Friday, October 28, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Disney presents the spectacular live adventure Alice Through the Looking Glass. The all-star cast from the 2010 blockbuster is back with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter who’s desperately searching for his family; Anne Hathaway as Mirana, the kind, mild-mannered White Queen; Helena Bonham Carter as Iracebeth, the short-tempered, big-headed Red Queen; and Mia Wasikowska as Alice, the heroine at the heart of the story. Sacha Baron Cohen joins the ensemble as Time, a magical being that is part human, part clock, and the late Alan Rickman—to whom the film is dedicated—is the voice of Absolem, the blue Monarch butterfly who metamorphosed from the blue caterpillar “Alice in Wonderland.” 
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
Alice’s (Mia Wasikowska) life in the real world seems to be falling apart. She’s lost her father and risks losing his ship, which she holds dear. Soon she finds herself back in Underland, only to learn that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has taken ill. The White Queen Mirana (Anne Hathaway) is thrilled that Alice has dropped in on them. Mirana hopes that Alice can bring the Mad Hatter out of his funk. The Hatter is convinced that his family is not dead and that Alice can help him find them. The color fades from his skin and hair as he feels increasingly hopeless. The Mad Hatter’s friends fear he is dying and Alice decides to travel back in time to save his family, restoring the Hatter to his former self.

Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a person who controls the passage of time with a device called a chronosphere. Alice must steal the chromosphere and return to the past to warn the Hatter’s family that they are in danger. Alice is the only one who can safely travel to the past because she has no past in Underland. Anyone else risks running into themselves, tearing apart the fabric of reality. Alice will soon learn that she cannot change the past, but she can learn from it. Alice will uncover the origins of the Red Queen (and her big head) and will ultimately change many lives in Underland. After the profound experience, Alice returns home to make big changes in her own life.

Alice Through the Looking Glass, is directed by James Bobin. The film is crazy and colorful but does not have the familiar Tim Burton feel to it. During his crisis, the Hatter is mean and scary, which is a side of him I didn’t care to see. The film was so full of craziness that it lost some of the magic and wonder. Although I can’t say that I could have been any more creative, I do wish the film had gone a different direction. Familiar faces like Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and the Cheshire Cat are among the familiar faces I was happy to see return. Absalom the caterpillar, is now a butterfly. Voiced by the late Alan Rickman, Absolem seems wiser and more poignant than ever.

This is undoubtedly a film that failed to meet my expectations. The acting was up to par but the story failed to compel. With more realistic expectations, I do enjoy the film more each time I see it. In repeated viewings, I’ve been open to enjoying the set design, wardrobe and the secondary characters.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Alice Through the Looking Glass is an immensely detailed film and Disney’s Blu-ray transfer handles it well. The extraordinary color palette comes into play from beginning to end with bright blues and yellows fairing as well as deep earth tones. The digital elements mix well with the practical effects. A film with this much layered detail would be best viewed on 4K ultra high definition, but Disney does not provide the option.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is well balanced and offers directionality and depth. Dialogue is intelligible and consistent. The Red Queen’s bellows will fill your living room. Wind, waves, cannons and more make use of front and side channels. The music by Danny Elfman is well balanced and dynamic.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains the following bonus features:
  • Behind the Looking Glass – A look back to the 1871 book, the 1951 animated film, and the 2010 Tim Burton Film. Time as a character is explored in this featurette containing interviews with the primary actors. Of most interest to me was the improvisations between Sacha Baron Cohen and Johnny Depp.
  • A Stitch in Time: Costuming Wonderland – Costume Designer Colleen Atwood reveals new layers of detail you probably missed. She explains the desire to create a more grown up sequel when dressing Alice, The Mad Hatter, The Red Queen and Time.
  • Characters of Underland – Director James Bobin and the Screenwriter explain the characteristics of McTwisp(The White Rabbit), Tweedledee and Tweedledum, The Cheshire Cat, Thackery, Mallymkun, Absolem and Wilkins.
  • Time On…. – Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Time, provides his thoughts on a variety of topics including Lewis Carroll and the film.
  • Scene Peelers – A ‘how they did it’ featurette showing blue-screen and the final finished scene side by side for the following:
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Alice Through Time’s Castle
  • Music Video – “Just Like Fire” by P!NK
  • Behind the Music Video – A behind the scenes look at the making of the music video with interview with PNK who was able to include her husband and daughter in the video.
  • Audio Commentary – Director James Bobin discusses the technical details and story arc. The commentary stays interesting and is worth listening to after you’ve watched the film on its own.
  • Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary – Just under 9 minutes of deleted scenes with optional Director commentary for Alice’s Bedroom and the Rabbit Hole, Alice Tackles Hamish, Time Comforts Racie in the Sitting Room, Racie in the Castle and Time Can’t Follow Alice.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Alice Through the Looking Glass wasn’t one of my favorite films and neither was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. What I loved the most about the previous film was the bright and fun parts and I wish this had gone lighter instead of darker. The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and contains some interesting bonus features. I am enjoying it more each viewing. As I offer what may sound like a lukewarm referral it should be noted that the Alice story was never one of my favorites.

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