Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) Review

director: James Bobin

writer: Linda Woolverton

starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter

genre: Adventure | Family | Fantasy

released: 26 May 2016 (Australia, Germany & Greece), 27 May 2016 (USA)

Many sequels of late have been too late to cash in on their own initial success and one of those cases is ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’. The original film released around 6 years ago and having made over a billion dollars in the worldwide box office was a prime time candidate for a sequel, but took that amount of time for it to come into fruition. A time span too long for any kid to remember its existence, for any new audience member to take interest in and most importantly for any studio exec to cash in before the property became an even greater diminishing return.


After her father's death, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) became a captain on her father's ship and enjoys traveling the seas and exploring the world. When she returns back home after a 2 year sea voyage she realizes not everything is as she left it and soon escapes again to the fantasy world of 'Wonderland'. There she will find out that her old friend the Hatter (Johnny Depp) is not well and that she will require the help of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to get the Hatter back to his good old ways.


The source material of 'Alice in Wonderland' is one of the best stories to fill a young mind full of imagination and to visually be portrayed on the big screen. Because of this it made sense to a point to have Tim Burton direct the first film with his eccentric and creative kinks. However, he does tend to go overboard with any project he handles and that's why the first film despite it's success at the box office, didn't impress critics and most importantly parents to taking their kids to see the sequel.

A sequel that was released last year and came a little too late for its own good and lost the shot at making some easy money, even without the presence of Tim Burton behind the camera. There are though other reasons why this film didn't do as well and one of them is being too wacky for its own good. For example, Johnny Depp's Hatter performance which continues to be a schizophrenic/bipolar individual (less so though in this film), the world of Wonderland itself that only can be characterized as a bright and colorful setting where nothing seems to make sense in terms of the rules of the land or even the absurdity of how it is run or how anything connects to the overall story. And then there is Alice's re-entry into the world without a real story to tell in my opinion and one that works more when Alice is a child or teenager rather than as an adult (same goes for the first film as well). As she should have grown up by now and faced life's challenges head on and not escape back to the fantasy world of Wonderland every time she panics. As we have to think about the message this sends towards children that when things go bad as an adult, the first thing not to do is panic and escape into a fantasy wonderland to numb the pain.

Which is Alice finally realizing that she is avoiding life, commitment and family for a constant adventure on the seas that I might add as a sea captain that would never had happen at the point in time the film is set in. Let's not forget the original book was written in 1865, at a time where women couldn't be almost anything. So changing history in order to give a false message to children is lying about history and suiting your own agenda. The writer of the film and I quote said the following:

"I made her a sea captain because why not?" she says. "There should be an assumption that women can be sea captains."

The problem with this statement and the screenwriter's thought pattern is that she assumes that people in this day and age think that women can't be captains. Which is ridiculous as we live in the 21st Century, but her story was set in the 19th, so she should have written the script as if it was set in that era, otherwise just set it in an alternate reality and not Earth. Generally, I do not understand this fixation with Hollywood and screenwriters to be revisionists in history and act as if today no progress has been made. Another film famous for this sin was 'Gangster Squad' with a Latino and African American on the LA police force during the 1940's! It's amazing how these writers don't have enough faith in society of today to know the differences between what was and how things are actually now, and the society has come a long way and improved to a great degree.

Moving on, the film's main plot isn't anymore about who will be the ruler of Wonderland, but a more personal story for the Hatter with a minor subplot on the two sister Queens again being at odds. The material is adequate to pass the time but isn't serious enough to cause much of a ruckus and worst is that there isn't that much humor in what is a children's film. Which also has to be the worst thing about the film. As it's not only devoid of subtle adult humor but even slapsticky silly jokes meant for children. Very little humor is in this film for that matter and when things are supposed to be funny they are just cute or vibrant. Best joke in the whole film that is the only one I can recall is Time passing through a doorway that is shaped like his costume but still can't fit. However, let us not forget that the film is also at a great disadvantage as its pretty much rehashing the plot of the previous film.


I must admit the film will do a good job to distract a toddler and slightly entertain a child, but no more than that. As you need to be willing to accept revisionist history in a fairy tale that is a rehash of what we already saw previously and don't have to see again.

Personal Rating:

review by P K

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