In this sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) once again finds her life at a crossroad, escaping into the whimsical fantasy realm of Underland, only to find her return is not as joyous as she’d hoped. In order to save her dear friend, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Alice must take a journey through time in order to right past wrongs – but is the journey worth the risk?
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was an amusing children’s fantasy with a slightly dark twist. Even though Burton takes a back-seat Producer role for this sequel (handing the director’s chair over to recent Muppet film director, James Bobin), Alice Through the Looking Glass continues in much the same Danny-Elfman-scored vein, albeit absent Burton’s trademark swirls peppered throughout the visuals.
The greatest advantage of adapting Lewis Carroll’s famous novel is being given licence to illustrate utterly gorgeous landscapes and, in this area, Looking Glass does not disappoint – a gigantic clock fortress and a sweeping ocean of time are standout vistas. Other than that, the film maintains much of the colourful aesthetic of the first, so if you enjoyed that visual style you’ll feel right at home here.
Performance-wise, however, things aren’t quite as rosy. Much of the cast of the first return, but for the most part their roles are irrelevant cameos. As for the top billings, Helena Bonam Carter is still good shrieking demented fun as the Red Queen, Johnny Depp is a gentler, though still bipolar Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway is still quirkily charming as the White Queen, and Mia Wasikowska is still rather flat as Alice – as a straight character to offset the weirdness about her she’s serviceable, but at the same time I can’t help but wish there was something more charismatic about her to build the story around. I’m presuming she’s a blank character for younger members of the audience to insert themselves into, but this is still a little frustrating for everyone else. Newcomer Sacha Baron Cohen plays the Personification of Time, and pleasantly swings between menacingly antagonistic and sympathetic, but once again the most interesting thing about him is his visual design.
It’s a serviceable film that provides a colourful and accessible fantasy story, which is lighter in tone than the first. In contrast to Carroll’s original, rather Aesop-adverse story, themes and morals are laid out fairly explicitly, so anyone looking for complexity would best look elsewhere. For younger viewers and fans of the first film, it will probably provide more fun than disappointment.
Reviewed by Brendan Whittaker
Rating out of 10: 7
Alice Through The Looking Glass opens in cinemas on 26 May 2016.