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Alice Through the Looking Glass – Movie Review

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Alice Through the Looking Glass – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Tim Burton’s journey into Alice in Wonderland six years ago was more of a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s cherished book, rather than a straight adaptation. While lacking some of the nonsensical nature of the source material, it worked as a simple fantasy adventure with all of the familiar iconography of the classic stories. With James Bobin taking over as director for Alice Through the Looking Glass, there is more of an attempt to capture the brightness and oddness of the original text and moving away from the dragon slayings and dark vision of Burton’s interpretation. It’s a noble effort, but outside of the time travel aspect, there isn’t anything particularly gripping about the sequel. It’s more of an excuse to bring back some of the stars for another visually striking feast for the eyes.

One of the main goals of Alice Through the Looking Glass appears to be to explain why the Wonderland denizens became who they are. Yet, did anybody read or watch any interpretation of the material and wish to know the origins of the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen? Part of the appeal of the Wonderland stories is the unexplainable weirdness of this world. Knowing why the Red Queen calls for heads to be chopped or why the Mad Hatter chose his line of work are not pressing issues. The screenplay also seeks to connect everyone as the effects artists are given the chance to portray younger versions of the Cheshire Cat and Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

The strength of this film does come from the visuals. Most of the artists who worked on Alice in Wonderland return for the sequel and continue to bring their A game to this series. The production team have lightened Wonderland up and the various locations are beautifully rendered. There’s a lot of creativity involved with portraying Time’s lair with the clock motif and little robot workers. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time is the most interesting character in the entire film, both from a design standpoint and because of his humourous attempts to damage control the entire mess, ironically enough caused by Alice. The Mad Hatter, on the other hand, grates on the nerves with Johnny Depp hamming for the camera and attempting to be at his most eccentric. One almost doesn’t blame the Red Queen for her annoyance at him. The makeup transforming Depp into a terrifying blend of Ronald McDonald and Carrot Top makes him even less endearing.

Despite the time travel plot, there is little sense of urgency. This is a fantasy world where everything feels pre-written. A golden opportunity is also missed to include a new and terrifying villain. The audience is instead treated once again to Helena Bonham Carter’s streaking queen, who is closer to a bratty child rather than a legitimate threat. Carter does manage to play the role with complete force and it’s difficult not to see her enthusiasm on the screen. The screenplay tries to throw in themes about female empowerment, which should be inspiring during its setting of the late 19th century. However, it feels like an afterthought meant to bookend the story and doesn’t play a huge role in her motivation to save Wonderland and the Hatter. Nonetheless, there is an added spunk to the way Mia Wasikowska plays Alice this time out.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a harmless sequel and a curious twist on Lewis Carroll’s characters. There is simply little that makes it stand out, other than the on-screen imagery. James Bobin’s direction more than does its job and the script is serviceable, but the film as a whole feels like an unnecessary add-on to the Burton predecessor. The addition of Sacha Baron Cohen’s frequently frustrated Time is the only element adding anything to the world established in the previous film and the time travel plot lacks any sort of excitement. It’s a mild summer diversion befitting an air conditioned screening room, but it once again shows the difficulty in adapting the wild, episodic and satirical words penned by Mr. Carroll centuries ago.

Stefan Ellison

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