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Book to Movie Comparison: ‘Through the Looking Glass’

What’s the matter? The Hatter‘s the matter, along with pretty much everything else in this sequel to Tim Burton’s attempt at adapting Lewis Carroll’s beloved works. It may come as a shock to the studio that the first movie was not actually that well received, even though it made over a billion dollars. In today’s world, that meant a sequel was all but guaranteed. Six years later, this adaption of Through the Looking Glass And What Alice Found There graces silver screens to…mixed reviews. Hallow substance aside, one thing that is a particular peeve to this writer is that the film diverges from the base material in a big way. Of course, the cutting room floor is a necessity for an adaptation, but in all honesty, someone must have been wanting to test their new pampered chef knife.

Simply put: Through the Looking Glass has absolutely nothing to do with Through the Looking Glass, even if you look at it as two alternate versions of the same world as the novel does with its own. But that would be interesting. Rather, we are going to look at what the biggest and most important changes are from the source material. As this writer is a tremendous fan of the book and is a bit cross with unfaithful adaptations of all kinds, I feel it is important to touch upon what made the book so great and where they went wrong taking and leaving ideas so that other adaptations will not make those same mistakes.

Alice herself!

The Liddle Alice

You’ve already doomed yourself when you don’t even make your protagonist an inkling similar to her novel counterpart. Mia Wasikowska does her part to bring a headstrong yet naive take to the screen, which may have been necessary for the bogged-down plot point about “Girl Power”, but that rather breaks the idea Lewis was going for. Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land (Yeah, more on that in a moment), were dreamlike places divided into episodic chapters with their own set pieces but little driving a whole plot. Of course it would be difficult to translate this to screen without some overarching narrative, but it wouldn’t be so bloody difficult if they stuck to the book, because as it happens, Alice is more than enough drive!

Her curious often frustrated demeanor when running about brings up some interesting questions about her personality and the themes. She has every opportunity to turn back, yet she doesn’t because the adventure would be over! It would have been a breath of fresh air to have a heroine who continues her quest not because she has too, but just for the fun of it. That is truly insane, and it was truly a missed opportunity.

The Plot

Queen Alice

We’ve mentioned deviations, but this may be the most egregious offender aside from the next one: In the book, Alice enters Looking-Glass world during one boring evening with a kitty and she offhandedly wonders if she could press herself through the Looking Glass hanging up behind her on the fireplace mantle. Lo and behold, she finds herself in an alternate world laid out like a chessboard, and she must cross the spaces to become “Queen.” As mentioned before, each space is devoted to a chapter in episodic form, with zany characters you may or may not recognize.

In the movie, Alice finds herself in Underland once again after a spat with her company owner to find that the Mad Hatter’s discovery that his family has survived the Jabberwocky attack from the first film has left him depressed…for some reason. Thus, Alice is sent to borrow the Chronosphere from Time himself (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to travel back in time and save his family. Along the way, they find out how the Red Queen became her big-headed and everything devolves into a Back to the Future-style erase the universe literal race against time. Doesn’t make sense? No, but not in the way it shouldn’t.

The pacing of the film, its chapters if you were, jumps from a conniving businessmen plot to rescuing the Hatter’s family to stopping the Red Queen to stopping the universe from being destroyed all while juggling every moral they try to push through at the end with very little success.

Alice in the book is easy to follow even through the madness, as she is traveling through this chess board to become queen and the reader never loses sight of that. This writer honestly had no clue what the point of the movie was, and given its source material, that’s saying a lot.

Themes

Nonsense

Movie: Time waits for no man, women can do just as much as men, don’t lie, family is everything, etc. What is this movie about again?

Book: Alice’s occasional frustration stems from her trying to have a logical conversation with the other characters and their failure to do so highlights the sometimes nonsensical way the adult world operates and how difficult that can be for a growing child to understand. The mirror imagery is meant to showcase a distorted version of our world, with both playing by seemingly senseless rules.

Makes sense to me.

Characters and Setting

Looking Glass Land

Oh yes, by now you know that Looking-Glass World is completely separate from Wonderland, whereas in the film it still remains one and the same world called Underland (ugh). Since Tim Burton drew many ideas from Looking Glass to include in the first movie, the film is left out to dry from a proper roster to resort on using returning characters not even in the book or ones who had not appeared until this one.  The Tweedle brothers belong to the latter category, while the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, the hound, and Time (a character mentioned by the Hatter in passing) are the former. While this wouldn’t be so bad if the characters were given real time–Oddly enough, Time himself is the most interesting of the bunch– and given a reason to be there, they are nothing but part of the aesthetic.

The list goes on, but this writer feels that these are the most critical. Is there something you thought was more important left out? Let us know!


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