Sometimes a movie sequel comes much demanded, other times they’re unexpected but welcome and then (increasingly often) there are those sequels very few ask for/want. We speak of films like Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Son Of The Mask, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, all exist but few can really say why. However there is no need to wonder why this unasked for follow up to Tim Burton’s surprisingly sized hit 2010 adaptation Alice in Wonderland exists, as Disney were clearly hoping for more box office wonder. How you take to James Bobin’s (The Muppets) Through The Looking Glass will depend on how you took to the first and to what extent, for if you loved it, then you’ll love this, contrariwise if you loathed it, this return to wond…er…underland, will not alter your perceptions.
Based, like the first film, on the writings of Lewis Carroll (very, very, very, loosely), this film catches up with Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) as she returns from captaining her father’s ship in a voyage across the world. However as she arrives home, her family’s estate is in question but before she can come to grips with that, the blue butterfly Absolem (the late great Alan Rickman- in his final film role) draws her to a magic mirror that leads straight back to Underland, where she finds that all her friends are worried about the health of The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who is plagued and maddened (well maddened more) by thoughts that his family may still be alive. To find out whether he is delusional or not, Alice visits Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) in hopes of retrieving a device- the chronosphere- that will allow her to travel back to the past and uncover many secrets behind Underland and its inhabitants.
In a move reflective (see what we did there) of Terminator Genisys, Alice Through The Looking Glass comes off the back of bad reviews and is overwritten to justify existing but that said, we cannot say it does not offer up a fun ride. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay may fall into some of the same rabbit holes as last time but exudes a lot of charm and affection for these iconic literary characters. Showered in CGI, in fact ridiculously so in the final stretch, Underland remains a visually interesting backdrop, with Coleen Atwood’s costumes proving equally dazzling, and while some retconning time travel plot devices may wind up (tee hee) older viewers, kids will likely enjoy this batty pretty journey. Filled with puns (see one genuinely funny tea time scene) and some emotional depth, Bobin’s film may at times loose the plot but at least tries to develop one and succeeds more than it fails at doing so.
The characters themselves remain eclectic and rather faithful in spirit to Carroll’s deranged on-page cast, with the big name actors clearly having fun being silly. Wasikowska is more assertive and even stronger as Alice this time, offering a very positive role model as the film’s leading hero, while Johnny Depp’s Madonna/Carrot Top/Elijah Wood lovechild Hatter is arguably better used than last time. However Cohen steals many moments as the Herzogian voiced steampunk inspired Father Time, accompanied by his clockwork servant Wilkins (voiced by Toby Jones), who reminds a little of Tik Tok from Walter Murch’s infamously dark and disturbing cult classic Return to Oz (those darn Wheelers). While the glorious cast list of the last film also remains intact, with Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, Helena Bonham Carter, Barbara Windsor, Alan Rickman, et al. all back for another bite of the Upelkuchens.
Bobins’ film is no masterwork and is messy at times in marrying action and fantasy but for its faults, this second trip to Underland succeeds in creating a pretty entertaining time-based story that captures the all over the place eccentricity of Carroll, even if it is in no way an adaptation of the 1871 book (mind you the first film kind of adapted Looking Glass in part anyway). Alice Through The Looking Glass is a visually driven family fantasy that offers a lot of flawed fun, and major points for the credits’ classy tribute to Alan Rickman, a loss to cinema that still hurts very strongly.
Special Features: Featurettes, Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: JAMES BOBIN / SCREENPLAY: LINDA WOOLVERTON / STARRING: MIA WASIKOWSKA, JOHNNY DEPP, SACHA BARON COHEN, HELENA BONHAM CARTER / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 3RD