I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Six years after Tim Burton brought us the remake/sequel to Alice in Wonderland (I’m still confused as to which it was) and added a billion and a bit dollars in gross for Disney, the inevitable and apparently eagerly anticipated sequel to that is now upon us.
Alice Through the Looking Glass follows Alice some time after the events of the previous film, having in the meantime explored some of the wonders of our world and grown somewhat. She is forced by circumstance to come back to wonderland (or “Underland” as the movie insists it is called) to save the Mad Hatter from a mysterious affliction.
Events transpire meaning that in order to save the Mad fellow, Alice must use a device called the chromosphere to travel back in time.
I love time-travel in movies & TV, myself being quite the Whovian. The way it is used here is pretty typical of some sci-fi temporal shifting movies. In order to save the day, the past must be altered, while the universe protests to it.
This is a solid and well-tried plot for any film of this type and I don’t hold anything against the screenwriters for using it to fill this adaptation of relatively plotless source material. It does enough clever things, like having Time be personified in his own little world as a German-sounding man played by Sacha Baron-Cohen. There are some plot-holes as you would expect from this, but it is kind of fun to see how all the characters from Lewis Carroll’s stories came to be the way they are.
It rarely feels forced or out of place in the strange world in which it is all set. This is an improvement on the previous film which was forced into a Harry Potter/Narnia “chosen one” narrative which culminated in one of the flattest and most boring climaxes I have ever seen in a big movie.
Another difference to the “original” 2010 film of note is the aesthetic. Burton only produced this film so some of the gothic edge has gone in favour of brighter colours and less gruesome violence. While I am very fond of visual originality (even if it’s the same originality we’ve seen from Tim for around 30 years), especially in a family film, it has to be backed up by us caring for the characters which, as I shall explain, did not happen in 2010. In this regard Looking Glass gets another point.
The biggest change in this movie is in the characters. Helena Bonham Carter and the brilliant Paul Whitehouse where always great as the Red Queen and the March Hare, respectively. All the other players in this story who had opportunity to do so in the original irritated me no end. Especially Alice.
The whole moody, independent teen shtick she had which ran through the whole of the 2010 film along with that nonsense about her thinking that “Underland” is a dream the whole time in a sort of backwards Wizard of Oz making her disconnected and dull is gone, thank God. In its place is a relatively normal, but kind person who I actually liked and gave a damn about. I was invested here in whether she succeeded or failed. Even if her goal is to save Johnny Depp’s Hatter who acts like all the worst parts of his Willy Wonka performance. Stick to apologising to other governments Mr Depp.
People seem split between these two recent Wonder/Underland movies. Both have flaws and take themselves way too seriously, but this film, to me is a far superior experience.
Unfortunately, this film may prove less memorable in its modest yet admirable successes than its predecessor in its abject failures. Shame.
Recommended Scenario: If you want a solid time-travel movie. Just watch the original Disney Cartoon first, the 2010 version is rubbish.
P.S Dear Filmmakers,
Make sure the song you have over the end of your film fits the movie. This one had some poppy crap about time which otherwise had no place here. Just because the movie is over and the credits are rolling does not mean that this rule should not be followed:
“All elements of a movie, including music, must match said movie either through harmony or an acceptable form of discordance.”
P.P.S It is nice to hear the late Alan Rickman’s voice as Absolem the Caterpillar/Butterfly. His voice was timeless and excellent we as cinephiles shall continue to miss him.