This may be the first Disney trailer to ever open with the heroine of the film running away from someone because they are about to manually stimulate her to orgasm. Well-played, Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Landing somewhere between Sucker Punch and Return To Oz, the opening of this trailer comes up with a very different reason to send Alice running than the first film did, and then kicks into an assault of hyper-vivid eye candy that is almost startlingly insane. James Bobin is picking up what Tim Burton put down, and while I like Bobin, maaaaaaaaaaaaan, do I hate the overall visual design of this world. It is aggressively unpleasant at every turn, and while they are technically drawing from Lewis Carroll’s work, I find this interpretation very off-putting.

In particular, I hate Johnny Depp’s The Mad Hatter. There is a particular type of Johnny Depp performance I dislike, the “crazy hats and wigs” end of the pool, and I think The Mad Hatter may be the single most egregious example of that. When Alice In Wonderland was released and coasted to a billion dollars on the tailwind of the sudden ravenous hunger for 3D spectacle that had been stoked by Avatar a few months earlier, I felt as disconnected from pop culture and the general audience as I ever had. The movie made me recoil completely, and part of that comes from the garish, disturbing design of the Hatter and Depp’s wheezy whimsical choices. It very simply didn’t work for me on any level, and if you don’t like the Hatter, there’s pretty much no way I can imagine enjoying the movie.

My bigger problem is that they have decided that in these takes, Alice is a heroic figure, and that is such a profound misinterpretation of the original Carrol text that I almost don’t know how to describe the way it angers me. After all, general audiences have been conditioned by sheer blunt force trauma to accept the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey model as the only acceptable shape for stories, but that’s crazy. Lewis Carroll didn’t remotely care about telling the story of a hero’s call to action. He was a mathematician and a poet who loved nonsense and silliness, and he wrote to make children cackle. He wasn’t writing about ancient prophecies and genuinely scary bad guys. He was writing doggerel that was filled with non-existent words and that made no logical sense. I adore Lewis Carroll’s work precisely because it is not the sort of thing that the Disney film tried to make it, and with Linda Woolverton returning as the screenwriter this time, building off of what the Tim Burton film did, I feel like Bobin was hamstrung before he ever started working.

While my opening paragraph may have seemed glib, I am kind of amazed by that scene. It’s not in the draft of the script that I read, and I’m curious to see how they’ve reframed the film. It seems like a pretty radical shift. The version I read opened with Alice coming home from her time at sea as a pirate captain only to find that her mother has sold off their stakes in the shipping company. Alice is told that her mother expects her to give it all up and get married, which seemed a lot like the conflict in the first film. I can see why they might want to rethink that, but making a reference to hysteria in a period drama is a pretty big jump. Do a little reading if you’re not sure why, but the tl;dr version is that “hysteria” was frequently a catch-all diagnosis for women who did not conform to the norms of the time, and one of the main treatments involved the doctors digitally masturbating the women to release as a way of relieving the “hysteria.” I guess Alice runs out of the hospital to preserve that all-important PG rating for Disney, but, man, what a weird-ass choice that is.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t understand any of the choices made on these films. Maybe I’ll see the finished movie and I’ll realize that it’s amazing and it redeems the first film completely.


Alice Through The Looking Glass is in theaters May 27, 2016.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.