Right off the bat, let me say that I liked Alice Through the Looking Glass. And not in a “so bad, it’s good” way like I did with other movies of the same nature (e.g. Pan and The Huntsman: Winter’s War). It’s not brilliant, but I legitimately enjoyed it as what it intended to be and what it is.
I extremely love Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (also known as Alice in Wonderland) and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, which this movie is very loosely based from. It’s the first novel that I’ve ever read (my copy has both books in it), and I credit it for jump-starting my lifelong love for reading and collecting novels. I’ve read it many times over. I also enjoyed watching many of its screen adaptations – from the classic Disney animated film to the 1999 Hallmark TV movie to the brilliant anime series Alice in Wonderland (or Fushigi no Kuni no Alice), which is an overlooked gem.
Heck, my favorite photo of my sister is that of the time she had to dress up as Alice in school. I simply can’t stress enough how I deeply love Alice in Wonderland.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is the sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland – a somewhat edgy reimagining of the Disney animated adaptation per Tim Burton’s vision. Though I personally liked the first movie, critical reception on it wasn’t enthusiastic, and the only reason it got a sequel is because it grossed a billion dollars in the box office at the cost of $200 million. Anyway, Alice Through the Looking Glass tells the return of Alice (Mia Wasikowska) to Underland (i.e. the name of Wonderland in this universe… stupidest thing about these movies), and finds the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) gradually dying of melancholy after remembering the loss of his family. Determined to save the Hatter by saving his family, Alice audaciously antagonizes Time himself (Sasha Baron Cohen) in order to change the past.
Alice Through the Looking Glass, as was its predecessor, is as mad and weird as you would expect from a Tim Burton feature. And that’s a good thing, actually. The essence of Alice in Wonderland is all about madness and peculiarity after all. “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice herself puts it. It’s imagination going insane. It’s what makes it distinctive and fantastic. It’s why I think it’s one of the greatest works of fantasy literature ever – something I even consider as better than A Song of Ice and Fire! And for these Burton-inspired Alice movies (he directed the first one but not this second one. Nevertheless, a lot of his tone and style are still observably retained on it) to up the ante of insanity and weirdness of its source material is simply in concurrence to the Alice in Wonderland tradition.
Now, I understand why it would turn off many critics. It’s very eccentric, and it’s not as if it’s flawless (it’s not) and thoroughly clever (it has stupid aspects, if one would choose to think about it). Still, me – a huge fan of everything Alice in Wonderland – not finding Alice Through the Looking Glass offensive at all but actually enjoyable… that has to count for something.
Visually, this is one of the better CGI-heavy films. It’s not as impeccably gorgeous as The Jungle Book’s visuals, but it’s amiable nonetheless. I have no problem with their oddball performances (though others will probably have a couple of negative things to say in this regard, especially on Depp), as I think they appropriately portrayed the necessary eccentricities that their characters needed to have. I also like the story. It’s simple and has some fairly hackneyed plot points and themes, but I don’t think it’s shallow and lacks inspiration. The storytelling is effective. It actually has some reflections – especially on regards to Time – which I felt were thoughtful.
For me, Alice Through the Looking Glass is legitimately delightful. It’s not as great as adapting the book straight on, but as an “adaptation with a twist”, it works quite well.