According to Variety, Disney has hired Linda Woolverton, a seasoned blockbuster screenwriter, to get cracking on a sequel to the monster hit Alice in Wonderland. The writer has a history with the studio — writing Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King among others — and her work has gone on to earn towering amounts of money so the appeal is pretty clear on the business end. Not to mention the financial no-brainer of continuing this franchise.
But what about the artistic side? Woolverton is an excellent writer, but as we saw with Alice in Wonderland, her work can also be turned into a drippy mess of unnecessary bizarreness that hoists visuals (and poorly CGI-ed dance moves) so far above story that it gets downright embarrassing. That’s not the only obstacle to quality with Alice in Wonderland 2 either. There are at least three that jump to mind.
- The urge to copy the model of the first unfortunate film.
- The element of new territory now that they’ve already covered a lot of Lewis Carroll‘s original work with “Adventures” and “Through the Looking Glass.” There are still other tales, like the Caucus Race to cover, and the 2010 film strayed from the books considerably, but it’ll be curious to see whether they stick mostly with the other film’s characters (Johnny Depp for sure) or go Return to Oz style, trying to introduce or create new ones. That’s a challenge without the safety net of Carroll’s work to guide them. They’re leaving the safe harbor where fans can be fickle.
- The appeal of bringing back Tim Burton despite his recent deficits as a storyteller.
So those are the challenges (but there are probably many more). With those out of the way, going after a sequel is also a chance to get the story right this time. It’s not like fans of the books legitimately expect a focus on logic problems in a movie, and Disney has already crafted a new cinematic fantasy land (which almost resembles Carroll’s if you squint), so there’s a chance here to place Alice back in Underland with a lot more focus, a better story, and the same level of visuals. Hopefully they’ll avoid whatever rule dictates sequels “go dark,” since it could be disastrous for this world. In a place where 4×6=13, bending a few “rules” can be a good thing. The key is not ending up with whatever the final ten minutes of Alice in Wonderland was. For now, let’s all pour a cup of tea and toast to optimism.