This post is the unedited copy of the review published in Mag the Weekly, on 18th of June 2016.
Alice Is Bonkers Again! – She’s Talking Women’s Lib and Time Travel
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
I underwent a mild shock (well, actually, more of a “hmm…how odd” expression) after watching Alice Through the Looking Glass, and going over to the popular movie review aggregator site Metacritic. The overall critic’s score of there is at a paltry 34% average. Far worse films have far better reviews.
The sequel, directed by James Bobin (The Muppets), is, according to yours truly, a marginally better motion picture. The previous part, directed by Tim Burton, was, of course, zanier; Bobin’s direction is less so, and the screenplay – particularly the story-beats – by returning scribe Linda Woolverton, is typical of typical 80’s/90’s children fantasy movies by Jim Henson (the guy responsible for Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, The Muppets and Sesame Street).
In Through the Looking Glass, Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now grown up as a ship’s captain, returns to her mother (Lindsay Duncan) in England, and finds the world pretty much its old antiquated female-subversive ways. The suitor she shunned in the last movie has her family home in mortgage and with his new malicious wife, is out to belittle Alice’s independent spirit. Bad for him, because despite Alice’s mother’s strangely orthodox mentality, and the Victorian society’s pressure, Alice is lured into Underland again, this time by Absolem, the former caterpillar turned butterfly voiced by the late Alan Rickman (the movie is dedicated to Mr. Rickman). Underland’s main denizens – The White Queen (the pale and whimsy Anne Hathaway), the Tweedle twins (Matt Lucas), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Bloodhound (Timothy Spall), March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) and Dormouse (Barbera Windsor) – are anxious about one of their owns health: the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has gone into depression because no one believes that his dead family may be alive.
Mr. Depp – sincere with a performance that’s at times all over the place – and his character’s story is but one fifth half of the tale; others include Alice’s liberation (thematically and figuratively), a story of sibling angst, a time travel tale, and lastly, one about stealing for the right reasons (actually, scratch the last part).
Alice moves through time, trying to change the present, after confiscating the Chronosphere – a device keeping time and space in their place – from a kooky Austrian-accented gentlemen named Time (a wonderful Sacha Baron Cohen). Havoc, needless to say, happens.
Wasikowska is far better here; like her character, she has matured into a screen-holding actress; Depp is fine, in parts, but mostly because the screenplay doesn’t let him explode with the usual Tim Burton-esque overabundance (or that we’re expecting him to, by default); Helena Bonham Carter as Iracebeth the Red Queen, is excellent (but then again, the former consort of Mr. Burton, a phenomenal genre-defying actress, has always been screen commandeering).
The special effects are quite extensive, as one would guess, and like most Disney fables go, this one ends at a pleasant note. Watch it, forget it, revisit it years later, and it won’t feel so bad – probably because you’ll have seen far worse.