In case you haven’t read any posts by me, let me preface this by saying that I am by nature a cynic who loves free things. In other words, no matter how not-in-my-wheelhouse something is, or how low my expectations are, if you offer it to me for free, I’ll give it a whirl.
Enter Alice Through the Looking Glass. Mainly because I’m just not that into you, Alice. I wasn’t as a kid. I’m not now. I love Johnny Depp (I think it’s a contractual obligation of being a late-30s American woman… they take your card away or something?), but Tim Burton’s not my most favorite aesthetic.
So color me happily surprised by my positive reaction to Alice Through the Looking Glass after the free screening. Shockingly and surprisingly, I checked my watch only once (thinking I’d be seeing what time a good bathroom break came which turned out to be a half hour before the movie ended). With that in mind, here are five reasons you want to see Alice Through the Looking Glass.
5. Alan Rickman’s last performance (or at the very least near to last). I didn’t realize it. As soon as I heard Absolom’s deep, drawling speech, I knew who it was. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach in sheer pain then fluttered back up in joy like a butterfly. It was short but perfect.
Corollary: All the voice actors are amazing. Stephen Fry is perfectly wry as the Cheshire Cat. Matt Vogel, well known for his roles as various Muppet favorites, rocks the house as Wilkins.
4. Speaking of Wilkins, the Seconds, aka Time’s miniature minions, are awesome. Wilkins is the perfect little tin butler and the tiny little oil can second is the perfect representation of a sweet puppy. They’re hilarious, adorable, endearing, and metallic.
3. Which leads me to the aesthetic. Despite this being titularly a Tim Burton movie, Burton’s main credit is as a producer. The art has his darkness combined with pop of color, but its steampunk aesthetic was less Burtonesque than I expected. Inside Time’s home is gorgeously executed with the gigantic gears grinding away. The kronosphere is beautifully done with the 1800’s dark of the metal combined with the bright gold of the magical power. Add in the almost blue willow china aspect of the “Pull Me” handle that is reminiscent of the pull cords in old 19th-century toilets. From these aspects all the way through the deep greens of the forests to the Mad Hatter’s makeup and Iracebeth’s bright red hair. The bright heart of red lipstick that doesn’t match the lip line is the obvious choice for a shout out but does really pull together the intended aesthetic of large head and hair with the smaller body. That sort of “wide top” of the heart shape is mirrored throughout.
Corollary: The costuming screams “cosplay” from start to finish. Aside from the gorgeous colors and textures mixed into the steampunk quality, there’s a sense of whimsy and humor throughout the designs. Personally, one of my favorites is the hat that Alice almost wears. The houndstooth and the decoration created a contemporary Sir Conan Doyle that I loved.
2. Sacha Baron Cohen. I know, I get it. “But what about Johnny Depp?” Depp was Depp. I was pleased to see that he didn’t do another Captain Jack Sparrow reboot. But Baron Cohen was amazing. Admittedly, I love him in his own movies. However, the Borat and Ali G characters both alienate some people in that sort of South Park Thunderdome of Humor way. Time was awesome. His introduction to the audience included a pratfall and righteous outrage, “Me shaped door” was hilarious. His faux-lisping-germanic accent never got tiresome. He plays the role with the perfect combination of humor and pathos. Despite him supposedly being the antagonist of the story, he plays the role in a way that makes you want him to find his happy ending as well. His devotion to Iracebeth is intensified by her dismissal of him. Baron Cohen performs the role with a sense of bewildered fear in his facial expressions that belie the bravado of his words and actions.
1. Linda Woolverton, who wrote the screenplay. I know, riiiight? You were totally thinking that I was going to go with Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Wasikowska was awesome. GeekMom Corrina adored how Alice was portrayed, and I totally agree with her. However, for two reasons, I really think that Ms. Woolverton deserves the Number 1 slot. First, the writing was both Carrollianly hilarious and relevant to today. Yes, she’s got some great material to adapt. No doubt that Lewis Carroll gave the screenplay writer a solid foundation for the story. As someone who generally finds the Alice in Wonderland stories irritating at best and boring at worst (I know… Go ahead, just put my head on a pike from now), Ms. Woolverton’s writing intrigued me and entertained me. The wordplay was often, I assume having also never read any of Carroll’s work myself, mostly the original story. And yet, the way through which Ms. Woolverton updated both the story and the language gave it a particularly modern sense of female strength. Despite Carroll’s works being period pieces, Woolverton had jokes the evoked 2016’s culture. In addition, the fundamental battle within the narrative is that of individual choice–whether it be Hatter’s joviality or Alice’s desire to take on a traditionally masculine career–in the face of family pressures. The ultimate endings give validation to both the characters, but the stories ultimately place Alice as a self-rescuing princess if we consider her role as a female character within the Disney ouvre. This positioning is all due to Woolverton. The second reason would be that while Tim Burton’s name is on the movie and Johnny Depp is leading headliner, it should be noted that in an industry where women writers are consigned to either particularly vapid rom-coms or over ambitious dramas, having a female writer of a dark fantasy film such as this deserves kudos.
Does this movie need to be seen in the theater? That’s up to your interest level as a whole and your general movie-goingness. However, before you discount it as simply “Another Burton/Depp/Disney/Whatever” film, take a second and think about the five reasons I felt this movie was, at the very least, far above average and a super hella good time.