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.

Trailer Round-Up

This week saw the release of the first trailer of Frankenweenie, one of my most anticipated films of the year. Also included is the new Avengers Assemble trailer, Neighbourhood Watch and The Dictator.

Frankenweenie

I used to be a huge Tim Burton fan. I even wrote  a dissertation on his films. More recently, like many, I have found the proliferation of remakes a little tiresome. Although it is also a remake, at least Frankenweenie is Burton remaking his own work. The original short film can be found on The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD. From the above trailer, Frankenweenie looks like quintessential Burton, with a noticeable reference to the Universal Frankenstein films. Frankenweenie is released on 5th October 2012.

Avengers Assemble

The Avengers has had a name change; it is now Avengers Assemble. The full trailer was released earlier this week, and gives us an insight into the film’s plot. Avengers Assemble features Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, the third actor to play this role in the last nine years. Nevertheless, there is continuity with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson all returning. Avengers Assemble is out on 26th April 2012.

The Dictator

This trailer has been floating around for a while, but with Sasha Baron Cohen’s Oscars appearance I thought I would share it. The Dictator features Baron Cohen doing his usual caricature thing. This time, however, the subject matter is more resonant with current affairs. No doubt there will be thematic parallels with the Middle East uprising. The Dictator is released on 16th May 2012.

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch is a new comedy starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. Not sure where Owen Wilson is on this one. Instead, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade round up the leads. The film is the first major Hollywood role for Ayoade. The film is about a neighbourhood watch group seemingly overstating their importance in suburbia. Neighbourhood Watch is out on 24th August 2012.

Film Review: Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is likely to beguile audiences with its tale of wonderment. The director’s love of the moving image and his gift for filmmaking shine as brightly as ever.

A young boy who lives in the walls for a Paris train station, Hugo spends his days trying to fix the automaton his father found, whilst hiding from the station inspector. When a shopkeeper confiscates his notebook, Hugo is determined to get it back. Enlisting the help of a new found friend, Hugo attempts to find out more about the automaton…

Based on Brian Selznick’s book The Adventures of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese’s film works on multiple levels. At first glance, it is an enchanting family adventure. The comedy in Hugo is also a highlight, giving the film a suitably light touch. Finally, it is Scorsese’s paean to early cinema and its mechanics.

The film offers viewers unfamiliar with early cinema an enchanting journey through cinema. Those more acquainted  should enjoy the various references and allusions to film in the early twentieth century. The message of restoration is laid on a little thick for those aware of the director’s interest and contribution to this field. Nonetheless, it is a message as good as any.

The narrative is weaved to create a sense of mystery. The reveals in Hugo are finely executed. It is ambiguous as to what type of adventure will unfold, and whether any type of fantasy will manifest itself. This sense of uknown works well to retain the viewer’s attention.

Scorsese’s direction is at times sublime. This is particularly true of the camerwork in Hugo‘s opening sequences. The art direction in the film is superb. The Paris train station looks authentic for the its 1930s setting, yet retains a fantastic aura. Howard Shore’s score is also a treat, suiting the tone and the look of the film incredibly well.

Performances in Hugo are good overall. Asa Butterfield does a great job as the title character, bringing a certain charm to the role. Ben Kingsley offers the necessary presence, while Chloe Moretz has good chemistry with Butterfield. Sasha Baron Cohen brings much of the film’s humour as the station inspector, a role seemingly made for the actor.

Hugo is a rare live action film well worth viewing in 3D. Scorsese has proven he is just as adept in the family film genre as he is in his earlier, adult-orientated work.