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Soundtrack review: Alice through the looking glass (Danny Elfman – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Alice through the looking glass (Danny Elfman – 2016)


“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a 2016 American fantasy adventure film directed by James Bobin, written by Linda Woolverton and produced by Tim Burton. It is loosely based on Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll and is the sequel to the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland. The film stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen and features the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Danny Elfman returns to charm us with his Alice theme once again. I wouldn’t care if the entire sequel score was a repeat of that theme.

Yep, there it is welcoming me back to this fascinating world with the same choral joy. I could say I’ve missed this theme but it’s been constantly playing in my head so it’s really not the case. It sounds just as fresh and beautiful as it did when it first came out. Truly this is one of the best and most infectious main titles themes ever. This second version is longer and also adds male choirs for an even better effect. If anything Danny Elfman managed the impossible and improve the theme. Simply spectacular film music writing.

With a theme like this the score just sails on without stopping. Just like in the case of the first score, Elfman’s usual fantasy craft complete with inserting this theme throughout the score can never fail. I’m listening to “Saving the ship” and I check if it’s not in fact one of John Powell’s magnificent “How to train your dragon score”. This is the kind of action theme that gets my heart to pump at an impossible rate and makes me feel motivated and invincible. I feel like I need a break after such a thunderous start to the score.

I am enjoying “Through the looking glass” more than the first one. That one had the theme and nothing but the theme but the sequel is more complex and layered and brings more moments of excitement. The darker moments are complimented with more playful ones that let me know the world of Wonderland is not all about darkness and danger. Since the story revolves around the Mad Hatter, Danny Elfman brings his quirkiness into the music. “Tea time forever” works for me as a Mad Hatter theme.

There’s a lot of time traveling in this story and I can only imagine how producer Tim Burton and the director envisioned this on screen.  The composer does his part and creates a musical whirlwind which makes me think or portals and vortexes and of the agitation the characters go through. With all these easily identifiable pieces in the music I can follow the story even if I am not watching the movie right now. “Asylum escape”? Let’s see, Alice is here because I hear a motif from her theme; the Mad Hatter is here and the Red Queen is following them for sure. “Hatter’s deathbed”? Alice is worried and silent so her theme only drips with a few piano notes and a mournful string motif. I love what Danny Elfman is doing with this composition.

More complex, more fun and even more emotional that the first score, “Alice Through the looking glass” shows Danny Elfman on top of his game. Come for the theme, stay for the entire score!

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 44 / 73

Album excellence: 60%



Saving the Ship

Looking Glass

To the Rescue

The Chronosphere

Warning Hightopps

Oceans of Time

Asylum Escape

Hatter’s Deathbed

Finding the Family

Time Is Up

World’s End

Goodbye Alice

Kingsleigh & Kingsleigh

Clock Shop


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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