Alice Through the Looking Glass picks up three years after the events in Alice in Wonderland. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent the last 3 years on the high seas, exploring the world in the same way her father did before her. She returns to London to find her mother in a financial bind, and her standing in society very much changed. Just when she is about to lose hope, she spots the blue butterfly Absolem (Alan Rickman) who leads her to a magical mirror back to Wonderland.
Back in the bright and colourful Wonderland, there is a problem. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, actually rather good here) is madder than usual, and his friends think Alice is the only one who can help. Alice discovers that the Hatter is distraught because he believes he has found evidence that his family are alive – until now it was believed they perished in an attach by the Queen of Hearts’ (Helen Bonham Carter) Jabberwocky. Alice doesn’t believe the Hatter, but wants to help her dear friend in any way she can.
With the help of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), they deduce the only way to save Hatter is to travel back in time and save his family from the Jabberwocky. Time travel is exceedingly dangerous, and the only way to do so is with the aid of the Chronosphere. This magical device in the hands of Time (Sasha Baron Cohen), who isn’t going to part with it lightly.
Alice Through the Looking Glass treads very familiar territory, with its central story one of using time travel to save a small number of people, despite the tremendous danger to the universe as a whole. We’ve seen this so many times, although in this film there are interesting elements introduced, namely the idea of Time being a person who monitors both an individual’s and the universe’s time. Time (played wonderfully in a very pantomime-type performance by Sasha Baron Cohen) is both a being and a clock, an otherworldly figure who keeps the universe’s clock ticking, and ensures that individuals move from the living to the dead when their time is up. His home (a dark, castle-like structure) is wonderfully realised, and filled with interesting things, including little creatures that he has built to help him keep the time. A fascinating idea, and one I would have preferred to spend more time with (haha, see what I did there?), rather than watching Alice find the Hatter’s family.
Also of some interest was the discovery of how the Queen of Hearts got her large head and cold heart. This was rather sweet, and I enjoyed watching Helena Bonham Carter here – showing both her usual crazy energy, and a softer, more vulnerable side. The same cannot be said of Anne Hathaway, who looked positively vexed throughout the film, even when her character was meant to be feeling something altogether different.
The largest problem with this film lies in its unwillingness to trust the audience to follow along. The screenplay constantly had characters explaining plot developments in great detail, or heavily foreshadowing what was to come. As a result, much of the dialogue feels heavy and laborious, and the actors don’t deliver it with much conviction. In addition to this issue, some of the acting is appalling, particularly from Leo Bill (Hamish, Alice’s former husband-to-be) who caused me to wince with every over-the-top word he uttered, and Andrew Scott (Dr Addison Bennett) who effectively plays Moriarty here.
The world created in this film is occasionally garish, but often playful. The film had a lot of fun with the concept of time, and sequences showing the characters actually sailing the oceans of time were very cleverly done. I saw this film in 3D, and the 3D was fine, if not forgettable. I can’t imagine you’d miss anything by seeing the film in the cheaper, more sight-friendly 2D format.
“You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it”, Time tells Alice. This and related truths about using time wisely are the messages we’re meant to take from this film – we know this because Alice nicely recites them again near the film’s end, just in case you missed them.
By Sam McCosh
Director: James Bobin
Writer(s): Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Lewis Carroll (books)
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Sasha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: May 26, 2016