Breaking the rules by the numbers: two contradictory cliches do not make one original film in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a film that fittingly defies itself in pursuit of meaning and purpose. If Lewis Carroll should turn in his grave, you may turn from the cinema and stroll straight out - a wise choice if you've seen this film's predecessor, Alice in Wonderland. The two films are bound not only by story and character but by tone, design, demographic, and the remarkable sensation of being overwhelmed by banality, of being confronted with limitless artistic and technical wizardry yet being moved by so little of it - a genuine contradiction, perhaps. Since the two are so alike, this latter film is best analysed in direct comparison to the former. As such, it's neither as odd nor as fresh, but resultantly not as willfully enervating. It's not as aesthetically attractive, but only by a little. It's thematically more aware, which is to little diegetic avail, but since so little of Alice Through the Looking Glass actually is, this is one of the more savourable aspects to the film. Indeed, the finest takeaways here are often the most fleeting: there's Helena Bonham Carter's amusing performance as the Red Queen, there's appealing production design - markedly, gratifyingly more physical, more tactile than before - by Dan Hennah, and there's the bizarre sight of a film that casts Geraldine James, seems to make a genuine effort to provide her with even a single line of dialogue, and yet somehow fails. It's an appropriate summation of Alice Through the Looking Glass on the whole, in fact: fitfully fun, but despite all it tries, it's ultimately a failure.