Four years have scurried past since Tim Burton’s fantastical retelling of Alice in Wonderland hit big-screens worldwide. With a great deal to live up to, Burton and the Disney studio delivered, bringing Lewis Carroll’s beloved quirky and haunting novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to life with a visual masterpiece. Its colorful and imaginative imagery set high standards for fantasy filmmaking across the industry. Finally it’s sequel, Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, is officially in production. It is to be based on Carroll’s novel Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. With a new director, Carroll’s second fascinating tale about Alice Kingsleigh, and another powerhouse cast in the cards, anything could happen. What are we hoping and expecting to see from this upcoming project?
What Burton Brought to Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland is identifiable as a Tim Burton film- filled with his own trademarks (and even trademark actors, Depp and Bonham-Carter) and told in a silly-but-profound ‘Burton’ manner. Haunting, gutsy and highly stylized, Tim Burton’s directorial style is unforgettable- it has certainly left its mark on this growing franchise. He both maintained and gave new meaning to the personalities of Wonderland- from Alice with her determined, innocent disposition to the Hatter, Absalom and Queen with their solemn quirks. His crafted visual environment, vibrant and abstract, captured the imaginations of children and adults alike. It seems natural that Carroll’s absurd, highly visual and metaphorical writing would be adapted by a director so visionary, and we can only hope that this edition’s director will be able to so beautifully marry literary quirkiness (and prowess) with modern filmmaking in such a way.
Shuffling the Cards
Now, the torch has been passed to James Bobin, director of Muppets Most Wanted and various comedy programs. (It is not like Tim Burton to head two films in the same franchise, so the change was predictable.) Though we’re confident in Disney’s decision on this jarring replacement (and keeping in mind Burton’s continuing involvement as producer on the project) we wonder whether the series will flow smoothly between the two artists of varying visual and narrative techniques. Bobin’s experience with children’s and comedy projects suggests that he will easily carry on the family-friendly air of the franchise, and that he understands more mature comedy enough to follow up Burton’s layered-in dark humor. However, he is yet to demonstrate a union of the two skills.
Maintaining the ‘Muchness’
Of course, Bobin is by no means starting from scratch. The cast currently listed for the sequel is consistent with that of the Alice in Wonderland original. Johnny Depp (Hatter), Helena Bonham-Carter (Red Queen), Alan Rickman (Absalom), Anne Hathaway (White Queen) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsleigh), among others, will reprise roles as Carroll’s timeless Wonderland personalities. Also, the lead screenwriter on Alice in Wonderland, Linda Woolverton, has written the screenplay for Through the Looking Glass. Between Woolverton and the cast, Bobin will be directing a well-versed and acquainted team. We expect this to be for the best, and that his direction will be warmly welcomed to the franchise as he earns his ‘muchness’.
Will Bobin attempt to innovate and execute this task in a new way with the Alice in Wonderland sequel? Or will he follow closely in Burton’s footsteps, continuing the manner of adaptation set before him? There is no right answer as either could work- and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens! Through the Looking Glass is predicted to touchdown in 2016.