Walt Disney Pictures and director Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland movie adaptation grossed over $1 billion worldwide four years ago, so it ought to come as little surprise to hear that a sequel is on the way. So far, Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp are lined up to reprise their roles as Alice Kingsleigh and the Mad Hatter, respectively, in Alice in Wonderland 2 – rumored to be titled Through the Looking Glass, after Lewis Carroll’s book sequel (the latter being fully titled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There).
Wasikowska and Depp will be joined onscreen again by Helena Bonham Carter, who is in final negotiations to reprise her role from the first installment as the tyrannical – yet also insecure – Red Queen in the Alice film sequel. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the camera, the screenplay written by Linda Woolverton – who also penned Burton’s movie – will be directed by James Bobin, who previously helmed The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted (which opens next week) for the Mouse House.
Variety – which broke the Carter news – is reporting that plot details for Alice in Wonderland 2 are under-wraps for the time being. Woolverton’s script for the previous movie incorporated elements of both Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass novels, but within the context of an original coming-of-adult-age storyline for young Miss Kingsleigh. That is to say, Woolverton’s screenplay for the film sequel might take a similar approach (i.e. feature characters and scenarios from Caroll’s source material in an original narrative).
Carter’s Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) were both banished to the Outlands of Underland (a.k.a. Wonderland) by the conclusion to Burton’s film, though it remains to be seen if Glover will also be back for the sequel; the same goes for other Alice in Wonderland cast members, like Anne Hathaway (who played the White Queen). As for newcomers, we’ve heard that Sacha Baron Cohen has been approached for a villain role, which means it’s possible that he and Carter will reunite on the film (after having portrayed the unscrupulous Thénardiers together in the Les Misérables movie musical).
In related news, Collider interviewed Bobin for his upcoming Muppets installment, when the conversation turned to his Alice in Wonderland sequel. The director carefully stepped around revealing any explicit details on the project, by instead offering the following:
“The thing about me is that my secret passion is history. My films have a lot of historical context; I’m a huge fan of ruins. You see a lot of ruin work in my movies, I like ruins. So the idea of doing a movie that is not only historical but also fantastical, like a fantasy world, I couldn’t pass it up… “
Bobin went on to discuss the influence of Caroll’s writing on English pop culture, as well as voicing his appreciation for the original Alice books as social satires. Indeed, over the years there’s been more widespread academic study on the social commentary aspects of Caroll’s work – moving away from the psycho-analytical interpretation of Wonderland and its inhabitants. That is to say, it’ll be interesting to see if Bobin’s Alice in Wonderland sequel plays up the satirical aspects of the property, more than either Burton’s movie or Disney’s 1951 animated feature did, anyway.
If nothing else, Alice in Wonderland 2 will look different than Burton’s film, since Oscar-winning art director Robert Stromberg – who is busy finishing post-production on his directorial debut, i.e. Disney’s Maleficent – has been replaced by fellow Oscar-winning visual artist Dan Hennah. The latter was the supervising art director on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and production designer on Jackson’s Hobbit films – as far as his work on the Alice sequel will go, Bobin simply teased that the film is set in “different parts of Underland, so it has a slightly more human world.”
Burton’s Alice in Wonderland had inklings of an action movie, but was by and large bigger on having atmosphere than narrative-drive. Bobin indicated that the same approach will be carried over in his sequel (“You wanna create a world where you’re happy to spend two hours of your life.”), along with the previous installment’s use of 3D for added effect:
“Alice is in a Victorian fantasy land, and nowhere suits 3D better than that. There’s no limits to new ideas and what you can do, but also at the same time you have this great palette of Victoriana to use to create a fantastical world, and that to me is very fun because I did history at University, my wife is a historian, history’s my thing. For me, it’s an opportunity to try and recreate the world I love from the past in this really interesting way.”
All in all, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is one of those films that seems to split audiences – many people enjoy its visual razzle-dazzle and playful spin on Caroll’s idiosyncratic fantasy world, while others feel the film is little more than a soulless 3D CGI-fest without enough of Burton’s mad creative touch (and heart). In other words, there’s arguably a fair amount of room for improvement on Bobin’s sequel, as far as pleasing everyone goes.
Alice in Wonderland 2/Through the Looking Glass is currently scheduled to open in theaters on May 27th, 2016.