I have seen Alice Through the Looking Glass twice this week, and have a lot of thoughts about it! I might come up with some additional thoughts, which I will add. This post was last updated Jul 8, 2016.
It also contains spoilers of Alice Through the Looking Glass and of the play Then She Fell, and assumes the reader is familiar with the first Tim Burton Alice movie, and with the original books.
Having missed seeing Alice Through the Looking Glass when it first came out due to recovering from a surgery, I finally saw it twice this week, in its final days at the second-run theater.
I was absolutely amazed by it.
I remain lukewarm about the first movie, which I attended the midnight showing of, and saw in the theater four more times, and have watched several times since, but never really loved. “Alice in Wonderland” felt forced and ham-fisted. I didn’t like Wasikowska’s acting as Alice, and I didn’t feel convinced by any actor’s performance of their character, really. Everyone’s actions felt arbitrary. I kept hearing people talk about the strong feminist message in the movie, but I didn’t agree. Alice turned down Hamish, and was headstrong and imaginative, and killed the Jabberwocky, and made business deals, but the “girl power” didn’t feel genuine to me — perhaps because of the acting.
I didn’t have very high hopes for “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. I expected more of the same from the first movie. Very few of my friends were rushing to see it, and most of the reviews I read were unfavorable. I considered not seeing it in the theater at all. But I’m really glad I did.
Feminism: The feminist message I couldn’t find in AiW was very present in ATtLG. It opens with her as the captain of the Wonder, the ship she was boarding at the end of AiW. She’s dodging Malaysian pirates and has to use her belief in the impossible to trust in the risky maneuvers that ultimately save her and her crew. After arriving back in London, she is scoffed at for being a woman ship’s captain, as it simply isn’t done, her accomplishments diminished. We see Hamish again, and he’s more of a scoundrel than ever, having become more misogynistic since Alice turned down his marriage proposal, and openly mocks her and her ideas on the basis of her gender. There was a shot I really loved, where he’s introducing Alice to the board of the company, and it is all old rich white men. The way this shot is presented caused me to feel a humorous familiarity, I looked on and thought, “yuuup”.
Wasikowska’s Alice in this movie is much more believable as a strong character. Perhaps her acting chops are just better as she has gotten older and more experienced. Perhaps it’s a function of the character — In contrast to the more petulant 19-year old in AiW, ATtLG sees Alice as a 22-year old who has traveled the world and grown up into a strong adult forged by her experiences and trials with a difficult ship journey that was supposed to take one year but ended up taking three. Either way, I now love this character. She is very brave, daring, and determined, but she also makes decision with purpose and continually uses her smarts.
I was also very impressed by the scene in which she wakes up in the institution, about to be treated for “female hysteria” (the condition Victorians used as a catch-all to diagnose headstrong or unusual women, believed was caused by the uterus wandering around in the body, and invented the vibrator to treat). She’s basically about to be sexually assaulted by a doctor who doesn’t seem to feel at all bad about what he’s preparing to do. Alice and her mother both seem to realize the horrifying implications of the treatment — I was literally chewing on my hand anxiously during this scene. But when the doctor is looking away, Alice steals his syringe of sedative and injects him with it. Just then, her mother re-enters the room to express her concerns about the procedure, and sees what Alice has done. But instead of being upset with Alice for her drastic and unladylike behavior, her mother shouts “RUN!”, and Alice escapes. I feel that this moment was a major turning point in the relationship between Alice and her mother, and they work as a team rather than as adversaries after this.
Alice continues to be strong and badass throughout the rest of the movie, and in the end, this rubs off on her mother, who develops a rebellious streak herself, confonting Hamish and telling him he is not a nice man, ripping up her contract with him, and going into business with her daughter, commenting almost vindictively that Hamish’s family’s company will be out of business within a year. Alice’s mother went from heaping criticism on Alice in the beginning of AiW, to becoming a badass herself in the end of ATtLG, the mother-daughter relationship stronger than ever. So much girl-power. Amazing.
Time: I very much enjoyed the character of Time. When the movie was still being made and I learned that Sacha Baron Cohen was playing Time, I was very excited. I was extremely curious to see what would be done with the character, who I’d wondered about since The Hatter explained to Alice why it’s always tea-time in the book, and somehow, sight-unseen, and knowing no details, SBC seemed like the perfect choice for the role. I still feel like this is the case. The character was multifaceted — he was by turns cold and compassionate and silly and wise. The movie was full of references to and cliches about time and I feel like the character embodied all of them.
Something I’m left pondering: In ATtLG, Time traps the Hatter, Hare, and Dormouse in one minute before tea-time. 5:59. Assuming that the events in the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland do occur in this timeline, prior to the times of both movies but after this encounter with Time, how does the following fit in?
`We quarrelled last March–just before he went mad, you know–‘ (pointing with his tea spoon at the March Hare,) `–it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing
“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!”
You know the song, perhaps?’
`I’ve heard something like it,’ said Alice.
`It goes on, you know,’ the Hatter continued, `in this way:–
“Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.
Here the Dormouse shook itself, and began singing in its sleep `Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle–‘ and went on so long that they had to pinch it to make it stop.
`Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘
`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.
`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’
Does the above quote take place after what we see in ATtLG? Was there a time when they stopped being trapped at 5:59, performed at the concert, angered Time, and were then trapped at 6:00? Or is it just a liberty screenwriter Linda Woolverton took? I feel like both events can happen in the same timeline, and I suddenly understand why people write fanfiction — to fill in gaps of missing information like this; to allow themselves to be able to wrap their minds around how plot points fit together.
Oz: Vegetable people? Tik-toks — that are even referred to as such? A melody very similar to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” repeating in the score? Just a couple things that stood out to me as someone who is also an Oz fan.
Then She Fell: There is a wonderful immersive theater play/experience in NYC called Then She Fell. I have seen it three times, and it is one of the most incredible things I have ever had happen to me. If you ever get the chance, you should go see it. If you’ve already seen it, you should go see it again. Seriously.
There were some moments in ATtLG that very much reminded me of Then She Fell. One of them was the first time Alice travels back in time and finds the Hatter.
Tarrant Hightopp: That’s funny, I feel I should know you.
Alice Kingsleigh: Well, we have met once when I was younger.
TH: Ooh, I’m afraid I don’t recall.
AK: That’s because it hasn’t happened yet.
TH: When will it happen?
AK: Years from now! When you’re older.
TH: I’ll meet you when you’re younger and I’m older?
AK: … I realize it doesn’t make much sense.
TH: It makes perfect sense to me. I’m Tarrant.
AK: I know! I’m Alice.
TH: ‘Alice’. You seem to have time all mixed up.
In TSF, the White Queen tells a story about people who live backwards and by the time they meet, they are strangers. I thought this meshed with the scene in ATtLG so well that I had to wonder if it was intentional — if perfomances of TSF were taken in while ATtLG was being developed. The White Queen’s story in TSF also includes lines about a house as big as memory, and another quote in ATtLG reminded me of this. I actually wrote it out because I loved it so much:
I really wish I could remember more of the White Queen’s story. I can’t find the text online and am operating solely off of my over-a-year-old memories of it, along with the memories of how that part of the play made me feel. I think that if this connection seems like a stretch because I cannot back it up with exact lines from TSF, it still stands that the way I felt when I heard these lines was very similar to how I felt hearing the related lines in the play. I feel that my love of TSF enhanced my enjoyment of ATtLG.
Alice in the Institution: I was confused at how Alice even got to the institution. She was told she was trying to get under furniture. She doesn’t remember this. After she escapes and gets back to the Ascot house, she finds the Chronosphere in the room where she went through the mirror. Had she fallen asleep and dreamed of passing through the mirror? Was the Chronosphere “back in our world” to show that maybe this world isn’t as real as we think it is? Did she come back through the mirror? The only sense I can make of it — perhaps the point of it — is that the lines between dream and reality are very blurry. (As seen in the handwritten quote above).
The Queens: When I saw AiW, I didn’t much care for Iracebeth and I really liked Mirana. In ATtLG, I started liking Iracebeth and FREAKING LOVED Mirana. I enjoyed seeing their backstory, understanding how Iracebeth got a big head and why the two sisters don’t get along in the first place. It was also interesting to see that Mirana hasn’t always been as good as she seems, with her blaming her sister for eating a forbidden tart when they were little girls. When Iracebeth drags Mirana back in time to that moment, she just wants her sister to tell the truth, but Mirana perpetuates her lie instead. I thought this was very cold. However, after Alice saves the day and returns the Chronosphere, Mirana apologizes to Iracebeth, and asks for forgiveness. Iracebeth says that this is all she ever wanted from her, and they embrace. The hatchet is seemingly now buried.
This got to me on a personal level because I have studied conflict resolution and restorative justice, and I’ve learned a lot about the power of apologies and forgiveness. The two sisters were finally able to discuss their feelings and I feel like they will be able to go forward and further heal their relationship.
Also. I can’t find pictures of it right now, but Mirana’s coronation look is very high on my cosplay bucket list.
Should there be a sequel?: I would love to see a third Alice movie. I have no idea what they would do, what it could be called, what the major plot points would be. But I’m curious to see what becomes of Iracebeth and Mirana, and what happens with the newly reunited Hightopp family. Alice and her mother board a boat at the end of the movie, much as Alice boarded The Wonder at the end of AiW. How do the Kingsleigh women fare, and are they in fact able to crush their competition and Hamish’s smug face? I groaned when I learned there was going to be a second Alice movie, but I will cheer when I hear they are making a third. Even a short. Or a novel. Or a comic book series. Something. Please. Disney… Please?