This last Friday, Alice Through the Looking Glass came to theaters. I hadn’t been the biggest fan of this movie’s predecessor, directed by Tim Burton, but Wonderland itself has always had a fond place in my heart, so I decided to give this film a shot. After all, we can all use a bit more madness in our lives, right?
I exited the theater satisfied with how I had spent my time and money. This wasn’t the most ground-breaking story I’d ever seen or my favorite depiction of Wonderland, but it was one I could happily add to my Wonderland repertoire. The character designs, the strongest point in the previous film, continue to be delightful, with all sorts of wacky costumes, makeup and CGI to be seen. The characters are lovable, and Alice is depicted especially well, with both tenacity and humility in her character. There are plenty of laughs in the movie, both from the Mad Hatter and his fellow tea lovers, as well as from Time and his cog-covered minions. The storyline itself has its ups and downs, being enjoyable but a bit overcrowded.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is mainly about relationships. This is great because it helps flesh out the characters, especially Alice, but there are so many relationship arcs within the film that some suffer from not having enough screen time. The relationship difficulties between the Queen of Hearts and the White Queen are especially simplistic in their wrap-up. We see Alice’s relationship with her mother develop and are shown her continued friendship with the Hatter, but my favorite plot arc was between Alice and Time. Before Alice enters Wonderland, she calls time, “a thief and a villain” because she is upset at the loss of her father. It is an ironic insult, because Alice turns out to be the thief in this film. Instead of being cocky and unapologetic though, Alice is humble enough by the end of the story to tell Time that she now sees she was wrong; all time is a gift and should be appreciated.
Though the story involves a great deal of time travel, there are no time paradoxes. Reality is not altered, and I was relieved to find that none of the characters had forgotten what had happened by the end of the film, as so often happens in such stories. This is because of what Time himself says: “You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it.” Alice starts out believing that with enough power she can change what has happened before. She later comes to realize that the key to her mission’s success lies not in changing what has happened, but learning what to do in the present now that she has observed the past. It moves her away from a place of regret at her father’s death, something she is powerless to change, into a place of acceptance where she can move forward with her life.
This leads into the last strong point of the film: the heroine is happy in her own world. In many stories involving journeys to fantastical lands, the hero’s own world is depicting as boring or even downright depressing. If the movie ends with them back in their own world, you honestly wonder how they’ll be able to stand it there after seeing what they’re missing out on. This is not the case with Alice. At the beginning of the film, we see that Alice has spent her time on Earth achieving great things, exploring the world as the captain of her own ship, something unheard of for a woman in her time.
At the film’s close, we see Alice returning to this career with renewed passion, surer than ever that this is where she belongs. It was delightful to visit Wonderland again, but this is her home. I feel like we all could benefit by being a bit more like Alice. Enter worlds of fantasy and fun with the books and films you love so well, but don’t get stuck lamenting that what you see there isn’t “real”. Take the inspiration you receive from those other worlds, and do something great in your own. Make a difference. Be an Alice.