Sunday, 29 January 2017

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

"Curiouser and curiouser..."

Alice in Wonderland was a very Tim Burton film, and Tim Burton is a director with a very distinctive individual style. It's extremely odd, then, that this sequel should have gone ahead without being directed by him. It seems somewhat humiliating to ask a director (James Bobin is best known for the recent Muppets films) to adopt the style of someone else. The result is perfectly diverting but not entirely successful.

Like its predecessor, this film is entirely original, with only nods to the source material in scenes involving chessboards, Humpty Dumpty and the love me while essentially telling a tale about Alice travelling back in time to save the Mad shatter, who's feeling a bit down. It's a visually arresting film, as you'd expect, but it tends to drag somewhat. Johnny Depp's relative lack of screen time doesn't help, and nor does it help that in those scenes where he does appear the plot doesn't really allow him to be entertaining. Still, Mia Wasikowska is again superb as a splendidly feminist Alice, and the moral of the film is that women can indeed be sea captains, patriarchy be damned.

Highlights are Sacha Baron Cohen as Father Time, a rare example of his playing a character not created by himself, and Andrew Scott as a sinister Victorian doctor obsessed with locking women away because of "female hysteria", reminding us of the dark realities of the time. But best of all is Helena Bonham Carter as the gloriously mad Red Queen. Her eventual reconciliation with the White Queen may be absurd and corny, but it's supposed to be.

This film is uneven, mildly disappointing and nowhere as good as its predecessor. But in spite of this it remains a glorious visual spectacle with a splendid cast and is worth watching in spite of it all.

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