likely to note that as a sequel to Lewis Carroll's original classic book, it may have taken the characters but it had precious little to do with the source.
For this sequel (in effect a sequel to a sequel that took the title of Carroll's literary sequel), Alice was brought back to Wonderland through the mirror, but that was as far as the plot connections to the actual text of the same name went, for our heroine returned to be caught up in something you might have expected to be related to the real world issues she was facing, yet in effect had nothing to do with them, aside from perhaps offering her some thinking time as she tried to reunite the depressed Mad Hatter with his family. Said Hatter was given the decidedly non-Carroll name of Tarrant Hightop and played once again by Johnny Depp, who toned down his previous mania in the role to turn up the sentimentality.
There was a problem there, not least because this opened in cinemas at precisely the same time as Depp was struggling with his private life, something that was blamed when the film underperformed dramatically in relation to how the first film had done at the box office, though the reason may have been more that while the revelations and gossip didn't help, nobody was particularly clamouring for a follow-up anyway, no matter how much profit had been made for Disney the initial time around. But Depp was oddly creepy in his interpretation that made you less want Alice to help him out than to get as far away as possible from him, which might have been the sensible thing to do given the chaos that erupted when she chose to go back in time, not merely offer origin tales as were fashionable in the movies, but also to discover the whereabouts of the Hatter's folks.
To do this she steals a gadget that enables her to travel a CGI ocean of time, though a lot of this had that shiny, weightless look of computer graphics which may have appeared otherworldly, but only because it was artificial. Sacha Baron Cohen played Time, a newly invented character whose name was self-explanatory and chased after Alice in his own machine as she brought in the dilemma of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) who has a secret in her past about the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister that set the gears of potential disaster running. Somehow this was connected to the Hatter's issues, yet there was much here that was chaotic, breathlessly dashing from setpiece to setpiece and not caring if the audience were keeping up, simply ploughing forward with the elaborate effects with wild abandon. It was certainly a spectacle of sorts, but not a very attractive one with its fussy design and thespians overacting, and any message about making up for past transgressions was tacked on at best. But it wasn't really any worse than the first effort, so maybe audiences felt they had seen it all before and once was enough, thank you very much. Also, Alice spends too much time face down. Music by Danny Elfman.