Franchises are all the rage in Hollywood and with Harry Potter and the Marvel superheroes making a fortune Disney came up with Alice in Wonderland which made them over $1billion worldwide. Unfortunately for Disney the Alice franchise comprises of two books of which the second, Alice through the Looking Glass, is now before us.
With the previous film being directed by Tim Burton, who has now bowed out to produce, the reins have been handed over to James Bobin who headed up the rejuvenated Muppets films recently. Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice where we find her having captained a ship through the straights of Malaca in 1874. She returns to London to find a former beau, whose marriage proposal she rebuffed, now married and owning both the company and her ship and is keen to relegate her to being a desk clerk as well as buying her house which she and her mother live in. With a butterfly voiced by Alan Rickman in what was his last film to be released she follows him through a large mirror – it’s a trick our Editor tried once but rather than returning to Wonderland (or Underland as it is here) he returned once again to Accident & Emergency at the local hospital. Alice has more luck as she does find herself in Underland where she meets her friend, the mad hatter, once again played by an unrecognisable Johnny Depp who is mourning the loss of his family especially his father. Determined to salvage their friendship she is shown a way to go back in time to save his family and return the hatter to his former self.
Only a magical chronosphere will allow Alice to time travel, a device which is protected by Time itself, a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen who together with Helena Bonham Carter’s monstrous woman- child Iracebeth/Queen of Hearts, each with their own agenda, pursue her for the device. Inevitably it sets off a number of travelling episodes featuring many of the best known characters from Lewis Carroll’s book including the Jabberwocky which we doesn’t feature as much as you might like.
Alice in Wonderland is one of those books which are deemed to be classics but do you know anyone who ‘s actually sat down and read them? and most of our knowledge of the books comes from Disney’s animated film. The film of Through the Looking Glass is not really the book but is one of those ‘inspired by’ films probably due to the book’s plot being based around a game of chess with characters who don’t really drive the plot forward. It’s screenwriter Linda Woolverton who’s written the script for this and she has Disney pedigree with her previous work including the 2010 version of Alice In Wonderland but also ‘Maleficent’, ‘The Lion King’ , and the forthcoming live action version based on the animated ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
The plot about time travel may be too much to follow for young children and for those old enough to have seen ‘Back to the Future’ the first time around this substitutes the car for a small expanding clockwork ball. But ultimately this is all about the visuals and the production design which is stunning with state of the art CGI which makes the film’s title seem antiquated whilst ‘Alice through the Mirror’ is hardly any better. With nearly all the film being CGI it’s clearly kept the effects houses in business but there is something of the overkill akin to that of ‘The Phantom Menace’.
The 3 actors playing opposite Alice have enjoyed themselves plundering the dressing up box and playing with accents: Depp, once again, looks like the illicit liaison between a bug eyed chameleon and a bag of flour, Bonham Carter looks like she’s been a victim of a reverse Zika virus whilst channelling Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder and Cohen, who himself is no stranger to the dressing up box, has neon blue eyes which glow with menace and whose back of head is comprised of exposed clockwork. And each of them have decided on a speech impediment with Depp having a soft lisp, Carter’s inability to say the letter R and Cohen’s wobbly accent which could be French or German replacing the letter V for W. Other characters flit in and out with brief their voices fleetingly supplied by Stephen Fry, and Barbara Windsor who at 79 years old still speaks with her cheeky Carry On persona.
With Depp somewhat muted in a father fixated role its SBC and HBC who camp it up and the film does gain from their scenary chewing turns which keeps the film moving along and whilst the film is never dull it’s never truly great.
Here’s the trailer: