Unpopular opinion: I love “Alice in Wonderland.”
Despite holding a lukewarm 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, the major consensus among most critics is that “Alice in Wonderland” was an overblown Tim Burton wet-dream. Despite this, I can’t help but regard it as one of my favorite films of the eclectic director’s. The 3D magic displayed and the sheer childlike wonder of the whole film held strong with my heartstrings and really has held strong with me over the past six years. Despite its uproarious success, it comes as a bit of a shock that it took over six years to have Alice return to Underland in “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” So long later, it also comes as a bit of a shock that almost the entire cast returned for the sequel, save for Crispin Glover’s Stayne, but did anyone actually notice that? Focusing on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” director Tim Burton chose not to return to direct the sequel, rather than to just produce it, passing the directorial torch to “The Muppets” director James Bobin. Which, while heartbreaking, could’ve gone a lot worse.
There’s no doubt that Burton’s absence in the director’s seat made a bit of the magic lost in translation, but for the most part, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a pretty solid sequel.
But don’t get me wrong, if you did not like “Alice in Wonderland,” there is no chance in hell that you’ll like “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” It simply has too much of the same style to justify giving it a chance. Johnny Depp is just as mad as ever, the colors are just as crazy as ever and everything seems to be right in its place for the most part, which for fans of the original like myself, is quite a nice accomplishment. While Johnny Depp again gets top billing, he’s given a bit less to do in this sequel than before, with Linda Woolverton’s script focusing far more on Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, and Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Wasikowska is still the perfect casting of Alice, now an adult and a sea captain for her father’s trading company. Cohen, in the personification of Time, is also good, though Cohen doesn’t go as overboard as expected, pulling in a more restrained performance than you would expect from him in a film like this.
My biggest fear entering the film was that Bobin would be unable to capture the magic behind the camera that Burton brought to the original. Surprisingly, for the most part, Bobin does a pretty bang up job with the task of following Burton, though it still remains very obvious that Burton is not behind the camera on this one, which I found out was okay. Despite holding the similar styles, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a very different film than the original, focusing far more on a steampunk aesthetic than that of the original’s Victorian feel about it. This change I felt benefitted the film, because despite its difference, it actually gave the film a bit more meaning as a film rather than if the film just straight up went the route that the first film took. Does the first film have more magical wonder about it than this one? Yes. Does this one still work? Yes.
I wouldn’t say everything works about the film, as some pacing issues, including a brief return to the outside world, plague the film a bit. In a film about time, I would’ve hoped that the film would’ve put a bigger emphasis on mastering it. The film isn’t overlong in any real regard, it just needed a better distribution of meat as opposed to filler scenes.
“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is an unapologetically feminist film, at least in that 19th century sense of female empowerment. Alice is a strong character who does all the saving in her own story. Starting the film as a strong, competent sea captain, Alice faces backlash from her bureaucratic superiors in the face of sexism. Despite this, Alice finds a way to maneuver around the discrimination to make a life for herself and her mother living alone in London. Even the personification of the Red and White Queens, however evil or pure they may be, are strong female empowerments of change in Hollywood. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a film to teach little girls to find their inner power, and for little boys not to be intimidated by it.
For the most part, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a strong sequel to its original, albeit still superior original. Bobin does a strong job in keeping a similar vibe to the film, while injecting a different kind of style behind the camera that works in the films different plot points. The performances are as good as ever and really have matured since the previous installment. It doesn’t feel like the film is catering to children anymore, which is a nice improvement over the original. And the 3D and score by Danny Elfman is as magical as ever. Whimsical and lighthearted, it’s easy to scoff at “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” but for those once enchanted by Underland’s many charms, this return is far from a wasted one.
Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, with Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen, with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall.
Runtime: 113 minutes
Rating: PG for fantasy action/peril and some language.
Also available in Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D.
Disney presents, a Roth Films/Team Todd/Tim Burton production, “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a James Bobin film