Constant artificiality in the emotional exchanges and CGI effects makes much of this film meaningless. It’s like a stroll—or a run—through a garden of artificial flowers or being stuck inside a video game, as in the Russian film Hardcore; only this is for kids. Case in point, Alice is congratulated profusely in the end, but it’s not very clear exactly what she did other than sail/burst around in a time machine that pops her out on the ground or the floor. Traditionally, the hero(ine) is sent by fate through trials that establish her mettle, but we see none of that here. The main point of the film—which is that you can’t change the past—is obscure, until Alice talks about learning her lesson at the end. Otherwise, all the action of the film is trying to do just that, change the past.
The film opens with Alice the captain of a ship in dangerous waters where she is willing to take risks (she doesn’t believe in “impossible”), even against the advice of her crew. Of course—this being Alice—she makes it safely to her homeport, pumped about the next adventure. To her dismay, her benefactor has died, and his son Hamish (a rejected lover) wants to reclaim her boat, has made a spurious deal with her mother regarding her home, and now wants her to work as a clerk. What to do?
As she is mulling this over, Alice gets a message from the Blue Caterpillar (Rickman) that she is needed back in Wonderland, so she goes through the glass portal to see what is wrong. It’s the Mad Hatter (Depp), who has slipped into a dangerous depression following the disappearance of his family. After discussing it with the White Queen (Hathaway), Alice pursues the possibility of going back in time to “get” his family and bring them up to the present. The person in charge of the “Chronosphere” is Time (Cohen), and he warns against the plan. Not to be deterred, Alice gets her hands on it anyway, and proceeds. There follows lessons about the folly of trying to change the past, side issues of sibling rivalry, and the values of home and family.
With CGI overwhelming the story, it’s difficult to see how children would really come away with the messages—as mundane as they are. They are likely to enjoy the production design (Dan Hanneh) and special effects in and of themselves and the costumes (Colleen Atwood), but as far as deriving any edification about sibling rivalry, undoing the past, or the rights of females, I doubt those things come through.
A CGI bloated production with a weak storyline.