I came into this movie with seriously low expectations. This movie had several things going against it: It has been six years since the original movie. The plot isn't based on any preexisting book, and I had mixed emotions about the previous film; so a sequel could move things in a bad direction.
However, this wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Three years since her last adventure, Alice returns to Underland to help the Mad Hatter find his long dead family. To do so, she steals a device from Time and travels through Underland's past, attempting to change the future.
In the previous movie, Alice had a lot of cool moments; in this she just got on my nerves. In fact, she causes most of the problems in this movie and unknowingly becomes the villain to everyone. To me she had poor reasoning skills and her mission could've been solved in just a few minutes... Granted, we wouldn't have a long movie but at least this beloved and well-known character wouldn't be tarnished by her actions. The movie shows that she spent her time as a successful sea captain. Given her decision making, I'm legitimately surprised her crew/ship wasn't destroyed a long time ago.
I loved Depp's Hatter in the last movie. In fact, he was one of the films strong points. The same is true here. I love his acting choices in this movie, but I wish we didn't see his backstory. Once again, Depp plays a famous character with daddy issues as a huge part of his past. I'm all for making a character deeper than he was intended to be, but giving him unresolved daddy issues is just lazy and extremely unnecessary. None of this is Depp's fault. He does a great job with what he's given, but it could've been done a little better.
Our big new character is Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. In the trailers it seemed like Time was the villain, but I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn't. In fact, he's the most level headed person in the whole movie. Being the physical representation of time itself in all of Underland, he strikes the right balance of serious and silly and manages to give Alice some sage, practical advice. He does chase Alice through the past, but not out of hatred; he does it so that Underland and himself won't be destroyed, so one could argue that he's a better hero than Alice. Not to mention, I love his steampunk design that he shares with his castle, both of which were perfectly themed. There's also an awesome scene with him, Hatter, March Hare, the Dormouse that explains why it's always tea time for them. Nice touch.
The Red & White Queens were good and it was nice to see their history, since that needed more explanation in the first film. The animal friends did have more screen time, but I still wanted to see them in a far more active role.
This was one of the film's strong points. Underland looks amazing with its theme and color. As I mentioned, Time's castle is incredible and well thought out, but the best visuals were Alice actually traveling through time. The oceans of time where you can see old and new scenes in these majestic oceans were a pretty creative way of time travel.
If you loved the first one, you'll enjoy it. If not, you're gonna hate it. In all honesty, we didn't need this movie, but that doesn't mean it's terrible. There are some good things going for it, although there will be moments during which you'll be rolling your eyes. However, the good does outweigh the bad and while I don't recommend seeing it in theaters, it should be watched as a DVD rental. That should be enough to satisfy your curiosity without paying top dollar.
Me Before You.