Director: James Bobin
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall
Written by: Linda Woolverton and (based on the books) Lewis Carroll
Running Time: 113 mins
Release date: 27th May 2016
It has taken six years for the sequel to the hugely successful commercially yet critically lukewarm Tim Burton vision of Alice In Wonderland to come to the screen. With Burton stepping aside (and taking on producer role) and handing over the reins to The Muppets director James Bobin, could this be a better film that the somewhat muddled and star-heavy first film? Well, yes there is an improvement but that star is still a burden around this film’s neck.
Alice Kingsleigh has grown up and is now a captain of her late father’s ship, although her ex-fiance wants her to sign away the vessel and work as a clerk in an office. While confronting the board, Alice finds herself entering Wonderland once more, this time through a mirror. Once there, she discovers that the Mad Hatter is ill and only she can make him better by finding out the truth of the Hatter’s family. Taking on Time, Alice has to use an important instrument that could lead her back beyond the Jabberwock where the Hatter last saw them.
As with Alice In Wonderland, Looking Glass is a hallucination of a movie, full of strange characters, brightly coloured sets and production values that will leave your head swimming. The effects, as before, are as inventive as they are garish. Bobin’s steps into Burton’s shoes neatly and allows the designers and computer wizards to have fun with the wonderful world that Alice is visiting.
The story, this time, is a little stronger too. Instead of just moving from one odd character to the next, Alice has more of a purpose. Stealing a device from Time, she finds herself sharing an origins tale of some of the key characters: how the Red Queen got her enormous head and how the Hatter became mad. These moments enhance the tale and you kind of wish there were more moments like this.
Where the film falls down is, once again, The Hatter himself. Now played with whimsy more than frantic energy, although luckily he doesn’t have such a stronghold over the film and less screen time, allowing Alice to flourish more and for lesser characters to have a bigger bite. The dialogue, sometimes, is a little “simplistic” and the general feel of the piece seems like it has been created by committee for a money-making franchise.
Mia Wasikowska, returning to the role of Alice, is given far more to do and develops the character nicely. No longer just a little girl lost, she is far more feisty, far tougher and has more bite to her than before. With the lack of Johnny Depp hogging the screen as the Hatter, Wasikowska has more room to breathe. Helena Bonham Carter still manages to steal every scene she is in as the Red Queen, while newcomer to the cast, Sacha Baron Cohen, has plenty of fun as Time, a darkly dressed walking clock with a Werner Hezog accent.
I enjoyed this much more than the previous film, although this is still far from perfect and is as far removed from the Disney creation from the 50’s. Still, it’s bright, less darker and occasionally amusing, even if it still manages to confound and confuse.