Friday, 13 May 2016

Alice Through The Looking Glass: Film Review

Alice Through The Looking Glass: Film Review

Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway
Director: James Bobin

If 2010's Alice In Wonderland was a mish-mash of concepts and colours, this sequel six years after the last is a drab dour psychological piece.

When Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to land after years away at sea, she finds that she has to head back to Wonderland to escape the confines of Victorian life. However, when she arrives there, she discovers her friend the Hatter (Depp) is no longer the man he used to be due to deep-rooted psychological issues.

When told by the White Queen (Hathaway) and her chums that she may be able to save things if she heads back in time. So setting out to steal the Chronosphere, guarded by time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), Alice heads off on a dangerous mission to change the past and future.

Essentially riffing on Back To The Future 2, and feeling like every time travel cliche you've seen, the FX laden fantasy Alice Through The Looking Glass is anything but a colourful blast back into Lewis Carroll's world, preferring more to be a Daddy issues film and a sibling rivalry exploration.

With Baron Cohen providing an extended riff on Werner Herzog / Christoph Waltz as Time (and his minions coming together like Transformers when it's needed), and Depp looking like a sullen faced Beetlejuice reject, the film has Tim Burton's breath all over it, even if the Muppets and Flight of The Conchords' James Bobin is directing it.

The themes of escape for Alice and of damage for The Hatter are perfectly fine, but give the whole thing a wash of deep darkness whose hues it's hard to escape. It's a psychologically oppressive piece that darts back and forth through time and is anchored by a relatively strong Wasikowska who has little to really work with.

Despite being told she could do six impossible things before breakfast, Alice this time around is slightly thwarted by a plot that's more about showcasing its effects and costumes than it is about delving into character. Consequently, characters like Hathaway's White Queen waft ethereally in and out without much depth or commanding much attention.

Depp's nicely muted and forlorn as the Hatter whose world is crumbling at the loss of his family, but really he looks like Edward Scissorhands in another get up, and his zaniness that zinged the first film is much missed here.

Moving away from the book's original story was perhaps a brave and bold move, but the fact the film hardly stays in one place for long enough as the protagonists zoom through time in gyroscopes does little to fully engage, despite period details and settings doing much to create an atmosphere that's almost stifled by the over-complicated yet somehow underwritten moments.

Even though the darker and dourer elements of this Alice, What's The Hatter piece are welcome, the film's whole lasting impression, despite the politics of Alice wanting more from her life than conforming or what society sets down for her (a commendable message to young girls), is one of missing Burton's original vision for - and his whimsical touches on - the cinematic Wonderland.

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