Alice through the Looking Glass
It is such a shame that we are getting more and more studio movies. Sure the film says, “directed by,” but unfortunately it’s mostly just a puppet at the hands of the executives. The 2010 film Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton was an enjoyable film that gave free rein completely to the director with seemingly unlimited funds. The sequel, which comes six years later, has Burton in the ceremonial position of producer, and is directed, with difficulty, by James Bobin.
Alice Through the Looking Glass picks off in 1875 with Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) manning a merchant ship. She loves being her own person, and exploring the world, but English norms of the time force her to give up ownership of the ship and take on a more lady-like job. At a soiree, Alice tries to convince her mother and the Lord buying her ship to change their minds. At the party however, she hears the familiar voice of Absolem (Alan Rickman) the butterfly she met in Wonderland. She follows Absolem into a magical mirror, through which she falls through to land back in Wonderland. There she finds things are different, especially with her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). The Hatter is plagued when something from his past resurfaces; his obsession with it is making him mortally sick. Alice therefore tasks herself with going back in time and changing the Hatter’s past.
The plot seems interesting enough, I mean who doesn’t like a good time-travel movie? But unfortunately the script is plagued with a preachy “Disney-lesson” tone and over expository dialogue. The film seems to be guided more by a desire to show off sets and CGI moments than an actual logical storyline. I think the main problem is that James Bobin was trying very hard to imitate Tim Burton’s style, while also trying to pull off a classical Disney movie. Bobin is used to making kids’ movies like the two Muppet films, so he is trying to meld different styles together that don’t necessarily mix amicably. This causes the film to blunder along losing intrigue from the audience with every passing minute.
The movie has managed to retain the impressive cast from the first film. Mia Wasikowska showed a promising start with the first film, but her career has been plagued with very flat characters, and her Alice in this film is too cheesy and preachy. The feminist aspect of her character is so forced; you could tell the writers were trying to imitate Frozen and Maleficent unique tones. Johnny Depp meanwhile seems once again like he fell in a tub of paint, and he’s playing around in character rather than taking the film seriously. You also have the likes of Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, and some notable voice work from Timothy Spall and Stephen Fry, among others. The problem with them all is that they seem lost, there is a lack of unity among them and this causes actors to go off on their own, making the film seem even more fragmented.
But thankfully money can buy us a bit of happiness here in the shape of the incredibly CGI, set designs, and costumes. CGI plays an extremely important role in the film as half the characters, landscapes, and of course the action are made out of it. The costumes are also bold and a joy to look at. But these technical wonders only help the film so much.
In the end the film’s technical experts can only lift the audience up so much. A wimpy script and a weak director abandon an impressive cast and give us a disappointing sequel.