Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Elfman, 2016)

     One of Danny Elfman's best themes came from his collaboration with Tim Burton on 2010's "Alice in Wonderland".  In 2016, Elfman scored the James Bobin-directed sequel, further expanding upon his Alice themes and adding new themes for the character "Time" and the Hatter's family (the Hightopps).  In this story, Alice returns to Underland to find that the Hatter is looking for his lost family, but no one believes his claim that they are still alive.  Alice steals a Chronosphere (time travel ship) from Time's castle and tries to save the Hatter's family in different time periods.  She eventually deducts that the Hightopps are actually still alive and held captive by the Red Queen.  In the end, the Red Queen almost causes an Underland armageddon by abusing the Chronosphere, but Alice saves the day.  Along the way of this twisty tale, the backstory behind the White Queen and the Red Queen is explored as well.

     In "Looking Glass", Elfman uses the established Alice themes in a slightly different way than in the first film.  The previous film's main Alice theme elements (verse melody, rising harmony and/or 6/8 rhythmic motif) here become more like parts of a "hero" theme, and the Little Alice theme becomes the main Alice "character" theme.  In general, the Little Alice theme is used much more often here, and sometimes used in combination with fragments of the Alice hero theme.  Additionally, the Hatter's new theme is revealed to be a variation of the bridge in Alice's original main theme.  Naturally the Red Queen, Mystery motif (Cheshire Cat theme) and Proposal themes also make a return here, with the Proposal theme becoming more of a "friendship" theme than a future-marriage-related theme.

     Most of the returning themes for Alice are presented in the overture track, "Alice" (sort of a "previous episode" synopsis), and the new themes get slowly introduced throughout the remainder of the score:
  • Time theme: motif based on 2 rising notes rising followed by 3 rising notes, then developing, first appears at 1:04 in "Watching Time".  This theme often has a "tic-toc" supporting structure, and this motif also occurs elsewhere.
  • Time March: lurching, syncopated low theme in 1 and 2-note figures in a rising-falling shape, first appears at 1:15 in "Story of Time", somewhat related Prokofiev's "Montague theme".
  • Hightopp theme: 7-note theme opening on 3 rising notes, and then zig-zagging into further shapes, presented clearly in the beginning of "Warning Hightopps".
  • Hatter theme: normally lilting (1:24 in "Truth"), but often in a troubled variation in most of the film, derived from the bridge of "Alice's Theme" from the first film.
     The table below lists the tracks in chronological order (although the opening section of track 7, "The Red Queen", should really be right after "The Seconds").   The Alice themes (hero and character) are threaded throughout the score and I mention when they occur usually, but,  just as in my post for the first film, not for every occurrence (since it's present in every track essentially).
 
Trk Dur Title Film Sequence
1 6:35 Alice (Not used in the film, but works nicely as an album overture.)
0:00: Opening Alice string rhythm and rising choir harmony.
0:32: Alice theme 1st verse with timpani, bass pulses, brass fanfares.
1:08: Alice theme 2nd verse with percussion and winds developed.
1:40: Bridge (Hatter theme): high metallic percussion enters, brass ornaments, timpani.
2:20: Alice theme featuring solo boys voice.
2:46: Little Alice theme.
3:09: Little Alice development with Alice theme in solo voices.
4:04: Proposal theme and development.
5:13: Alice theme featuring solo boys voice.
5:29: Bridge (Hatter theme) featured on choir, developed into a dialogue with Alice theme, ending in rising choir harmony.
2 3:40 Saving the Ship 0:00: Opening image of Cheshire Cat over rainy seas (Mystery motif in sliding strings).  Alice's ship "The Wonder" is pursued by pirate ships (ends with Alice theme in high winds).  
1:05: Alice spies shallow water (string/drum accents).  She orders the crew to open sails and tilt the ship in order to make the passage (Little Alice variation in brass).
1:44: The ship takes damage from the pirates' cannons.  The ship begins tilting but requires Alice's personal intervention.
2:33: The ship tilts just in time (Little Alice theme).  Her ship makes it (Alice,  Little Alice theme).
3:15: The pursuing pirate ships soon run aground (Little Alice theme).
4 3:30 Looking Glass 0:00: Alice and her mother argue (Little Alice theme in cello, celeste, horns, etc).  Absolem appears as a butterfly and Alice follows him to a room with a mirror (Alice rhythm).  She finds that her hand can go through it (Alice theme).  
2:11: Men approach and try to open the door.
2:31: Alice decides to pass through the mirror ("looking glass") (Little Alice theme in organ).  On the other side she finds herself shrunken.  After sliding down a cord she runs into an animated chess set.  She accidentally knocks Humpty Dumpty off the table.
5 0:56 To the Rescue 0:00: The chessmen go to the anthropomorphic egg's rescue and try to put him back together.  Absolem appears and tells Alice that the Hatter is in trouble.  Alice walks out a door into thin air (Little Alice fragment in flute).
22 1:06 Friends United 0:00: After Alice lands, she is reunited with her old friends the Tweedle twins, the Mad Hare, Mallymkin the Mouse, Bayard, McTwisp the White Rabbit, the Bandersnatch and the White Queen (Proposal theme, developed).  They tell her there's a problem with the Hatter (Hatter fragment).
6 3:47 Hatter House 0:00: Alice is greeted by the Hatter at his house (Little Alice).  The Hatter tells her that he believes his family is alive, and that now he can reconcile with them from an old disagreement (Hightopp theme hinted in horns, then later in clarinet). 
1:56: Alice tells the Hatter that she doesn't believe him and that there's nothing she can do (dark Hatter theme fragment).
3:00: When Alice tries to tell him that it is impossible to bring them back, he kicks her out (dark Hatter theme, Little Alice theme).
27 3:03 Story of Time 0:00: Alice tells her friends that the Hatter is dying (Little Alice, Hatter in horns).  
0:29: The White Queen gets an idea and asks Alice to travel back in time in order to save the Hatter's family (Alice theme).  The Cheshire Cat tells Alice about the Chronosphere.  The White Queen warns Alice that it is dangerous for someone to see themselves in the past, so Alice is the only one who can travel into the past (Time March theme in celeste, winds).  
1:53: Alice resolves to undertake the mission (Alice theme) and her Underland friends take her to the gateway to Time's castle (a grandfather clock) (Little Alice).
23 1:49 Time's Castle 0:00: Alice enters the grandfather clock (Mystery motif, Little Alice) and approaches Time's castle, which is across a large chasm with a sweeping clock-hand.  Alice jumps onto a clock hand and eventually makes it across (Alice theme).
3 5:10 Watching Time 0:00: Alice enters Time's castle (Mystery motif) and sees Seconds, small metallic creatures.
0:48: Time appears (Time theme in bass) and stumbles around.  He eventually enters a room filled with floating stopwatches (Time March theme).  Time listens for a "life" stopwatch's last tick.  
2:12: A person falls dead.  Time finds the deceased's stopwatch and takes it to the "death" room (Time March, Mystery motif).
3:00: Time notices Alice and they make introductions (Alice theme, Time and Time March themes).
4:43: Time shows Alice the Grandclock of All Time.
24 0:50 The Seconds 0:00: Time introduces Alice to his metallic assistants, the Seconds (playful Time March developed).
8 4:15 The Chronosphere 0:00: When visiting, the Red Queen is upset and Time wonders what the problem is.  Alice explores the interior of the Grandfather Clock of Time and sees the Chronosphere (Alice theme).  The Red Queen tells Time that she wants the Chronosphere as well (Time March).  Alice grabs the Chronosphere from its pedestal...
1:55: Time realizes that the Chronosphere has been taken.  Metallic robots combine and chase Alice out of the clock interior (Time March and Alice fragments, Time theme, etc).  Time and the Red Queen rush to investigate the disturbance but Alice escapes in the Chronosphere (Alice themes).
11 1:15 Oceans of Time 0:00: Alice escapes Time's castle in the Chronosphere and learns how to navigate the seas of Time.  She promises the Hatter's ocean image that she will save him and his family.
9 2:23 Warning Hightopps 0:00: In the past, the Hatter is saddened by his father's disappointment in him.  He leaves the throne room (Hightopp theme in harp, flute, piccolo).
0:42: Alice tries to console him.  She urges him to reconcile with and warn his family, but he ignores her and wanders off.
12 2:27 Hat Heartbreak 0:00: (Unused?  Possibly Alice meets the young Tarrant Hatter)
0:54: The very young Hatter gives his father a paper hat but his father breaks it and is dismissive of it (Hightopp theme in strings, etc).
1:45: The young White Queen steals a tart and then leaves crumbs under Iracebeth's bed (the young Red Queen's bed).
10 1:45 Tea Time Forever 0:00: Time becomes annoyed when he realizes he has been fooled by the Hatter.  He traps the Hatter and his friends at 1 minute to Tea time, and then leaves in his time ship.
1:08: After Time is gone, the Hatter and his friends realize their trap is real.
26 2:23 They're Alive 0:00: Iracebeth, betrayed by her sister, runs out of her home and despite Alice's efforts, hits her head and becomes "evil".
1:30: Alice sees that the Hatter's father has saved the hat his son made (Hightopp theme).  After a reminiscence, she realizes that they must have survived the Jabberwock attack on Horvendush day.
25 1:50 Clock Shop 0:00: Time corners Alice in a clock store (Time theme).  Time and the Grandfather clock of Time both have a brief seizure.  
1:21: Alice escapes through a nearby mirror, but wakes up as a patient in an asylum.
13 4:06 Asylum Escape 0:00: Alice runs away from the guards at the asylum (Alice theme developed as an action cue).  She climbs a spiral staircase and reaches the roof.  She rappels down and steals a horse and carriage.
1:19: Back at Hamish's house, she grabs the Chronosphere and reenters the mirror and returns to sailing the seas of time.  She emerges on the day of the Jabberwock attack.  She sees the soldiers of the Red Queen surround the Hatter's family (Hightopp fragment) and lead them off.  The Red Queen appears and rides off on the Jabberwock.  Alice returns to the present time to tell the Hatter the good news.
14 3:22 Hatter's Deathbed 0:00: The Hatter lies weak in bed (Little Alice theme).  His friends say that he is fading away (Hatter theme in flute, horn).  Alice awakens him and tells him what she has found.  
1:29: The Hatter gains energy from Alice's belief (Little Alice theme).  She tells him that his family is alive and that the Red Queen has them (Red Queen theme in basses).  The Hatter regenerates his colors (Hatter theme).
2:52: At the Red Queen's overgrown castle, she taunts her ant colony.
7 2:29 The Red Queen 0:00: (from the early part of the film after "The Seconds") The Red Queen arrives at Time's castle and Alice hides (Red Queen theme hinted in low brass).  The Red Queen goes to Time's room.
0:24: Time arrives at the Red Queen's overgrown castle (Red Queen theme in low winds/bass), and Time tells her that he is still looking for Alice and wants to know about the Hightopps.  The Red Queen makes Time her prisoner.
1:25: Alice and her friends head towards the Red Queen's camp.  The Red Queen sees them approaching.  The heroes arrive and enter the Red Queen's house of exile.
15 2:04 Finding the Family 0:00: In the Red Queen's castle, the Hatter is upset that he can't find his family (Hightopp wistful variation).  However the ant colony is soon revealed to be holding his shrunken family (Hatter theme).
1:23: The Red Queen arrives and takes the Chronosphere from Alice (Red Queen theme in low brass, Hightopp fragment).
16 4:24 Time Is Up 0:00: After the Red Queen has broken time and turned to rust, the rust begins spreading.  
0:36: Alice escapes in the Chronosphere (Alice theme).  The rust pursues them through the seas of time (Little Alice fragments in strident strings, winds).  
1:51: Alice arrives at Time's castle but things look grim for the friends (grim Alice theme, Little Alice strings, Time March, etc).
3:15: Alice's friends make their last stand (poignant Little Alice).  
3:44: Time uses the last of his power to help Alice (Time theme in brass/choir).  Alice is about to restore the Chronosphere but is frozen by the rust.
17 1:50 World's End 0:00: The Chronosphere sparks and falls into place (Little Alice in celeste developed).  The rust melts away and everyone comes back to life (soaring Proposal theme).  
1:22: Time tells the Seconds that they should get to work (Time March).  The Underland friends are reunited.
18 4:09 Truth 0:00: The White Queen feels pity for the Red Queen's loneliness (plaintive Red Queen theme).  She asks for her forgiveness, and after a moment the Red Queen accepts it (Little Alice fragment in cello).
1:24: The Hatter asks that his family be restored (Hatter theme) and they are given "growing" cake.  The Hatter reunites with his proud family (Hatter theme).
2:43: Alice apologizes to Time for stealing the Chronosphere.  She gives him her father's broken timepiece (Father motif, Little Alice theme).
19 2:13 Goodbye Alice 0:00: Alice and the Hatter say their farewells by the mirror looking glass (Proposal theme in recorder, strings).  They embrace and Alice walks into the mirror.  The scene dissolves to Alice's mother and Hamish.
20 1:19 Kingsleigh & Kingsleigh 0:00: (Alternate) Alice and her mother embark on their own company and their own ship (Alice rhythm, theme).  Titles.
28 3:35 Just Like Fire
(Pink)
0:00: End credits song.
21 0:11 Seconds Song 0:00: Final end credit stinger.


Links
iTunes Soundtrack Listing
Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016 Wiki
Danny Elfman Wiki
Filmtracks Review/Analysis

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