Alice Through the Looking Glass is the sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, which starred Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska and was directed by Tim Burton. This time around, James Bobin (The Muppets) is directing the film, which will see the return of Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, the late Alan Rickman, Depp and Wasikowska, as well as the introduction of Sacha Baron Cohen as Time. Alice Through the Looking Glass opens on May 27, but we got a sneak peek at some of the footage and a chance to chat with Wasikowska and Bobin.
Alice (Wasikowska) is in a very different place when we meet her again—she’s been off sailing the world on her father’s ship. In the first scene we saw, which had all the color and magic of the Burton film, Alice is shown to be the ship’s captain, and on the run from pirates. No one sees a way out, but Alice, brave soul that she is, makes a daring dash through rocks and saves the day.
Alice is called home when her father passes away, and no one seems to understand who she’s become. Wasikowska told us, “Alice as a character in the first one is still quite uncomfortable and awkward and a little unsure of herself. In this one, she’s just spent a year traveling around being the captain of the ship, so she’s extremely empowered and very much knows who she is.”
If you’ve read Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, you know it’s disjointed to say the least. We asked Bobin about trying to get a story structure around something that has very little narrative.
He told us, “Well, the book is complex because Lewis Carroll was a mathematician. His interest in this was, I think, for his own personal amusement. He wrote books which are largely mathematical in structure, so Alice Through the Looking Glass is eight chapters long, because on a chess board there are eight squares you go across. In the story it’s basically how Alice, who was a pawn, becomes a Queen. And in a chess match, that’s what really happens…but the consequence of that is that the story itself has no cause and effect…it’s quite deliberately dream-like and I find that interesting as a book. But as a film, it’s quite difficult to keep your attention!”
He explained that they used elements from the book, the language of Lewis Carroll and the world he built, but largely focused on the characters the Burton film created anew.
When we see Alice in a later clip, she’s found the Hatter and our old friends from the tea table, but something is very, very wrong. Bobin said that the Hatter has gone dark, and though he shows up to help Alice, it really ends up being the other way around. He explained that though the Hatter is really the narrative engine of the story, the film is about relationships—both theirs and others.
“I think on a bigger scale, the parallels in the story are Alice and her mother and the Hatter and his father,” Bobin said. “To me, the film is about intergenerational conflict to a degree. Alice really represents a new generation of women at the time.”
He said that the historical Alice that the character was based on was born the same year as the woman who started the Suffragette movement, and that the film is about the conflict between two generations of women. On the other side, Bobin said that Hatter is part of a generation that is very free-spirited and creative, and his father’s generation was all about getting a job. He added that if you met someone with such a “sweet nature who is not at all annoying,” you really want to help him, and that we’ll be rooting for him to find the light again.
Sacha Baron Cohen plays the new character Time, and as per his usual type of character, he’s a bit of a nutter. In the first scene we saw with him, he and the Red Queen (Bonham Carter) are having a bit of a flirt. He’s trying to give her gifts and all she really wants is a mystery item that lets him control time. The banter is actually quite funny and done in a way that only these two masters of timing can manage.
Wasikowska spoke about trying to be the “straight man” in the room with them and with Depp. “Alice and Time have quite a funny dynamic and Time is like, quite a ridiculous character and no one else—he’s all-powerful but totally ridiculous, so no one but Alice pulls him up on that.”
Alice’s mission is to steal that mystery item from Time to save the Hatter. You can see from the clip of her retrieving it how much she’s changed. Wasikowska talked about that, saying, “She comes back after traveling as a captain and is horrified to see that the expectations of her are so low. There’s even a very small part where she’s kind of committed for having female hysteria because she’s kind of an excited young lady. And the fact that that’s kind of satire in this is really kind of great, because you can see how ridiculous the logic of a very long time ago was. It’s really great to have a young woman who is empowered and sure of herself, and for that to be [something] really young people will be watching is really great.”
Naturally, we’re playing in a playground that Burton established six years ago with his very specific style. Bobin talked about staying true to that aesthetic, while creating something that was his own. “When you work in a world that has been established already, you want to try and be true to that world so it feels like a cohesive universe,” he said. “That’s incredibly important. But at the same time this film involves time travel, and we haven’t ever really explored Underland in terms of its geography full, so there are environments that I can choose to design however I choose and how I want to bring it into that world. But also in terms of parameters, I want to think of the rules Tim established.”
From what we saw, there is a very similar feel to the first film in terms of looks and character, but a different energy. We’ve included the trailer below so you can watch it again with that in mind. We want to know what you think. Tweet me/us @JennaBusch/@Nerdist and let us know if you’re excited for the film. Alice Through the Looking Glass will hit theaters on May 27, 2016.