Alice Through the Looking Glass
Premiered on May 27, 2016. 113 minutes. Rated PG.
Directed by James Bobin
Screenplay by Linda Woolverton
This sequel to the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland pulls further away from its source material by Lewis Carroll and becomes an origin story for Wonderland’s characters.
Alice has been a captain on the high seas, returning home to find former fiancee holding the deed to her mother’s home and wanting Alice’s ship to return the residence to her name. Additionally, Hamish will not allow her — a woman — to be a captain of one of his ships, so she must settle on being a clerk for the company. Shocked at her mother’s choices and the evil of Hamish, Alice doesn’t know what to do, until a blue butterfly with a familiar voice says her name and she follows it into a room where she walks through a looking glass. Back in Wonderland, Alice meets with the White Queen, the White Rabbit, Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and others. The Hatter has gone dark and they believe only Alice has the ability to return him to his former self. It seems the Hatter has discovered the first hat he made for his father, proving that his family is alive, though they were seen killed by the Jabberwocky in the previous film. Alice tells him this and he turns her out. She come to learn if she could go back in time she could save them. She sets out to find Time and that’s where her troubles begin.
This is a Steampunk/time travel film that has Alice seeing how characters came to be the individuals she met in the previous film. Mia Wasikowska continues to be a strong Alice, and she learns that she should think before acting with her heart. Johnny Depp isn’t in the film as much as I would have wanted, but when he appears things get interesting. Helena Bonham Carter is outstanding as the Queen of Hearts but she, along with the majority of this film, has no humor, or the attempts made are extremely juvenile. By the end of the film the character has been made very sympathetic and that destroys Carroll’s creation and what occurred in the previous film. It’s similar to what was done in Maleficent. Anne Hathaway has many more scenes in this film than from the previous and she continues to make Mirana a spacey character. The major new character is Time played by Sacha Baron Cohen. He nicely straddles the line between villain and hero, always leaving the audience trying to figure out where he falls. His scene with the Hatter at the famous tea party is the highlight of the film. The late Alan Rickman only voices his caterpillar-turned-butterfly at the beginning of the film and his voice brought oohs from the audience. The film honors him by having a special credit at the end of the film for their “friend.”
The effects are heavy, with the computer generated characters and settings, though they don’t seem as impressive as they did in the first film, suffering from a “been there, done that” feel. The most visited setting is Time’s castle which is populated by mechanical creatures that help run the big clock. They don’t fit into the film, especially when they begin to work like transformers. In fact, they could be excised from the film and nothing lost, and they’re in a good portion of the film. Much of the computer effects are used to create the clockwork castle. It’s massive, but it’s obviously an effect — and it doesn’t seem to fit into Wonderland. Also not fitting in is the Red Queen’s new castle and it’s people. Again, it’s sumptuous, but doesn’t fit into this franchise. Also out of place are the two time travel vessels that are more at home with the works of Jules Verne. They look cool, but, say it, they don’t fit in.
Even the musical score from Danny Elfman is lackluster. I’m a tremendous fan of his soundtracks, and his rock band, but there’s nothing memorable about his score. There was no magic in this music.
The fault for this film has to fall upon the script. Linda Wooverton’s story begins like Pirates of the Caribbean, becomes The Time Machine, and ends with a lesson that seems hollow. I saw the film in a theater with adults and children. There wasn’t any laughter until the Hatter reacted to seeing the Red Queen in the movie’s climax. That’s an unbelievably long time to go to get an emotional reaction from the audience.
The final line: It’s not a terrible film, but it’s not a great film. It looks incredibly pretty and there are moments, often when the Hatter is on the screen, where things perk up, but this romp through time has little magic. Overall grade: C-