Alice Through the Looking Glass Review: A whimsical journey through Time

Note: This article may contain spoilers

The opinions of this piece are that of the author and not reflective of the Tertangala or the University of Wollongong

I give this film a 3.5/5 stars, a delightful film absolutely worth watching.


Under the direction of James Bobbin,  with Tim Burton taking a backseat in the production chair, Alice Through the Looking Glass is something of a mixed bag. Once again we are enchanted by the dark whimsy of Underland, the stubborn independence of the titular heroine and the thrill of seeing our favourite Lewis Carrel inspired characters brought to life. However, there is significant risk in taking key elements of a classic tale and plonking them in an entirely new story line, and Bobbins creation—while dazzling—had its low moments.

The story is centred on the plight of the gravely ill Mad Hatter, who is desperate for help in finding his family he presumed dead, but a trinket found from his past suggests otherwise. While Hatter is a sweet and glorious character, the story feels significantly less epic than its predecessor, where Alice is called into Underland to defeat the Jabberwock and save the fate of the world.  As the film progresses, its intricacies and touching character backstories bring it back to muster, with very relatable messages produced, such as valuing time as a gift, not a thief.

The computer-generated effects of the film are stunning, Bobbin veering from the traditionally gothic scene  by Burton, keeping more to the classic illustrations of John Tenniel. A brighter, softer style is brought to the film; natural elements are utilised in all aspects including costuming and make up. Alice’s party outfit is a standout, Colleen Atwood producing an outlandishly regal concoction inspired by original illustrations and 80s Japanese style. This outfit strengthened Alice’s character as a determined risk-taker, melding beautifully with the colour and whimsical style of the film.

Alice’s stunning party outfit, inspired by the novels original illustrations and 80’s Japanese style, image via Pinterest

Time is a key component in this film.  It is personified as a captivating half-man half-clock creation, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, with deviously glinting eyes.   His lair  is a visually incredible mixture of grandiose mechanisms, his little minions ‘Seconds’  are charismatic and humorous additions, and ethereal glory, revealing the realms of the living and the dead. A wonderful fantastical element is brought to the concept of time travel, as Alice zips across the Oceans of Time to discover what became of Hatters family, in order to save them in the present day.

Cohens captivating ‘Time’ character, image via Make me

While puns aren’t the brand of humour you’d expect in a fantasy adventure, the wealth of time puns were hard to fault. Made by the certifiably insane trio of Hatter, March Hare and Mallymkun the Dormouse, these puns, and Time’s frustration with them,adds to Cohen’s natural humour.

With its highs and lows, its slightly wonky plot and splendidly colourful characters, the most delightful part of the film is  the small but significant references to the original novel and films. Only those who have been lost in the mind of the brilliant author, or captivated by the original animation, would have noticed the light neigh of a Rocking Horse Fly, remembered the chapter when the King’s men come to the rescue of Humpty Dumpty, or had the ‘No Room’ ditty from the tea party scene stuck in their head for the rest of the night.

Humpty Dumpty ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ novel 1871, Image via


Humpty Dumpty ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ film 2016, Image via Buzzfeed.

While this film was very new and very different from any of Alice’s original adventures in Wonderland, the innovation and passion of the cast and creators shone through, making it a captivating trip through the looking glass.


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