The sequel has some goofy humor but it pales in comparison to Alice in the Wonderland in most other aspects.  

A roar of laughter swept across the cinema when the personified Time (Sacha Noam Baron Cohen) in Alice Through the Looking Glass was teased for his “time-consciousness”.

In one scene in the fantasy film, Time chides the Cheshire (Stephen Fry) and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) for wasting his time. But he loses the verbal sparring. The Cheshire climbs onto Time’s shoulder, declaring that he’s “right on Time”. The Mad Hatter follows suit, saying in jest: “I’m having the Time of my life!”

The humor in Alice Through the Looking Glass is the work of veteran screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who also wrote the screenplay of Alice in the Wonderland (2010), the film’s predecessor, as well as other Disney classics (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King). If not for her talent with wordplay, this fantasy adventure sequel would have been even more underwhelming.

Alice goes back through time to meet the Mad Hatter.

Alice Through the Looking Glass follows Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as she travels back in time to help the Mad Hatter reconcile with his family. It’s loosely based on English writer Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel “Through the Looking-Glass”, which came 6 years after his most famous work, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

Similarly, there’s also a 6-year gap between the 2 film adaptations. While the gap is long, it’s not long enough for us to forget how much we like the first instalment, which explains why the sequel has a hard time living up to our expectation.

Alice in the Wonderland took home 34 awards in the Oscars and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) among others, mostly for its breathtaking costume, makeup and production designs. Under the helm of director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands), the story came alive in loud burst of colors and mind-blowing computer-generated imagery (CGI). We still vividly recall scenes of Alice being judged in the all-white real world due to her unfitting personality after experiencing the colorful “Underland”.

The sequel, still produced by Burton but directed by James Bobin, is very much drained of the pops of colors seen in its predecessor. Blue is the “new black” here, as a sea of blue consumes the audience’s eyes every 20 to 30 minutes as Alice travels through time using the “Chronosphere” she steals. Other than that, 3 quarters of the movie feature gloomy indoor shots – from the ball in the opening scene to Time’s castle and the Red Queen’s place of banishment.

Set design wise, we thought the sequel could do better in re-creating China in Victorian era. Hanging a few Chinese signboards on shophouses just doesn’t make the cut. We also miss Alice’s ever-changing costumes in the first film, although her oriental Chinese gown in the sequel is efficacious in showing her non-conformity to the mundane world.

Alice sticks out from the rest of the civilians — donned in her Chinese-inspired costume.

While Alice Through the Looking Glass is good enough for a light laugh, it’s not quite the visual spectacle that its predecessor is. We can only blame Alice in the Wonderland for setting the bar too high.

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Release Date: 6 July 2016

Runtime: 113 minutes

Language: English

Censorship Rating: PG

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Director: James Bobin

Featured Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Sacha Baron Cohen

Catch the trailer of Alice Through the Looking Glass below!

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Singapore.