PG – 113mins – 2016 – 3D
THE MATTER WITH THE HATTER
First announced four years ago, The Muppets resurrector James Bobin inherited the directorial top hat from Tim Burton (who stayed on in the capacity of producer) for this slow-tracked sequel to Disney’s 2010 live action Lewis Carroll remake.
“You’ve been gone too long, Alice.”
In the years following Alice’s (Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska) slaying of the Jabberwocky and return to the sexist reality of 19th Century life, she has followed in her sea-fairing father’s footsteps as Captain of The Wonder. Upon debarking, Captain Kingsleigh is distraught to learn her father is dead and her spurned former fiancé, Hamish (Leo Bill), is now her boss, smarmily demanding she be demoted to clerk – no wonder our free-thinking heroine is desperate to escape once more to the dreamlike surrealism of Underland!
Stylistically in keeping with the colour-crowded, CG-heavy Alice in Wonderland, Looking Glass takes an “un-impossible” turn for the darker when the old gang of flamboyant friends tells Alice that the clown-faced Mad Hatter (Johnny Black Mass Depp) is dying of depression following the dim discovery that his estranged family of ginger hat-makers (headed by patriarch Rhys Ifans) have perished.
Desperate to put the colour back in his ghost-white cheeks, Alice tasks herself with entering the Grand Clock Tower and procuring the Chronosphere (think H.G. Well’s antique contraption mixed with General Grievous’ wheel bike) from Time (Grimsby’s Sacha Baron Cohen) himself, allowing her to journey back on the oceans of time to save the tragic Hightopp brood. But can you ever really change the past, or simply learn from it?
The grandiose time travel concept (Time is a he who has automaton Seconds for minions, who in times of need can club together into larger Minutes and giant Hours) is cleverly constructed, however no matter how poetic the plot or nifty the FX, I still don’t ever believe that the human actors are really anywhere but in front of a green screen – no matter how affected their accents or kooky their clothes.
Diverting from Carroll’s prose, Looking Glass successfully manages to pack more of an emotional wallop than its superficial predecessor thanks to an entangled backstory which reveals the reasons for the White (Anne Hathaway) and Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) sisterly squabbles – and the awkward medical justification for the latter’s inflated bonce. However, a lot of the surreal side characters feel like little more than frivolous window dressing in this “curiouser and curiouser” continuation which will put a Cheshire Cat-sized grin on the lips of those who loved Burton’s interpretation, but won’t convert any detractors.