Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

After Alice in Wonderland in 2010, the long-awaited sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, has finally graced the big screen. This adaptation, however, may not be quite what fans of the Lewis Carroll novel were expecting.

Swapping directors from Tim Burton to James Bobin, Alice Through the Looking Glass reintroduces us to Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) as she takes on the role as a sea captain, still pursuing the impossible.

Returning from her journeys at sea, Alice comes home to London where she is soon faced with the harshness of reality. To escape this suppression, Alice climbs back into the magical lands of Underworld through a mirror. After reuniting with her old companions, she discovers that her formerly eccentric friend, the Mad Hatter, (Johnny Depp) is in a state of deep depression, left tormented by the loss of his family. On learning the sorrowful state of the Hatter, Alice decides to risk the dangers of time travel in an attempt to bring his family back to him.

Wonder in Wonderland?

With only the title and characters having any accuracy, Through the Looking Glass owes little to the 1871 tale. The film dumps the plot of the novel, and instead focuses on the use of time travel to explore the backstories of Carroll’s well-loved characters. We see a new side to the Red Queen (Helena Bonham-Carter) and for the first time, the audience is encouraged to feel sympathy towards her. We are also offered a glimpse into The Mad Hatter’s childhood through Alice’s time-traveling expedition.

Yet whilst time travel has its perks in providing character development, it may also be the film’s downfall.

By giving logical explanations to the character’s conditions which seem more scientific than magical, you can’t help but question whether this has taken the ‘wonder’ out of Wonderland.

Aesthetically pleasing

Visual style played a large part in the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. This is no different in the latest installment of Alice’s adventures. Through the Looking Glass can definitely take credit for being aesthetically pleasing; bright colours and extravagant costumers work well to capture the crazy mood of Underland. Visual appearance is an undoubted highlight of the film. 

Cast and characters

Yet, in terms of highlights, Through the Looking Glass, unfortunately, did not have much else to offer. One of the biggest disappointments was the lack of screen time given to favourite Carroll characters. Much-loved characters such as the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) are swept aside and their absence is greatly felt.

To add to the disappointment, the characters that were present in the film seemed to lack any genuine emotional feeling.

Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of the White Queen left her seeming disinterested and emotionally disconnected from the Hatter’s situation, whilst Mia Wasikowska failed to leave any lasting impression in her role as Alice. Considering the film is sprinkled with Hollywood stars, it is a real shame that none were truly able to shine through.

Final thoughts

Much like its predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass falls into the trap of being too dependent on its appearance, leaving the substance of the film to be compromised.

Using this same approach is harder to fall back on for the second time around, and even though it may look attractive, in reality the film just ends up being a body without a soul.

Have you seen the film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!