Saturday, 15 March 2014

On Through the Looking Glass, or Why a Sequel to Alice Could Be a Good Thing

Well, hey there! Mr. Fuzzles wasn't too angry with me so I’m writing again. The stitches will come out soon and I’m told scars make you look distinguished, especially on the face. So I want to thank you Mr. Fuzzles for being such a great, big pussy. All hail. Anyway, as usual I heard some news and wanted to comment on it (sit down you damn cat).

YayI'ts the Red Queen! Or wait, maybe it's the Queen of Hearts...I dunno. Nevermind.
Helena Bonham Carter is reprising her role as the Red Queen, alongside Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska, in the sequel to Alice in Wonderland aptly entitled Through the Looking Glass. The first movie, despite not being well received critically, made noodles of money with wide international succ-sauce. So, they’re making another dish. Contrary to my distaste for the whole thing, I’m going to try to explain why this could actually be good.

Here are some things we know: Alice (2010) was not meant as a direct adaptation of the book, but rather a loose reimagining of the world of Wonderland in order to follow a much, much older main character. This caused a number of ripple effects including but not totalling slight differences in characters, an extended history, and various changes to the world at whole.

Also, we know there are many many interesting references of Wonderland that have spanned generations and nations (the Hatter, the Cat, the Queen, the Caterpillar) to the point of Alice becoming a cultural icon for the absurd and wacky.

Here are some things we don’t like: The biggest problem with the first movie is that the writers, even though they said they were loosely adapting the novel, didn’t really stray away from the source material that much. The plotline is different (since there really isn’t much of one in the book) but many of the lines and references are taken straight from both books, just in the worst way possible – let me explain.

I’m sure the creative team feared that if they just directly adapted the source material, the audience wouldn’t be getting anything they haven’t already been seeing on film since 1951. “Let’s create something new,” they said, “Let’s make her older,” another chipped in, “Yeah, then we can change what’s been happening in Wonderland because so much time has passed,” another concluded. Think of it in the way Chronicles of Narnia worked. Every time the characters go back to the fantasy world, so much time has passed that the writers can create a whole new history. Ah, what a perfect opportunity to create something fancy and wonderful. But in Alice (2010) instead of really creating a new world, like they should have, the audience was presented with a terrible rehash of old material.

If the writers are saying, “we are loosely adapting,” then actually do it. Instead of relying on their own imaginative abilities, they just recycled and repackaged old lines from the source. They brought references out of context placing them wherever it sort-of kind-of fit, butchering the real meaning of it all. The same thing happened in Sherlock Holmes (2009) and I was mad then, too.  Taking bits and pieces of the source material, cutting it up, mixing it with placebos, and asking us to snort it believing we’re still getting just as high, is wrong.  

You either adapt what’s in the novel properly, or hardly use it at all (Think Star Trek (2009). Yes they referenced the old series, but not that much, and in the sequel even less). I know Alice (2010) took a mixture of references from the first AND second books, just as the animated movie did, so they have to find a way to fit them together in new ways, but come on, they weren’t even trying.

For example, The Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are two separate characters, not the same one. Proof the writers are just mashing the two books together, losing major parts of the world’s mythos, and trying to pass it as if creating something new, is right there: Carter plays the Queen of Hearts while being called the Red Queen, toting the tyrannical influence of the former and the chess-styled attributes of the latter. Each one is a main character in the first and second novels respectively, not at all the same thing. Granted, I have tried to use my chess queen when playing gin rummy, thinking that if it could move in any direction on a chess board then it obviously could at least make a three-of-a-kind, but Mr. Fuzzles has sharp eyes.

While I hate this, and without trying to be nit-picky about the creative licenses allowed in an adaptation, the point I want to make is that an entire character is being lost here, just as many subtle meanings, poetry, humour, and psychedelic spawnings are lost too because Alice (2010) is butchered by rearranging something that already worked.

"Alice Strangles Bambi": A key moment in Through the Looking Glass
Now to the point: why this can be a good thing for Through the Looking Glass.

What the first movie SHOULD have been, the second movie could be. I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the Disney take on it. I’ve watched the old short film. I’ve noticed the references in movies again and again. What I haven’t seen is something new added to a world nearly a century and a half old.

Luckily, they’ve used a lot of the most famous sections from the two original novels already, so maybe they will buck up and create something themselves, because that’s what Wonderland needs.

I don’t want to see the Down’s syndrome Tweedle-twins, or the mismatched March Hare, or even the Cumberbatch Jabberwocky (wait, I might be mixing up my well-spoken dragons). This is WONDERLAND, create anything you damn well please, just make it interesting. Create a movie in the spirit of Lewis Carroll, don’t just butcher what he’s already done properly 150 years ago.

There are still wonderful, amazing writers out there – scores of them, in fact. Just because Lewis Carroll came up with something that shook the world a long time ago, doesn’t mean we can’t create something equally amazing now.

So I’m calling out whoever is writing Through the Looking Glass daring them to be different, to actually loosely adapt a wonderful creation and make it mean something in 2016. You screwed up the first one, fine – as long as you’ve gotten that out of your system, let’s try again next time. Show me something I haven’t seen before. It’s friggen Wonderland.

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