Alice through the Looking Glass (2016)

alicethroughthelookingglass_2016_poster
  • Time: 113 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Family | Fantasy
  • Director: James Bobin
  • Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman

Storyline:

Alice returns to the magical world of Underland, only to find the Hatter in a horrible state. With the help of her friends, Alice must travel through time to save the Mad Hatter and Underland’s fate from the evil clutches of the Red Queen and a clock like creature, known as Time.

3 reviews

  • “You can’t just make things how you want them to be,” one character remarks in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel which refuses to resemble anything but an inevitable effort to capitalise on Tim Burton’s surprisingly profitable Alice in Wonderland. Burton serves as producer here, handing over the directorial reins to James Bobin, himself no stranger to creatures great and small having directed The Muppets and The Muppets Most Wanted. The contractually obligated cast is once again bewigged, be-painted, and plunked amidst a phantasmagoric CGI landscape, but oh to turn back time and prevent this movie from ever happening!

    The film begins on the stormy seas, where Alice (Mia Wasikowska) captains her father’s ship into safety with her bravery and her belief that “the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible.” Once back ashore, she learns that her former fiancee Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) has taken over his father’s company and has made a deal with Alice’s mother (Lindsay Duncan) for Alice to sell her father’s vessel in exchange for keeping their family home. Alice, intent on keeping her father’s memory alive and adamant on embarking on further adventures, is furious with her mother for brokering the deal. Her fury immediately dissipates into curiosity when, during a party held on Hamish’s family estate, she spots the blue butterfly Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman, to whom this travesty is dedicated), and follows him through a looking glass which deposits her back in Wonderland.

    She’s delighted to see all her friends – the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), the Tweedles (Matt Lucas), Bayard (voiced by Timothy Spall), Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor), and the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry) – but they’re concerned about the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who believes his missing family is still alive and is literally dying of the lingering regret concerning his fractured relationship with his father (Rhys Ifans). In order to save him, Alice must steal the Chronospere, a magical orb that allows its user to travel back in time. However, Alice must deal with Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), an intermittently German-accented grim reaper surrounded by mechanical minions and enamoured with the Red Queen (the ever-fabulous Helena Bonham Carter), who means to have the Chronosphere herself in order to rule the past, present and future.

    The concept of Time itself is an intriguing one – how one can never really change the past and how one can never truly escape time – but it is trapped in a movie suffocatingly lacquered with flatness. With the exception of Bonham Carter and – to a small degree – Cohen, all of the actors go through their paces and do their best to resemble something sentient. The film is essentially Alice playing tour guide to various characters’ origin stories, but the tales spark no interest and the sisterly feud between the White and Red Queens is straight out of the same playbook that the Broadway musical Wicked, Oz the Great and Powerful, and the recent The Huntsman: Winter’s War plundered. One can’t really fault the technical team, all of whom contribute solid work. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are as lavish as ever, Dan Hennah’s production design is psychedelically exuberant – both are well-showcased by Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography. Yet nothing coalesces into anything remotely transportive, enchanting or meaningful.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Too many liberties are taken in this sequel which is visually impressive but emotionally inert.
     
    GRADE: B-

    SYNOPSIS: Alice returns to Wonderland which is curiouser and curiouser, to say the least.

    Alice Through the Looking Glass adds more than a mere word in its title and takes very little inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s successful sequel of Alice in Wonderland. It fabricates new characters and a screwy plot to the classic tale with decidedly mixed results. This sequel of a sequel may still have many creative flourishes in its luscious production design, as did Tim Burton’s 2010 cinematic take on that novel, but this movie quickly fades from memory, just like a Cheshire Cat’s smile, despite its state-of-the arts wizardry.

    Here, or there, Alice (a pale Mia Wasikowski, both in appearance and performance) returns to Wonderland. Years have passed since our last outing with this girl and our little Alice is all grown up. Now, an independent seafaring woman-empowered captain of her own ship, she eagerly sets sail for adventure and will later meet some old friends including the eccentric Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, again at his hammy best), The White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) and Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), The White Queen (Anne Hathaway, paler yet), The Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), The Blue Caterpillar (voiced by the late Alan Rickman), and The Red Queen (Helen Bonham Carter, scene stealer once again).

    On her journey through the other side of the mirror, now known as Underland, Alice is asked to save the Mad Hatter who is quickly losing what is left of his sanity and is in dire straits. Our feminist heroine, who is constantly upstaged by the strange denizens she encounters, does indeed meet many new characters. Some are from the Carroll novel like Tweedledum, Tweedledee, and Humpty Dumpty; others are brought into this convoluted storyline such as The King of Underland (Richard Armitage), Bayard the Bloodhound (voiced by Timothy Spall) and Time (a miscast Sacha Baron Cohen, playing another buffoon and outfitted in steam-punk attire while sporting a German accent, which comes and goes like time itself.) This new assortment of uninspired crazies do little to enthrall.

    Purists, beware! In this theatrical re-telling, there are no tales told of the Jabberwock (a mere mention), no Lion or Unicorn, nor any Walrus and Carpenter. The chess match theme is gone as well. Alas, this version literally has no poetry or insight. Humpty does have a big fall that is nano-seconds in length. However, the biggest tumble comes from the maddening inept screenplay by Linda Woolverton which lacks clarity, whimsy, and charm. Nothing could get this mess back together again. Ms. Woolverton tries to give some characters a needless back story to explain the characters’ motivations and actions and fails miserably. Her script becomes curiouser and curiouser, especially when just adhering to Carroll’s original storyline would have been a wiser and wiser notion. (She does share the blame on this decision with the director and producers as well.)

    In this heavy-handed fantasy, our grown-up Alice’s mission is solely to help The Hatter by capturing a sci-fi inspired object called the Chronosphere, which is coveted by Time and The Red Queen. The film is just a series of misadventures (including the script) that are strung together with the thinnest of narrative threads. The whole enterprise would seem as if it were much ado about nothing, were it not redeemed its dazzling CGI visuals and superb production values.

    The look of the film is pure Burton, without its imaginative director. (Mr. Burton did serve as one of the film’s producers and his mark is all over this venture.) Helming the direction this time is James Bobin who imitates the master’s surreal images quite well. He keeps the action flowing and steeps his film with vivid colors and fancy visuals. The film is never boring, but it is never endearing either.

    However, it is the artisans behind the scenes that accomplish the film’s true sense of wonder. Kudos to the ever-present costume genius Colleen Atwood, a clever score from the prolific Danny Elfman, Stuart Dryburgh’s richly hued cinematography, the eye-popping production design by Dan Hennah, plus the hundreds of artists creating the wonderful make-up designs and stunning visual effects. Technically, the film is a cinematic marvel.

    But with Alice Through the Looking Glass, there isn’t much here to feed the mind, just the head. With its bountiful visual feast. I, for one, can bask and admire the eye-popping splendor for quite a long while until my palette is in need of tastier morsels of wit and substance. Still, if style and flash is your cup of tea, drink it all in! There’s enough here to pass for entertainment.

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  • “I do not know who you are. You’re not my Alice. My Alice believes in me.”

    I’ve never been a fan of the “Alice in Wonderland” fairy tale. It’s a rather bizarre story that took shape in the inventive mind of Lewis Carroll. Not that it lacked imagination, but I had the impression that the wizardry with literary tricks got the most attention. A story richly filled with roguish puns. When I started watching this movie, there was one thing in my disadvantage. My total ignorance about the character Alice. I didn’t even bother to watch the previous movie “Alice in Wonderland” from 2010. So that makes that a character like Hatter (Johnny Depp) a complete stranger to me.

    The opening scene of the film actually is a reflection of the rest. A highly professional imaged pursuit at sea, with Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) skillfully maneuvering her boat over a reef while using a seemingly improbable sail trick. Why those Malaysian pirates were chasing her, was completely unclear to me and nowhere explained afterwards. And that’s also the overall image I have about this movie. Superbly imaged, but so unclear and very confusing. Of course my lack of knowledge about Alice is a leading factor. But the way Underland (where Alice returns by stepping through a magical mirror) is designed, is truly phenomenal. The beautiful colors splash right off the screen. A surreal world full of wondrous things and enchanting characters. It reminded me a bit of “Oz the Great and Powerful” where you also could admire a multicolored wonderland.

    And not only the imaginative scenery are stunning. Also the wonderful characters look unreal and mega-fantastic at the same time. Alice sees her old friends again after a long time. And it’s a colorful group of fantasy figures. Absolem, Thackery and Cheshire Cat are wonderful, brisk animations. Tweedle dee and dumb (Matt Lucas) look witty, yet scary in a way. Mirana, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) is rather …well … colorless. Iracebeth, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) is not only an annoying character, but also an interesting and at time sometimes madcap character. And in between whirls Alice. She isn’t surprised about this miraculous world, since it is not the first time she ends up there. And obviously you’ll meet Hatter Tarrant Hightopp, a crazy and carnivalesque hatter, whose health rapidly deteriorates. The only remedy is to find back his family. But seemingly, this isn’t so obvious. Apparently they’ve died in the past. The only way to succeed, is to travel back in time. And that ‘s exactly what Alice is going to ask Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). How can she go back in time and prevent Hatter’s family of being killed? And that’s when the majestic part of Cohen (aka Borat) begins. He’s the personification of time. And he plays it in a sublime and magnificent way.

    Visually, the film is just phenomenally beautiful. Content wise it’s terribly chaotic. At certain moments I really couldn’t keep up with the story. It really felt as if they tried to cram lots of facts, characters and story lines in one film. And those time travels weren’t making it simple either. Even the eccentric Depp couldn’t convince me. The whole story revolves around him in a way. As a result he’s in the picture lots of times. To be honest, his character started to irritate me a bit after a while. I’d rather would have seen those other characters in action a bit more often. Like Time for instance. Unprecedented the best part in this Alice in Wonderland chapter. A pedant, despotic figure who isn’t afraid to put you in an endless time loop. Assisted by his submissive employees (called minions) he controls time in this wonderland. And he carries out this painstaking work, while residing in his impressive “Palace of Time”. A visually striking building and imaginative creation. But eventually I came to the same conclusion. Alice in Wonderland is not “my cup of tea.”

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