The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
As Disney continues to release its live-action remakes of its legendary animated features, the “house of mouse” has produced several big-budget live-action films such as Oz the Great and Powerful, Into the Woods, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Now, the studio releases its latest endeavour, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a hodgepodge of ideas from better movies.
On Christmas Eve, Claire Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) receives a mysterious box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. Attending an annual holiday party at her godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) estate the same evening, Clara follows a golden thread, which leads her to a strange and enchanted parallel world. It’s there that she encounters a nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the presiding regents who ruled over three Realms: the Land of Flowers, the Land of Snowflakes and the Land of Sweets. Guided by Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley), Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve the key that would unlock Clara’s gift and (hopefully) return peace and harmony to the Four Realms.
Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston (who aided in directing the film’s reshoots), the movie takes the classic tale by E T A Hoffmann (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King) that we all know and love and adds a new twist in this cinematic reimagining. For the most part, the story is presented as a typical hero’s journey, which is always fun, entertaining and engaging to viewers. However, the film rushes through its narrative so that its plot points feel haphazard and almost half-baked. More to the point, the picture lacks substance in almost all categories as various characters and events (including seeing more of the mystical and diverse Four Realms) could have been easily expanded upon. Thus, Hallström’s feature, despite its familiarity, feels like a stripped, bare-bones iteration that seems like a cobbled-up version of other similar stories, borrowing heavily from Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Young actress Mackenzie Foy does a decent job in the role of Clara, playing up the classic female hero archetype with vigour and spunk, but the character just feels too derivative. Keira Knightly shines the brightest in the movie as Sugar Plum (the regent ruler of the Land of Sweets) in an almost over-the-top performance (yet working fine with what the film wants from the character), while Helen Mirren’s brilliant acting talents are woefully underutilised in the role of Mother Ginger, as with Jayden Fowora-Knight’s character of Captain Phillip. Everyone else, including Richard E Grant, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, and Morgan Freeman, are delegated to more minor, supporting roles, offering up a sort of “window dressing” for the narrative and nothing more, which is disappointing, especially given the talents of those individuals.
Perhaps the film’s saving grace is its visual aesthetic, which makes the world of the Four Realms quite cinematically gorgeous, with its visual effects as well as costume design and productions being the most memorable aspects. In the end, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is merely a sugar-coated cinematic story that is colourful in its visual style, but lacks substance in its tale of a young girl who ventures into a magical land. It’s a very rushed and almost disappointing fantasy adventure of what could’ve been something quite magical.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is released nationwide on 2nd November 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms here: