As a huge fan of all things Disney, keeping up with the latest films is pretty important to me, but somehow I forgot that there was a sequel to Alice in Wonderland even in development. The fact of the matter was that I just wasn’t excited for Alice Through the Looking Glass. The first film by Tim Burton failed to capture my attention despite the crazy visuals and the talented performances by Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter.
But even though my feelings for the first film were lukewarm, in no way did I want them to taint my enjoyment of Through the Looking Glass, so I looked toward the creative talent involved in this second go at the franchise.
With James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Concords) taking on the directorial chair in place of Tim Burton, my excitement for the film increased because I knew from his past work that he could do good comedy and had a keen eye for attention-grabbing scenes. Bobin delivers on that front with entertaining set pieces that harken back to the fantastical storytelling from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland novels and moments that will have audiences unable to contain their laughter.
Alice Through the Looking Glass drops us right into the life of Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) as a captain aboard her late-father’s ship, the Wonder. As a dashing, sharp-minded yet quixotic adventurer, we see Alice as she makes a brave escape from pirates after her journey forming new trade routes around the world. Alice returns to the cold and colorless England where she faces scorn from high society—and the man she refused to marry in the first film—due to her unconventional, independent personality and desire to remain the captain of her own ship. Forced into either choosing her father’s ship or her mother’s home, Alice must come to grips with the harsh reality that sometimes there are difficult choices that must be made in life.
Right at the moment where she must decide between a life on the sea at the cost of her mother becoming homeless or the dull and simple life as a mail clerk, Absolem the Butterfly (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) appears and guides Alice back to Underland. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) seems to have fallen into a deep depression that is slowly killing him, caused by discovering that his family might still be alive after having believed they were killed by the Jabberwocky years ago. Mirana the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) tasks Alice with the quest to borrow the Chronosphere, a device that will allow her to travel through time, in order to help save the Hatter’s family and save him from dying of heartbreak.
Much of entertainment found in Through the Looking Glass comes from Alice and Time’s interactions as Wasikowska and Cohen have a natural chemistry on-screen that is woefully underutilized. There is a distinct lack of interaction between the two due to Alice fleeing Time in her quest to discover what happened to the Hatter’s family. When they do find themselves in a scene together, the emotional exchange between Alice and Time gives more weight to the moral lesson that the story is trying to present to audiences.
On the opposite side of things, we see plenty of interaction between Alice and the Mad Hatter, but these moments feel hollow due to Alice being a passive observer of time who interacts with a young Hatter who has yet to meet her later on in the future. The Mad Hatter we see throughout the film is less of a character and more of a plot device for most of the film, moving the story so Alice has some kind of conflict to resolve.
When it comes to characters outside of the main cast like the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat, they seem to have very little involvement in the overall story. Through the Looking Glass focuses on Iracabeth the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and Mirana’s past which is intrinsically tied to the Mad Hatter’s past, but gives little importance to other characters who only serve to decorate the film with familiar elements of both the first film and Carroll’s stories. This is not a bad thing, as it helps the film focus on the human interactions between the main cast and the consequences of their actions.
Despite the problems Through the Looking Glass has, the film presents a beautiful narrative that depicts the challenges women face in an oppressive society. Alice faces constant opposition as she tries to move forward in a career she loves, and thanks to the lessons she’s learned the past, she is able to persevere through it all. Through the Looking Glass also gives us a glimpse at the power of forgiveness, and shows us that while the past cannot be changed, the future is what you make of it.
The story Bobin is trying to tell in Alice Through the Looking Glass is good, simple fun with a strong moral that will resonate with adults and children alike, especially as Alice continues to brave danger after danger for the sake of saving her friends and finding the answers to the future she wishes to create for herself.
- Our rating: 3/5
- Details –
- Runtime: 113 minutes
- Rating: PG for fantasy action/peril and some language.
All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios.
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