Friday, 27 May 2016

Review: Alice Through The Looking Glass

As you know, I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  When Disney made the first of the new Alice films a couple of years ago I was delighted.  Until I saw it.  Then I was puzzled.  I could not understand why they would call the film Alice in Wonderland when it was not the book and more to the point I was worried people would think that was the story Carroll wrote rather than read the book itself.  Anyway, I got over myself and now am okay with it.  Well, sort of because I still don't understand Johnny Depp's random Scottish accent or the dance at the end. Anyway, when they announced they were making Alice Through the Looking Glass I was obviously curious...

So, today being the 27th May, we took ourselves off to the local multiplex and here is my review...

Alice Through the Looking Glass illustration by John Tenniel
Firstly, a summary - We join Alice as she is captaining a ship through rocky seas pursued by pirates. Back in London she returns home (in trousers and without a hat, but I'm coping with that in my own way) and her mother informs her that in her absence things have been going somewhat wrong. Time is moving on and things are not improving for the family but Alice is convinced that she, a trouser-clad female ships captain can only succeed in Victorian society. Hmmmm...

The Hatter, still a touch mad (and Scottish)
I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that it does not go well and Alice takes refuge in Wonderland once more, seeking out her old friends only to find that things are not going any better there.  Hatter is fading fast and the only thing that can save him is a reversal in time, but Time himself is not about to let some funny dressed girl mess about with his cogs.  Also, Alice is not the only one who wants to turn back time...

Is Time a Thief and a Friend to No-one?
Anyway, much high jinks and revelations ensue, including an explanation about the size of a certain person's head.  We race from past to present, from London to the seas of Time via an asylum, to discover what is true and what isn't.  Like the first film, the visual experience is astonishing, each part of Wonderland gloriously rendered and filled with characters, some new, some very familiar...

Off with their heads!
In order to enjoy Alice Through the Looking Glass you have to let go of any thought that it is related to the book.  Both of the new films are beautiful, funny, and exciting and are an intriguing use of the characters and the idea of Wonderland. The special effects are very special and everyone is acting their socks off.  Some bits are genuinely moving beyond what you would expect and you will leave happy.  However, the purist in me is sad that the point of the books is missed - Alice doesn't belong in Wonderland, she is constantly puzzled and contradicting everything and everyone.  It is not meant to make sense or make her feel at home.  I have always suspected Carroll was making a point about how he felt in the normal world, how he never felt he could fit in nor understand what everyone else considered 'normal life'.  It is absolutely Alice's feeling of utter bewilderment shared with us as the reader which is Carroll's way of showing us what his life is like.  Looking Glass has been interpreted as a very pointed attack by Carroll at being excluded from the society in Freshwater (Red Queen being Cameron, the White King being Tennyson etc) which I find deliciously true.  Carroll writes what it is like to be an outsider and it's a shame that isn't translated onto the screen.

Terrifying Chess!
In conclusion, if you liked the first one, you'll like this one and there is much to like.  Helena Bonham Carter once more proves why she is a national treasure and the bits in Victorian London are full of actors who will leave you saying 'Oh it's her/him...'  There are enough references to the original books to cheer you up if you are sad about the deviations and hopefully it will draw people to the original source material.  All in all a jolly couple of hours and an escape from all the politics which can only be a good thing.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is available nationwide from today.

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