“Alice Through the Looking Glass” with Stixen

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Stixen’s Spoiler Free Review

Do you enjoy films with an excellent plot and sketchy visual choices? Are you an avid rabid fan of Alice in Wonderland? Either way, you’ll enjoy this full from top to bottomous! It’s thoroughly enjoyable and it’s got something in it for everyone. This film is not to be missed!

Beware! Spoilers lurk below this point!

Stixen: Going in, I was expecting something similar to the first. A fun, zany exploration of Wonderland with some adult themes prevailing at the end. But I feel like this one was a little less zany. It was still tons of fun! But the adult themes were present throughout- which was an interesting change. I definitively left feeling inspired to live life to the fullest because time is fleeting, as the movie reminds us frequently. What were your thoughts?

Me: I had similar expectations and left with a very confident swagger, I think. It took the same themes from the first film but gave them a more in-depth study. By bouncing between worlds, we also got to see a lot of the practical results of Alice’s lessons in action.

Stixen: Absolutely! I think the first film was more whimsical and a bit more fun. But I loved seeing this film tackle issues like depression, along with the usual strong feminist themes. It’s refreshing to see a fantasy film with a solid plot and a message to boot. It’s better than films like The Huntsman by far.

Me: I think the existential considerations of the mottled pattern of drying paint would make a better film than The Huntsman, but let’s not go chasing rabbits down other holes. Let’s talk costumes: what did you like? Anything you didn’t particularly like? How did the costume design play into the story?

Stixen: The costumes were…unfortunately a bit of a mess. The designer, Colleen Atwood, is one of my all-time favorite designers. She is the go-to designer for all of Tim Burton’s work. So, usually, her work is spot on. However, I was a bit disappointed. She made a lot of strange choices. For instance, near the end of the film, the Red Queen is prancing around in this gorgeous corset and riding pants outfit that is adorned in all these thorns and roses. Everything about it was perfect. And then she tacked on a very feminine and gentle looking bustle made out of yellow and red ribbons. It just wasn’t telling the same story as the rest of her costume.

I will say, as per usual, Alice has quite a few costumes. And I like that in this one, we got to see a solid progression for her. Her first costume, the overtly colorful Asian-inspired garment was a bit of an eyesore and I didn’t enjoy watching it for so long in the film. But I liked that Alice never wore a skirt. Colleen was smart to give her a constant mixture of masculine mixed with feminine. I really enjoyed that choice because it made a strong comment on who Alice believes herself to be.

Me: I did like the non-traditional clothing choices for Alice. It was a continuation of her costume progression (party dress to battle armor) from the first film. I also disliked the Mandarin costume, but for different reasons. I appreciated the dress’s butterfly theme, which tied into the identity the butterfly helped her establish in her early adventures, and the colors helped her stand out in the crowd of stuffy English-folk. However, the fact that it was highly stylized Chinese attire bothered me a little. While I avidly support multiculturalism, the fact that Chinese culture was so happily altered to fit a story starring entirely white European characters smacked a bit of Orientalism and appropriation. Apart from that, though, I loved the costumes, especially Time’s. I loved the square, bulky top with his skinny little legs sticking out. It was humanizing but still vaguely mechanical.

Stixen: Agreed! I felt like her “Chinese” fantasy look was borderline at best. I understood the look as a whole but to have it continue through a good portion of the film was disappointing. Especially considering the last film did such a marvelous job of showing the character’s progression. I expected more of that in this one. I wanted to see a year’s growth on these characters instead of variations of what we’ve seen before! The Red Queen has been defeated and exiled. I wanted to see her more disheveled, perhaps or wearing more black. How has her exile changed her? The same is true of the White Queen and the Mad Hatter. I wanted to see growth in their characters costumes. Although I will say, I enjoyed his explorer look near the end of the film very much.

Time was an excellent design. I enjoyed his look and his character very much. He was a perfect mix of a villainous anti hero who, at the end of the film, I found myself loving! His arch as a character had so much color and texture. It was a joy to watch.

Speaking of time, we got to see quite a bit of Wonderland’s past in this film. What did you think of that portion in the film?

Me: Well, we discussed in the theater how strange it felt that they tried to ‘normalize’ Wonderland’s past, that people like the Hatter were as awkward there as Alice was in her world, which kind of defeats the whole concept of the place as an escape. In the first film, there were still power structures to fight in Wonderland, but Alice was only odd there because she was still fighting to be normal and logical in a mad world.

Stixen: I was really excited to see Wonderland’s colorful and kooky past and instead we received a normalized, vaguely Elizabethan village that was pretty normal. I was very disappointed. The first movie got Wonderland’s quirky aesthetic down to a T. The whimsicalness was exactly what I had hoped for and the added elements were all believable, such as the Red Queen forcing her court to wear fake prosthetic to make her feel better about her head. That is right on course with the character and the world that we know and love. But in this film, I felt that the whimsical elements were misplaced. The elements of the past weren’t nearly whimsical enough. Meanwhile, the Red Queen has servants made out of fruit? It just wasn’t on par with the magic I remember from the last film.

Me: The fruit was an art reference, but this would’ve been a great opportunity to have the Red Queen in some kind stylized, almost post-apocalyptic stuff.

Overall, though, it was still a wonderful film. I left inspired and giddy, and I don’t think you can reasonably ask for more from Alice in Wonderland.

Stixen: Agreed! I think over all it was so worth seeing. My visual and costume issues were minimal for such a great story.

I actually wanted to hear your thoughts on this film’s discussion of mental illness! I was really rather touched to see the film nodding to the Mad Hatter having depression. It wasn’t by any means an outright discussion, but I enjoyed the fact that the film did contain that message. What were your thoughts on that?

Me: I really enjoyed that as well. It’s interesting that he needed Alice to just BELIEVE him. As someone who has struggled with severe depression for… ten years?… I can attest that recognition of the illness is a major part of recovery. They also featured that scene in the insane asylum with the “female hysteria” reference. Both nods to mental illness and public perception tied in marvelously with the story’s themes, so it didn’t feel like we were being beaten over the head with a pamphlet or something. People are who they are. Good friends will accept and believe you. Most importantly, polite society will usually try to shut you up and lock you out of sight, but you can always fight back and beat them at their own game.

Stixen: I thought that was a beautiful metaphor. It was very Peter Pan in a way. He just needed her to believe in him and I thought it was a great moment for him to see that he was right all along and all he needed was a little support from his friends. I was also very surprised that they included the asylum bit considering Alice in an asylum has been a staple in every mature retelling. I enjoyed that addition. It added to the feminist theme of the films nicely. I also enjoyed, tying into all this, how we finally got to see Alice’s mother believe in her. Family was a huge theme in this as well and it was certainly very lovely to see the Mad Hatter’s father and Alice’s mother finally come around and see their children for the wonderful people they have become. It was incredibly impactful and left me a bit teary-eyed.

Official Heel Rating:

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I’ll give it 4 out of 5 heels.


M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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