Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland from 2010 was a box office success, grossing over a billion dollars worldwide. Therefore it was only a matter of time before Disney delivered a sequel. However, with Burton tied up in production on Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, director James Bobin took the helm for Alice Through The Looking Glass. Burton’s veteran composer Danny Elfman returns, though, delivering an exciting fantasy score that outshines his most recent work.
Alice’s theme is a career highlight for Elfman. A perfect embodiment of his style, it showcases hypnotic string ostinati, blaring brass, thundering timpani, and one of my favorite uses of choir in film music. The album opens with a new arrangement to start things off with a bang. From here, Elfman really gives the theme a workout, weaving it through different permutations and renditions in the action tracks as well as the softer underscore. “Asylum Escape” is an example of the former, it leads in with the theme’s minimalistic beat while transitioning into heavier brass and a flurry of strings. Elfman does well to mimic the chaos here while still layering in brief snippets of Alice’s theme to keep it structured and tied together. He achieves similar success with “Time’s Up,” but utilizes more of his trademark choir for this set piece. Moreover, “Looking Glass” is an example of the opposite effect, by taking the theme and fitting it into a more subtle and dramatic framework. Things eventually crank up as the cue progresses, but the use of chimes and harp give the tone a much softer edge than the other highlights.
The album runs long at 77 minutes, but Elfman brings back the sequencing from last year’s Goosebumps OST, by having a standard album program followed by 7 bonus tracks. The cues only total up to an additional 12 minutes, so nothing major or worthwhile is included here. You can easily maintain the main program as the go-to listening experience. Otherwise, the score has a wonderful energy and flow away from the film. Though much of the underscore does little to impress on its own, as part of the sequencing it provides pleasant breaks from the vigorous action.
Alice Through The Looking Glass is Danny Elfman in his element. He takes one of his most memorable themes and completely breaks it down through tempo, instrumentation, and bright orchestration. The classic use of choir and meaty structure of action make this score a fantastic listen in its own right, outclassing previous contemporary efforts.
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