There has been enough critique of the latest Alice in Wonderland offering. I have read enough back and forth about the quality of the narrative, the character development, the usual about Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and the rest of the gang. Some called it a candy floss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rendition to perhaps a Cloud Atlas type time travel remake, in a machine housed in a moving globe. But barring all the usual suspects, I want to focus on the one thing that stood out over all else. So this is not a review.
I don’t know how people in the world navigate or engage with ‘time.’ This omnipresent entity, which, either having been created or having existed in a continuum, seems to dictate everything we know and do. It’s like we are on a clock, quite literally (especially the ones who are more aware among us). In the latest Alice offering, ‘Time’ is played the hulkishly accented Sacha Baron Cohen, who lives in the heart of the clock universe, keeping an eye on the world tick-tocking by. On the other side of the world, Alice finds the ever-effervescent Hatter, slowly decaying and depressed (he finds the first hat he ever made in the rubble of the site where his family were lost/killed, raising hopes that his family might still be alive). Alice is unable to agree with him that his family might still be alive. But given her best friend’s decaying state, she has to do something.
In Alice’s search for the truth about Hatter’s family, she steals the Chronosphere from Time, hoping to go back and find out what happened to the Hatter’s family. The Chronosphere is the device that seemingly keeps the clock of this universe going.
Time is now chasing Alice to recover the Chronosphere before it’s too late to recover anything, because the slightest change in the past will naturally change the course of history.
The two ideas that the film hones in on, which have been spoken to in various ways, formats through the arts before, yet never seem to loose their longevity: the past is unchangeable and altering it alters more than just the intended event. Alice learns this the hard way, but the film also forced me to reflect how often the past seems to be the easy victim/punching bag of anything and everything that we can’t change. What if this and what if that? Foolishly unbeknownst to us is that the what ifs would have ensured a pretty shockingly altered now.
The other comically animated bit is when Time, during his search for Alice, lands in the middle of the Hatter’s garden as he is ready to have tea with his troupe. The Hatter and his entourage mock Time with their jabs using age old time phrases. It struck me for the second time in the film, that we have as a rule made Time this permanent entity, this villain. It’s as if the phrase ‘Time is not on our side’ is true in all its facets. Such falsity.
With all of this animated discussion and discourse surrounding Time, I sat and wondered about my own interaction and engagement with Time. Did I really wait to think, wonder, bother why I thought (like Alice) that time was not enough, a thief, precious, unneeded, impatient, sometime merciless and other times wasteful? Alice walks into a meeting of powerful men in her town, forcing a negotiation down her mother’s throat. She contradicts them that indeed, ‘time is not money and is just time’.
At the end of just under two hours of glossy Alice, this realization dawned on me that Time indeed is just Time and rather than sitting and coming up with adjectives, taunts and wasteful nothingness against or for it, I just need to ensure that I don’t sit and watch it pass by, coz that’s what Time does. And it took Time for me to really realize this.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is now playing in theatres.