Alice Through The Looking Glass Review: A Madly Entertaining Visual Spectacle
Alice Through The Looking Glass is the sequel to the 2010 blockbuster hit directed by Tim Burton. This time around, Burton makes his way to the producer chair while James Bobin, the man behind The Muppets & Muppets Most Wanted, takes a shot directing a film based on the beloved book series by Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking Glass follows Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as she embarks on a quest to meet Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to save the Mad Hatter’s family. The plot is loosely based on the stories found in Carroll’s second Alice book entitled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Unlike a lot of critics, I was really looking forward to Alice Through The Looking Glass. I grew up reading the books written Lewis Carroll and was a big fan of the animated film. The 2010 live action remake wasn’t as amazing as I hoped for but I really don’t understand all the hate that the film gets. I don’t think the original is a masterpiece but it is definitely visually stunning and highly entertaining. Alice Through the Looking Glass is rare sequel that is on-par with the original. I think this sequel manages to achieve all the same visual amazement of the 2010 film while telling a story that possesses a lot of important underlying messages.
Themes about time and family are discussed throughout the film and really add a layer of heart of the story. What actually shocked me, however, was the film’s portrayal of female empowerment. This is a film about the Alice character. She is without a doubt the central character even though the storylines revolve around the Mad Hatter and Time. This film is all about Alice’s journey to prove her worth as a person. Alice must prove to those around her that she has what it takes even though most doubt her or think she is insane. Its refreshing that behind the amazing visuals and costumes there lies a message about proving your worth and believing in yourself. I think the scene in the mental hospital particularly really captured how strong and determined Alice really is.
As for Johnny Depp’s Hatter Tarrant Hightopp, I would argue that Through the Looking Glass is a better use of the character than the 2010 film. While I always liked Depp as the Mad Hatter, some of the elements such as that awful Hatter dance left a bad taste in my mouth. This time around, its like the Hatter has more depth to him. He isn’t just this silly character but rather one with a family and backstory. The improvement of the storyline with his character makes Depp really shine especially the scenes between him and Wasikowska. There is a level of emotion with this character that we just didn’t see in the last one. Maybe its because the first film is all about setting up and introducing the characters but we really get to see him go mad this time around. I think so many people wrote off this character as one of Depp’s “whacky roles” that they fail to see just how complex the character is outside of the silly exterior and makeup.
Another surprise within the film is the realization that Sacha Baron Cohen is actually quite good as Time. I have grown so tired of Cohen’s antics that I really feared for the worst with him being in the film but I am glad to say I was very wrong about that. Time is an interesting and dark character and a great fit to the film’s overall tone. Time steals many scenes that he is in and is used well as a character. Based on the trailers, Time is viewed to be one way but once you see the film, you will learn that he’s not who you thought he was going to be. I think Time’s scene with Mad Hatter is one of the funniest moments in the entire film and I loved the whole back and forth between them and the rest of the tea party guests.
Helena Bonham Carter is fine as The Red Queen. I am a big fan of Carter but she is just kind of very one-dimensional in this role. All she does is yell and plays the part which as I said is fine but nothing to make her role standout. I hate to say it but I think the moments between Carter and Hathaway’s Mirana come off as forced and don’t work. Its funny because Hathaway loves Carter as a person but they definitely lack the chemistry on-screen together. I think out of all the storylines this storyline is without a doubt the weakest element of the entire film.
In addition to the interaction between Carter and Hathaway, I really don’t like Anne Hathaway as Mirana. The character bugged me in the 2010 film and she’s even worse in this one. I just don’t find her very believable in this role. It is almost like she is trying too hard to come off as a good person and as a result her performance seems extremely forced. The worst part is that I really like Hathaway as an actress but sadly I think she’s a total miscast. It also needs to be said that the cute little clock servants of Time were really annoying and out of place. It felt as through someone read the script and said “hey, these scenes with Time seem to dark and need to be a bit more kid friendly.” As a result, they wrote in these silly cute characters that threw off the tone of the film every single scene that they were in.
Just like the first film, the costumes and visuals are simply stunning and I could see this film being nominated for Costume Design. I seriously would buy these costumes just to have them on display in my house. I think they are that incredible. Also, the imagery in certain scenes is just fantastic. The scene that really stands out is in Time’s lair which is so breathtakingly beautiful. I think Bobin did such a remarkable job capturing the visuals of Burton while making this film his own. I could really see a nice combination of all three people (Carroll, Burton, and Bobin) throughout the film in terms of the storyline and visual elements.
All in all, Alice Through The Looking Glass is a rare sequel that embraces and enhances the original. While not all the stories are as strong as they should be, the themes, the costumes, and the visuals really capture and spark the imagination. Depp, Wasikowska, and Cohen are great in their roles and it was sad but somewhat magical to hear Alan Rickman voice Absolem one last time. Through the Looking Glass is a nice change of pace from the new standard of Hollywood blockbuster loaded with superheroes and is a sequel worth your time.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Alice Through The Looking Glass is a 7 out of 10.