2016-05-27

Alice Through the Looking Glass

by Yo Snyder

The Mad Hatter isn’t so much mad as he is sad in the long-delayed Wonderland sequel, Through the Looking Glass. Alice returns to Wonderland to find a Hatter who is slowly dying because he misses his family, or something. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite clear what the deal was with Mad Hatter, but it was clear it had something to do with his family and it would require time travel to fix it. This is one of those movies where the why of things happening isn’t quite as important as the what (which probably suits the topsy turvy world of Wonderland quite splendidly). What happens in Through the Looking Glass is a colorful adventure full of wacky characters and all sorts of lesson learning, time travelling shenanigans. As sequels go, it’s certainly not one that ever makes a strong case for the necessity of its existence, but also isn’t one that fails to live up to the film that preceded. If anything, I found this more enjoyable as it embraced more wonder and adventure and less twisted darkness of the original.

However, I must confess that I have grown tired of the current trend of rewriting the 628-alicethroughthelookingglass-disneybad guy as merely a misunderstood, sympathetic figure. This time it’s the Queen of Hearts who’s given a backstory to help us understand that she really isn’t evil; she just had a hard childhood. We shouldn’t think of her as a villain, but rather a victim. The problem is that Helen Bonham Carter plays the part so wonderfully that it’s a shame she’s gone from full on, carefree villain to guilt-wracked, just wants to loved and understood anti-hero. Of course, at the same time Anne Hathaway’s Mirana, despite wearing all white, can’t be a hero who is just good. No, she has to have flaws, and she has to brought down into more of a complicated gray area of morality where good and bad are all very relative depending on the circumstance. So once again, Disney tells us that villains really aren’t all bad, and heroes really aren’t all good. Good and evil isn’t nearly so black and white, and if anything, such concepts probably don’t even really exist to begin with, once you have all the backstory facts.

Meanwhile, Alice has stolen an important gizmo from Time, and is using it to travel back to various periods in Wonderland’s past in order to discover what happened to Mad Hatter’s family so he can get better. Truth be told, I found her kind of hard to root for seeing as she was basically killing one character to save another. Still, her adventure is a fun one, made all the more so by Sacha Carter’s delightful portrayal of Time. Indeed, one of the bet scenes is when Time, travelling back to try and stop Alice from wrecking…everything, really….travels back to have tea with a not-so-depressed Mad Hatter. Unfortunately, the fun of that scene keeps getting interrupted with cuts to Alice’s ongoing misadventures, which feels like a misstep as it would have been better to let the Time/Mad Hatter scene continue uninterrupted. It interjected the film with some much needed wacky zest, but never got a chance to build momentum with all the quick cuts to other characters.

Compared to the previous Alice movie, this time out improves upon its predecessor by including less of the twisted, dark tinge of the previous movie. While it’s still strange, and often a bit weird, this film overall felt brighter and more fun (despite the depressed Mad Hatter). Part of that may be due to the fact that Tim Burton merely produced and didn’t direct the sequel.

Aside from the fact that the first film was able to cross the billion dollar mark when it was released back in 2010, there’s very little reason that a sequel needed to be made so many years later. Still, despite the long delay, lack of necessity, and losing its director, Through the Looking Glass manages to match, if not exceed, the bar set by the previous film (which, depending on who you ask, may or may not be a very high mark). It’s an energetic, vibrant, and colorful adventure that has some very fun moments. Does it improve in any way on the previous film? Not really. Does it really add anything to story or the characters? Not much. But, for anyone who’s looking for a colorful, adventurous distraction, you could do much worse than going Through the Looking Glass.

Score: 4 of 7 – Through the Looking Glass isn’t quite as dark as its predecessor, which should make it more enjoyable for the entire family. However, it does bring up some concerning views about moral absolutes and the nature of good and evil that should spark some worthwhile discussion.