Alice Through the Looking Glass

 

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A free-wheeling sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 film Alice in Wonderland.

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Time will out

 

Tim Burton may have yielded the direction to the competent James Bobin, but he is still one of the producers here and this new release by retaining so many of the actors from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland declares itself every inch a companion piece. I had wondered if I would be disadvantaged by being one of those who had read Lewis Carroll’s original Alice but not its sequel, yet in the event that proves largely irrelevant. Despite its title, the new film is not described as being an adaptation of Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass but merely as a work based on characters created by him. Linda Woolverton, retained as writer, here appears to take a very free hand, and nowhere more so than in the pre-credit sequence which introduces Alice as a sea captain in charge of her late father’s ship in the Straits of Malacca in 1874. If Woolverton’s Alice in Wonderland added elements comparable to the Narnia adaptations of the day, this looks like a 2016 slant on the desirability of playing up feminist issues.

Being female, Alice on returning to London is demoted from captain to a job as a mere clerk, but instead escapes through a looking glass back into the fantasy world of the Mad Hatter. She soon becomes involved in a journey back through time to prevent the Hatter’s parents from dying as though she were on a mission not that dissimilar from the one undertaken in Back to the Future. After encounters with Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), she has to save the world from the consequences of a feud between two royal sisters (Helena Bonham Carter and a rather wasted Anne Hathaway). As an extra that will appeal to American audiences there’s a father and son reconciliation between Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter and his dad (an older looking Rhys Ifans!).

As one might expect from this plot description, the film, blending live action, animated figures voiced by a starry cast and loads of special effects, is something of a mish-mash. Semi-comic and semi-serious, it’s an odd mix in all sorts of ways, but it keeps up a good pace and has two things going for it in a big way. One is the splendidly committed performance of that fine actress Mia Wasikowska. Reprising her role as Alice six years on, it is strange to hear her referred to as a girl, but after seeing her experiences at sea one can adjust to that and she is undoubtedly the heart of the film. The other thing is the quality of the special effects, especially at the climax when destruction of the world seems not just to threaten but to occur. This is powerful stuff in a film that, relying even more than its predecessor on its visual qualities, could more aptly be thought of as Alice Through the 3D Glasses.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Matt Lucas, Rhys Ifans, Lindsay Duncan, Leo Bill, Andrew Scott, Ed Speleers, Geraldine James and with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, Barbara Windsor and Meera Syal.

 

Dir James Bobin, Pro Tim Burton, Joe Roth and Jennifer and Suzanne Todd, Screenplay Linda Woolverton, based on characters created by Lewis Carroll, Ph Stuart Dryburgh, Pro Des Dan Hennah, Ed Andrew Weisblum, Music Danny Elfman, Costumes Colleen Atwood.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Roth Films/Team Todd/Tim Burton Productions/Legend3D-Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
113 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 27 May 2016. Cert. PG.