When Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland premiered in 2010, it looked to many like a one-off fantasy project. Burton and Johnny Depp (who unexpectedly played the Mad Hatter) had already done so many whimsical fantasy films together that Alice In Wonderland seemed very at-home in their repertoire. By no means was it forgotten that the film was based on the iconic novel by Lewis Carroll, but more than most popular book adaptations it seemed to stand on its own to some extent.
However, that did nothing to halt its franchise potential. Likely thanks to a combination of the well known story and the promise of Burton and Depp bringing it to life, Alice In Wonderland cleaned up at the box office, ultimately raking in over $1 billion globally against a $200 million budget. Its box office return was enviable even by modern Hollywood blockbuster standards, so it was almost inevitable that the lesser-known sequel to Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland—titled Through The Looking-Glass—would get the silver-screen treatment as well.
Now, here we are. It’s been more than six years since Alice In Wonderland stormed into theaters and joined the very elusive Billion-Dollar Box Office Club, and Alice Through The Looking Glass is edging ever closer to its late-May release. However, before the sequel comes out there’s a bit of ground to cover in terms of rehashing Alice In Wonderland, getting acquainted with the follow-up story, and looking ahead at the film specifically. So without further ado, let’s head back down the rabbit hole…
Our Favorite Characters Are Back
If you’ve never really dived into the story of Alice In Wonderland story thoroughly, you may primarily be aware of only a couple of characters—namely, Alice and the Mad Hatter. But Tim Burton’s edgy adaptation is a large reason why many more of Carroll’s classic characters have become much more recognizable, even by people who aren’t fans of the films or the books (or Wonderland-themed slot games).
Naturally, the characters featured in Wonderland are back for Alice Through The Looking Glass, which should add to the continuity between the films since it’s been six years since Wonderland was released. And perhaps most intriguing of all, the Caterpillar role will still be voiced by Alan Rickman, as one of two posthumous roles for the beloved actor who tragically passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer.
New Faces in Underland
The cast for Wonderland was star-studded, to say the least. Many weren’t familiar with Mia Wasikowska (who plays Alice) at the time, but Depp, Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Michael Sheen (voice of the White Rabbit), Stephen Fry (voice of the Cheshire Cat), and Rickman made for a rather impressive, all-star lineup. Not only were these actors and actresses accomplished, but they were also known to have penchants for strange projects and quirky personality roles, making them particularly well-suited for an adaptation of Alice In Wonderland that was masterminded by Tim Burton.
There are only two noteworthy additions to the cast for Alice Through The Looking Glass, but both fit the same mold. Rhys Ifans—who’s known best for his roles in Notting Hill and, more recently, as Dr. Connors in The Amazing Spider-Man—will play Zanik Hightopp, a character created specifically for the film who is, in fact, the Mad Hatter’s father. Some may be reminded of when Burton invented a father and family backstory for Willy Wonka (also played by Depp). There might also be a comparison to make with Ifans’s previous role as Xenophilius Lovegood—also the father of a very bizarre character—in the last couple Harry Potter films. If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, remember that Ifans typically plays very interesting, entertaining characters. And, for what it’s worth, Burton isn’t actually directing this sequel.
The other newcomer is Sacha Baron Cohen, who actually fits into Burton’s Wonderland remarkably well despite the Bruno flashbacks he may evoke. Fortunately, his is arguably the most interesting role as Time, Underland’s half-human-half-clockwork demigod who can travel back and forth in time. Presumably, Time is the villain in the sequel, manipulating the characters by tossing them backward and forward in time. Although Carroll’s second Wonderland book dealt with such leaps in time, Time wasn’t actually a character. Interestingly, however, James Bobin—at the helm of Alice Through The Looking Glass as the film’s director—has pointed out a passage in Carroll’s work that might imply that Time is a person.
More Sequel Than Adaptation
As you might glean from the addition of two characters who don’t exist in Carroll’s work (at least not as active players in the story), Alice Through The Looking Glass is expected to be a very, very loose adaptation of Carroll’s written sequel. Just as well, we should expect this film to be more a follow-up to the 2010 film rather than an adaptation of Through The Looking-Glass.
In the book, Alice steps (quite literally) through a looking glass after growing curious about how her own world might look from the other side. She unexpectedly finds herself in an alternate universe in which the world resembles a massive chessboard—anthropomorphic chess pieces replace the playing cards that dominated the first book—and interacts with a surreal cast of unfamiliar versions of familiar characters. By all appearances, it seems the film will feature similar elements, presenting familiar characters in new ways and playfully incorporating the chess motifs.
However, despite certain surface-level similarities the story to be presented in Alice Through The Looking Glass appears to be mostly original. According to the film’s synopsis, Alice becomes concerned for the fate of the “increasingly dark” Mad Hatter and will track down Time—and, subsequently, younger versions of her Underland friends—to save the Hatter.
That brings us pretty up-to-speed on Alice Through The Looking Glass, unless you choose to re-watch the 2010 film or read the books before heading to the theaters. With the film only borrowing trace amounts of the actual story rather than being a faithful adaptation, there are many who feel this second go-around in Underland is little more than a shameless money grab on Disney’s part. However, in spite of its apparent shortcomings it seems likely that Alice Through The Looking Glass will delight the same people who enjoyed Alice In Wonderland.