Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Sacha Cohen Baron, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Rhys Ifans, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry
Director: James Bobin
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland via a looking-glass mirror where she reunites with the White Queen, the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat. The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) sends Alice on a new quest, to bring his family, the Hightops, back from the dead. To do this, Alice needs to find Time (Sacha Cohen Baron) and use his chronosphere to travel to the past. However, Alice may have unleashed forces that threaten reality itself, and she must help her friends without damaging the universe.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was an update of Lewis Carroll’s classic for the Hollywood blockbuster generation: it had battles, swordfights, a grown-up Alice as an action heroine. The competing visions of Carroll, Disney and Burton resulted in a confused film that was weird in turns, sentimental in other moments and violent at the finish. The sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass is more evenly toned, fun, and I daresay, far truer to the spirit of the original Lewis Carroll stories.
The movie’s loose plot covers the usual time travel shenanigans — don’t change the past but if you did it was because you were meant to do it — but the specifics of the plot do not overwhelm the characters and their interactions. The first section in particular has a series of vignettes conducted in dialogue similar to Carroll’s prose, such as Alice meeting Hatter in the past, and an exchange of puns relating to the confusion of tenses.
Later the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, back from the first film) makes use of the word “slurvish”, a rather obscure neologism from the books. Of course most of the plot is invented and the present-day frame story dealing with women’s liberation and maltreatment is largely uninspired (though it does have a creepy and hilarious cameo by Andrew Scott, Moriarty from Sherlock). The wonderland sections have parts, those dealing with Mad Hatter’s family, that are rather sentimental. Yet it’s a credit to the film that makes it feel Carrollesque are its original creations.
This is the realm of Time, led by an Oz-like master catered by henchmen called Seconds, who can convert into stronger robots called Minutes, and later convert into giant robots called Hours. These word-picture concepts are fun and mischievous. The time realm’s industrial factory look and clockwork mechanisms is a sharp contrast to the fairyland design of wonderland, but it’s a credit to the film that it treats this intrusion of modernity as no less worthy of magic and wonder.
Sacha Cohen Baron plays a character reminiscent of his role in Hugo, a character who seems villainous and apparently in a relationship with Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, yet he has shades of gray and becomes likeable. Mia Wasikowska and Sacha Baron Cohen are standouts, while Carter and Hathaway are funny. Johnny Depp is a little wasted while the late Alan Rickman turns in a brief early cameo in a role that was perhaps diminished as a result of his death.
What is truly interesting about this film is that it generates conflict without having a real villain. It has a generosity of spirit to its characters that is quite rare in today’s run of epic hero-versus-villain showdowns. It’s a genuine family movie, enjoyable to kids and adults both, with only small weaknesses. It’s amazing special effects, good dialogue and genuine spirit of fun and adventure make it a film worth seeing....