It seems inevitable that if a large studio makes a film that’s even remotely of interest, they will have a sequel in the works before the premiere’s red carpet has been rolled up and stored away. If the author of the film’s original source material wrote one themselves, then half the work is done and a translation to the big screen is a cert as soon as they can get its production worked into the proposed star’s busy schedules. Which seems to have been the case with Disney’s new CGI family fantasy Alice Through the Looking Glass. This follow-on of sorts to their so-so 2010 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – directed this time by English director and all-round Disney favourite James Bobin – is fun if the viewer is willing to switch off from the real world for a couple of hours and just go with the flow.
Years have passed since Alice (Mia Wasikowska) first visited Wonderland, and made friends (and enemies) with the array of weird characters who lived there. But there is trouble again in the kingdom ruled by the waring sisters Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and Mirana (Anne Hathaway), with Alice’s old companion the Hatter (Johnny Depp) at its centre. So once more Alice is drawn into a magical world (this time by way of stepping though a mirror) where she must go back in time and change history before the future is destroyed forever.
Everything about this film is mad, from its scale and onscreen look to the storyline which zips by at a breakneck pace, hardly allowing the cast or viewer to catch their breath during its 113 minute running time. Those concerned that not having Tim Burton as director might damage the sense of craziness he brought to Alice in Wonderland, needn’t worry. Bobin’s interpretation of the world on the other side of the looking glass is as mad as anything Burton could have dreamt up, and perfectly in keeping with the weirdness of Carroll’s creations: the presence of Burton is still felt as he remains a producer this time round. Besides this the whole thing has a continuity with the earlier film by having many of the original cast members return – from Wasikowska, Depp, Hathaway and Bonham Carter to Dame Barbara Windsor herself as the voice of the dormouse.
An estimated $170,000,000 was spent on the production, every dollar of which shows in a magical – and sometimes dark – visualisation on-screen. The strange destinations in which Alice finds herself – on both sides of the looking glass – and the characters she meets there appear rich in every sense. Though the running time of almost two hours occasionally feels stretched – a brief sojourn midway through from the magical land to our world and back again feels unnecessary – the film’s visual and mental richness absorbs you helping hold your attention for the majority of the time.
If you’re a Carroll purist then you will likely find plenty of opportunity to pull holes in what amounts to a ‘loose’ adaptation of his book: as with many big screen adaptations of famous works for children, screenwriter Linda Wolverton has borrowed characters and occasional situations from the book and worked them into her own fantastical story, which is different yet no less bizarre than Carroll’s original. If, on the other hand, you have no fore-knowledge of the 1871 novel ‘Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There’, or are happy to ignore the literary liberties taken by the filmmakers, then you will no doubt find Alice Through the Looking Glass a bit of throw-away fun which is all it, or the book, were clearly intended to be anyway.
Director: James Bobin
Writer: Linda Wolverton (screenwriter), Lewis Carroll (novel)
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Barbara Windsor
Runtime: 113 minutes