Film Review: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Alice Through The Looking Glass

Alice Through The Looking Glass is a visually mesmerising film. James Bobin’s film lacks the fizz of Lewis Carroll’s original novel, but is entertaining nevertheless.

After adventures at sea, Alice makes an unexpected return to Wonderland. One of her treasured friends is in danger, Alice must acquire a device from the Lord of Time in order to put things right…

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton takes a different tact from Carroll’s novel with this sequel. Ardent fans of the book may not be pleased with this, but a traditional adaptation may not have worked well in feature-film format. Alice Through The Looking Glass functions well to provide a sense of adventure and peril.

Where the film falters is with its tone. Director James Bobin’s film misses the zaniness of the books, and indeed the first film. In its place, Alice Through The Looking Glass focuses on a more emotional idea. If this was another narrative, this would not necessarily have been an issue. For the Alice in Wonderland sphere however, this misses the absurdity of the source material which is so appealing. Less sentimentality and more off-beat action would have made the film more satisfying.

The new character of Lord of Time is a welcome addition to Alice Through The Looking Glass. Elsewhere, characters remain much the same as the first film. The Alice that returns to Wonderland is a much more mature and aware protagonist. This works well given the plot; there is less a sense of awe and more determination to complete her mission.

Sasha Baron Cohen delivers a jovial performance as Lord of Time. Mia Wasikowska reprises her role well, whilst Johnny Depp does his usual over the top schtick. Art direction in the film is fantastic.

Whilst the visuals certainly meet expectations, Alice Through The Looking Glass would have benefitted from more zaniness and less sentimentality. Notwithstanding, the film is perfectly enjoyable for those looking for adventure.

Film Review: Maleficent

MALEFICENT

Disney’s Maleficent is a rich fairy tale which should prove beguiling to viewers.

A young fairy grows up in a peaceful forest which neighbours a human kingdom. As Maleficent grows up, a betrayal sets in motion a series of events which has consequences for both worlds…

Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut is an aural and visual fantasy feast. The director’s visual effects background is clear from the outset. Notwithstanding, the story is also strong; functioning as a compelling retelling of a well-known tale.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s narrative works to both provide back story to the Sleeping Beauty tale, and to subvert it to make its antagonist more rounded. More than a one-sided villain, Maleficent is given shades to make her character more compelling in this version. Perhaps it says something that she is most enthralling when she is bad, nevertheless the portrayal is satisfying overall.

The influence of recent Disney films is present in Maleficent. This is by no means a bad thing; but simply means that the film may have a twist that some viewers will predict. Nevertheless, the depiction here is a healthy one, that few will find fault with.

Like Woolverton’s work in Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent is a darker fairy tale that still remains accessible for family audiences. The small elements of humour work well to bring lightness. The film would be less family friendly without these moments.

The art direction and costuming plays a substantial role in Maleficent. The effects are also superb, and the cinematography makes the most of its striking subjects. There is some marvellous silhouetting, and camera work in transporting viewers through the fantasy landscape.

Angelina Jolie shines as the title character. She brings a suitable campness to the role of Maleficent. Elle Fanning is well cast as Aurora, and Sharlto Copley is on good form as Stefan.

Maleficent is a highly entertaining fantasy, combining traditions of classical Disney with that of the emerging direction of the studio.

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s live action-CGI extravaganza is an entertaining escapade well worth the watch in 3D. A sequel to the Alice stories rather than a remake, it bares little resemblance to earlier cinematic adaptations. In this version, Alice is a nineteen year old who falls down the rabbit hole after running away from an undesired marriage proposal.

Burton’s film features a far more active Alice, one who eventually fights in battle against the Red Queen’s army. Whilst the film features the familiar Wonderland characters, the plot diverges greatly from the 1951 Disney animated feature of the same name. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton has created a quest narrative for the teenage Alice, which contrasts significantly with the whimsy of Carroll’s original stories.

The cast features many of the familiar Burton players, with Bonham Carter making a fittingly over the top Red Queen. Depp is suitably outrageous as the Mad Hatter, although he does play the character with a modicum of sadness. New blood is injected with the welcome presence of Mia Wasikowska and the delightful Anne Hathaway. A particular highlight is Stephen Fry voicing the enchanting Cheshire Cat.

As ever, Danny Elfman produces a score that compliments the visuals perfectly. Generally the 3D works well given the content, although it does look a little flat when compared to recent box office behemoth Avatar.

Alice in Wonderland‘s opening weekend success is unsurprising, considering its first quarter opening and the huge promotional campaign orchestrated by Disney (the publicity of the threatened boycott no doubt helped to boost audience awareness). Nonetheless, as a longtime Tim Burton fan, one can’t help but be disappointed by lack of originality in his recent work. With a reworking of Dark Shadows being reported as his next project, it looks like the days of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are long gone.