Alice Through the Looking Glass Review
As is well known, Lewis Carroll wrote a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, a sequel entitled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Therefore, by some stretch of the imagination, it makes sense for Disney to produce a sequel to the Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland and for them to call this film—directed by James Bobin this time—Alice Through the Looking Glass.
The reason it is a stretch of the imagination is that much like the Burton film, this movie bears little resemblance to Carroll's work. In fact, several characters introduced in the first movie—Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and the Jabberwock—only arrive on the scene in the second novel. Then, of course, the world to which Alice travels in the film isn't Wonderland, but rather "Underland."
All of this is to say that there seems to be no solid reason whatsoever for calling the second movie something related to the title of the second book, when they are entirely different. Burton, Bobin, and Disney are unquestionably building upon the characters Carroll established, but that is as far as either film goes.
The use of the title then, particularly for this second film, feels much more like a bait and switch. It is true that our Alice (Mia Wasikowska) enters Underland via a mirror this time out, but she seems to only do so because… well, because using Carroll's title demands that much and, seemingly, no more.
Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in Alice Through the Looking Glass
What then is the story this time out? Ah, well, it deals with Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen). Time is, it seems, not only a concept but a person, and Time is in charge of both life and death (for reasons unclear). Alice decides to help the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) cheat Time in order to save the Hatter's family from the demise that they met decades ago. Why? Well, because the Hatter found a paper hat that he had made when he was but a wee lad and had thought was gone forever. Because the hat exists, the Hatter believes, so too must his family.
The logic is insane. Even by Underland standards it makes no sense. Alice does not attempt to work out any of the details though; instead, she careens backwards through time to save the Hatter's family because the Hatter is sad that his family died so many years ago.
To understand the film it may be best to think of it as kind of a fill-in-the-gaps movie. It takes us through how the Hatter became the Hatter and how the White Queen, Mirana (Anne Hathaway), became the White Queen and how the Red Queen, Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter) became the Red Queen. And, because we learn that information we get to understand why things were so bad between the two of them in the previous film.
Sacha Baron Cohen as Time in Alice Through the Looking Glass
What is never addressed by anyone is the fact that the characters weren't interesting in that first film and they are not any more interesting here. Virtually each and every character who appears on the screen becomes some new sort of annoyance, offering a ridiculous affectation of some sort that makes you want to do nothing so much as to beg Alice to leave Underland once and for all. No matter where one looks in the film there are questions about how things unfold and why; expect no answers, as none will be forthcoming.
The specifics of the story feel slap-dash at best. The rules of time travel make no sense, they contradict the last movie, and the plot is (not in a good way) silly. While all of those are true, the worst sin is that Alice, our great hero, is thrust into an adventure she should know better than to embark upon, and fumbles her way through the whole thing without stopping the listen and think about her actions.
If you're looking for a bright spot where this movie surpasses its predecessor is with its look. For the last film, Burton and company built an incredible real-life cartoon world and then proceeded to remove all its color, sapping the world of its beauty. While understandable in terms of the plot, it was a great strength lost. Here, we get the world and the color and it is a spectacular thing of beauty.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is an utterly gorgeous film to look at. It is a fantastical, wonderful world brought to life. If only the story or characters could hold a candle to it.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is now in theaters. It is 113 minutes long and is Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some language.