Six years on from Tim Burton’s madcap reinvention of the Carroll children’s tales, Mia Wasikowska reprises her role as the enterprising and inquisitive no-longer-so-young lady in Alice Through The Looking Glass. It’s a feast for the eyes, awash with colour and adventure, and there’s a fair amount of humour and rumination on regret, truth-telling and loss in the script. However, as has been the case with many of the recent spate of Disney live-action, 3D endeavours the heart and soul which characterises their classics just isn’t present. With Muppets directed James Bobin at the helm this time around, Alice ploughs full steam ahead towards her future. Or is it the past?
Much derring-do is on show in a breathless opening sequence as the daredevil captain of The Wonder navigates the Straits of Malacca with aplomb, hanging from the rigging of her dearly departed father’s ship with gritted teeth. Alice certainly isn’t afraid to show the men under her command who wears the trousers. And the same applies when she returns to foggy London town, much to the relief of her mother (Lindsay Duncan). Left spurned by the intrepid explorer at the end of Alice in Wonderland, Hamish (Leo Bill) is now married and threatening to reclaim the Kingsleigh house from under them. Defiant in both dress and demeanour, Alice is the cat amongst the snooty, fuddy-duddy pigeons, resplendent in Oriental garb, determined to retain her ship and family home. Her pioneering feminist spirit lapses almost as soon as it has begun when Absolem, a blue butterfly voiced by Alan Rickman – his disembodied appearance a cruel reminder of loss and the passage of time – entices her through the titular mirror.
Finding her old pal the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in failing health and troubled by his long lost, and feared perished, Hightopp family, Alice sets off on a new quest through the time and space of Underland. With her seafaring nous put to good use, her vessel for navigating the multi-coloured topsy-turviness is a “chronosphere”, a hybrid of the Golden Snitch and Delorean, purloined from the figure of Time, a bumbling, comedic baddie played with real gusto by Sacha Baren Cohen. Time counsels Alice to learn from the past, not change it, but the headstrong do-gooder hurtles headlong into the seas of the past, seeking to stop the event that caused the evil Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) bulbous-head-causing accident, thereby preventing her vicious revenge on the Hightopps.
Bonham Carter’s delivery once again blends a mawkish whining, clipped zingers and a bloodcurdling chortle that is anything but funny and Depp’s lisping, doll-like Hatter, with his wacky mess of orange hair and ever-changing eye makeup lend him a rather pathetic fragility. His band of creatures great and small, and Anne Hathaway’s hopelessly vacuous White Queen, feel surplus to requirements as Alice Through The Looking Glass is at its middling best when Wasikowska is at the reins.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens