October 24, 2016
'Alice Through The Looking Glass' Director On Making Wonderland His Own

Alice Through the Looking Glass director James Bobin came to the film with a uniquely different perspective than that of Alice in Wonderland (2010) director Tim Burton, particularly because, unlike the franchise's previous director, Bobin has had very limited experience with CGI technology. The Alice Through the Looking Glass director came to the project from working on films with very physical effects, like 2011's The Muppets and the 2014 film Muppets Most Wanted. For James, the greatest allure in taking on the Lewis Carroll adaptation lay in combining his love of costume design with his eagerness to learn CGI.

Alice Through The Looking Glass Director James Bobin Takes On Lewis Carroll's Story And Makes It His Own

Bobin says being able to work with the Lewis Carroll literature was a tremendous honor, especially because, as an Englishman, he grew up reading and hearing about the Alice in Wonderland tales from a very early age. James says the Carroll books have been passed down from generation to generation, so he has always been very familiar with the adventures of this unique British girl. Bobin says he was excited to tell his own version of Alice Through the Looking Glass, which features a girl with a mind of her own and expresses it without shame in an era when girls are expected to be seen and not heard.

"Lewis Carroll basically wrote about a girl that he knew.... Very intelligent, strong, brave, clever — I feel that that's what he imbued Alice with in a time when people didn't really think of girls like that...I hope that theme comes through very strongly, the idea that Alice is very much seen, to a degree, as a feminist."

Fans of Carroll may notice that Alice Through the Looking Glass does deviate from the source material in some ways, a fact with which Bobin is still unhappy. The film's director admits that, while not telling Alice Through the Looking Glass exactly as it was written was a difficult decision, it was necessary. James says Lewis Carroll wrote his book beautifully, creating a surreal new world, but adds that the things that make Alice Through the Looking Glass such a delightful read also makes it that much more difficult to translate into film.

"I love Lewis Carroll and the book is a beautiful piece of work, but... it's quite dream-like, deliberately so, and also it's quite obtuse," says Bobin. "So it's quite an unusual narrative."

James added that he wanted to encompass aspects of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and also remain faithful to Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass in his retelling of the story. It was important to the director that characters from the first film appear in his addition to the franchise, but he also hoped to retain the themes of the passage of time and regret, which is central to the source material's plot.

What The Critics Are Saying About Alice Through The Looking Glass

According to box office returns, Alice Through the Looking Glass is doing moderately well, but critics are finding some major problems with James Bobin's retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic. The film tells the tale of Alice, who, upon learning that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is so sad and despondent that he might die, takes a time machine to travel back and save the Mad Hatter's family from becoming victims of the Jabberwocky. Alice does this in spite of being warned that altering the past may obliterate the future. In other words, Alice risks the lives of every living thing to save one life.

Also in dispute are the visual aspects of the film with many bringing notice to the overly colorful and garish brightness of many Alice Through the Looking Glass scenes. The blending of CGI effects into the scenes also falls under this category with many critics pointing out that such transitioning is far too obvious, unlike the way in which Burton seamlessly melded these two distinct worlds in Alice in Wonderland.

Another aspect of the film's plot is the way in which the story places Alice in a position to prevent the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) from becoming the tyrant as seen in Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Can it be done? The short answer is no, not if one adheres to the basic tenets of time travel outlined by such writers as Ray Bradbury and H.G. Wells. Still, Alice will make the attempt, as long as she can still save the Mad Hatter.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is currently playing in theaters.

[Image by Walt Disney Pictures]