Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass
Let’s face it, films such as Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland are not for curmudgeonly critics. The film earned a whopping 300 million dollars at the North American box office in spite of critics almost universally panning it. And that’s fine. It is the rare film that both general audiences and critics agree on. It is inevitable that critics will deride Alice Through the Looking Glass (the Tim Burton-less Alice in Wonderland sequel) just as it is inevitable that audiences will flock to it in droves, as they should. The film is a visual treat, from Colleen Atwood’s intricate colorful costumes to the opulently imaginative production design by Dan Hennah, and featuring yet another luminous performance by lead actress Mia Wasikowska.
Like Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass veers dramatically away from the source material by Lewis Carroll, swapping out its narrative for a powerfully feminist one with a core lesson about embracing your true self and learning from your past. Carroll fans, you’ve been warned.
Following a daring trading mission on her father’s ship The Wonder, Alice (Wasikowska) returns home to London to uncover that Hamish (Leo Bill), whose garish marriage proposal led to her escape to Underland in the first film, holds the deeds to her Mother (the legendary Lindsay Duncan)’s home but is willing to abdicate it in favor of The Wonder. Horrified that she’d have to relinquish The Wonder (get it?!), Alice willingly follows butterfly Absolem (Alan Rickman in his final voice role) through the looking glass to Underland. She arrives at the Mad Hatter’s tea party only to be woefully informed that the Hatter (Johnny Depp) has fallen very ill and needs her urgent help to recover. It seems that he is stubbornly convinced that his family (previously believed to have been slaughtered by the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky in the events of the first film) are alive and well. When Alice refuses to believe him, he slams his door in her face, thus propelling the crux of the narrative forward. Alice must locate Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), and, in particular, his chronoscope, a time-travelling vehicle that she must use to locate the Hatter’s family. Along the way she also discovers other members of the cast of Les Miserables (returning cast members Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen) and tries to alter their tumultuous familial history as well.
Though screenwriter Linda Woolverton borrows heavily from a range of texts (The Time Machine, Peter Pan, and Thief of Time, just to name a few), viewers will be too engrossed in the many other wonders of the film to even notice.