Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)

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Released 6-Apr-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Star Struck, Pirate Islands, Ocean Girl, Black Beauty
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 83:23 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Henderson
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Nick Vivian
Jonathan Bailey
Desmond Barritt
Kate Beckinsale
John Cashen
Steve Coogan
Charlotte Curley
Brian Gilks
Jasper Holmes
Ian Holm
Tania Luternauer
Michael Medwin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Dominik Scherrer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In 1903, Cecil M Hepworth produced the first film version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Since then, both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have inspired countless film productions worldwide. Sadly, though, very few live up to the nonsensical genius of Carroll's books and the few that do manage to scale the same heights as their source can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Jonathan Miller's 1966 production for the BBC is brilliantly mad and Jan Svankmajer's nightmarish stop motion adaptation Alice (Neco z Alenky) dwells on the novels' dark undertones. Sadly neither are available in Region 4 and the best we have on offer is Disney's Alice in Wonderland, a film that, although unfaithful to Carroll's plot (and wit), embraces the nonsense of Wonderland nicely. The vast majority of Alice films, usually produced for television, make the fatal mistake of treating Alice as, first and foremost, a children's tale. Such interpretations are usually bright and vivid, and perhaps attractive to young eyes, but ultimately, by either simplifying Carroll's sophisticated word play and mathematical intricacies, or downplaying the morbid and dark undertones (death jokes come thick and fast in the novels), fail to do justice to Alice or stand on their own as films of any distinction.

    Naturally, jaded Alice fan that I am, sliding John Henderson's 1998 Kate Beckinsale vehicle, Alice Through the Looking Glass, into my DVD player didn't arouse any great expectations. And thus, naturally, all my expectations were met. I'll be honest: Henderson's Looking Glass is certainly not the best Alice, but does have a few moments that hint at what could have been. Kate Beckinsale plays a mother reading Through the Looking-Glass to her daughter, and when prompted by her captive audience to "believe" in Looking-Glass House, finds herself transported to Carroll's world, re-enacting almost word for word Alice's adventures. Call me a purist, but a twenty-something Alice just doesn't work: Alice's adult pretensions are completely undermined. Ian Holm makes a well-cast appearance as the White Knight and carries his character's weariness nicely, but he and the rest of the cast are hampered by uninspiring direction. Filming the White Knight's song as a silent film was an excellent idea but executed poorly. Likewise, using stop-motion elements in the Walrus and the Carpenter sequence had great potential, but ultimately fell flat. (Here's an idea: imagine Tim Burton doing Alice a la Corpse Bride. . . .). Cheap costumes, poor CGI (such a dismal Jabberwocky!), some dull acting, and a general uncertainty in the film's direction produce a rather unsatisfying viewing experience and the usual sighs for opportunities lost. Stick with Disney for the time being - or better yet, revisit the book. No disappointments there!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Only average marks for the video transfer. Produced for television, it's probably safe to say that Through the Looking Glass' presentation at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is true to its original format.

    Sharpness is generally good throughout. Shadow detail is a little murky and low level noise is very visible. As a result pixelization rears its ugly head, though not disastrously.

    The colour scheme changes throughout from a nicely saturated and natural look to a vivid yellow palette. The yellow scenes are overly saturated and an eye-sore. Some footage has been deliberately overexposed.

    The yellow scenes especially show heavy posterization (see 3:18) and higher levels of noise and pixelization. Aliasing is visible at times (see the beehive at 52:30). I didn't catch any film artefacts other than those deliberately added for the silent film segment.

    No subtitles are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio is not exactly well done either, but is adequate. A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is included and is surround encoded.

    Dialogue is audible, besides deliberate mumbling, but poorly recorded. It sounds flat and has very audible hiss and echo. Audio sync is accurate.

    The score is composed by Dominick Scherrer. It's rather uninteresting and a fairly standard television score that adds very little to the proceedings.

    Audio is very centre focused, spreading music and ambient effects to the rears. The rears occasionally get a brief work out with some louder effects, but not too often. The subwoofer rumbles very mildly now and then to support the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Several trailers round out the package. Pirate Islands is 16x9 enhanced, the rest full frame.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release appears to have a transfer equal to ours, if not slightly better. English and Spanish subtitles plus different trailers mark the only real difference. I'd call it even.

Summary

    Not a great interpretation of Through the Looking-Glass and full of missed opportunities.

    Average video and average audio.

    Several trailers for extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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