Alice Through the Looking Glass: did Wonderland live up to expectations?

Mia Wasikowska as Alice in 'Alice Through the Looking Glass.'

The readers of a university newspaper are probably not the primary target audience for Disney’s new Alice in Wonderland sequel, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to enjoy it all the same. Disney’s mass appeal stems from their ability to make films that stay your favourites long after childhood and going to see a new Disney film brings with it a kind of comforting nostalgia. However, one disappointing experience threatens to knock Disney off of the pedestal on which we place them. This film came dangerously close to doing just that.

Through the Looking Glass is riddled with problems. Alice herself is an underwhelming protagonist, fulfilling rather than subverting gender expectations. She seems to owe her entire character, quirks and all, to her father; a fact she reminds us of frequently. The film does spare us a romantic plotl, although there are several moments where we fear one is being launched. By far the best addition to the film is Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays the embodiment of Time, blending humour and witticisms with more poignant interjections perfectly. This differed to some of the returning cast, whose performances are somewhat repetitive and uninspired.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Time in Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass | © Disney

A large part of the film is taken up with time travel in an attempt to explain the personalities and fates of Wonderland’s much-loved characters. However, these cliché scenes lack the originality and uniqueness which characterises Wonderland and they fail to tell us anything that we couldn’t have supposed ourselves. What’s worse is that the forays into the past of Wonderland seem to suggest that logical explanations must exist for all of the things that we had previously taken for granted. This undermines everything that we love about Wonderland, a place where reason is suspended, imagination is set free, and anything is supposed to be possible.

hatter and alice
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) | © Disney

The film is only saved by a few touching moments, reminiscent of the old Wonderland. Alice’s final goodbye with the Mad Hatter packs a final tear-jerking punch, which reminds us why we loved the films in the first place. But this teasing glimpse of the Wonderland of old only makes us yearn for it more. The films dedication to ‘Our friend Alan Rickman’, is a gently poignant touch and is a final reminder that childhood is fleeting and that nothing can last forever, perhaps not even the wonder of Wonderland.


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