The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: Is it so terrible?
Since its release on November 2nd, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has been faced with major backlash from critics, being dubbed ‘Disney’s worst movie’, ‘an empty story with empty characters’ and ‘flavourless and forgettable’.
The film gained a lousy 33% from Rotten Tomatoes, 5.6 on IMDB and in most reviews, 2 and a half stars at a push.
After reading the reviews tearing The Nutcracker apart, I can say in my opinion, that it wasn’t as torturous as it has been made out to be.
A main reason for critics’ dislike of the film is the lack of ballet and reference to the original story, which was synonymous with ballet. As someone who went into the film without expectation or attachment, this wasn’t an issue for me. I feel it is important when watching Disney live-action movies to remove any attachment to the original, as comparison more often than not breeds disappointment.
The narrative follows a young girl, Clara (Mackenzie Foy, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part), who is struggling to navigate life and find her place within the family unit following her mother’s death. It begins on Christmas Eve, when Clara’s father presents her and her siblings, Louise and Fritz, with gifts their mother left behind.
Clara receives an egg-shaped box that has a lock engraved but, much to Clara’s confusion and disappointment, the box came with no key. After this, Clara is resentful when her father insists that she and her siblings must attend a Christmas Eve ball. Clara doesn’t want to enjoy Christmas without her mother, nor does she want to put on a facade of happiness.
However, Clara does attend the ball, an event organised and hosted by her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), a skilled engineer. Clara seeks his assistance in unlocking the box, to no success. Returning to the ballroom, Clara refuses to dance with her father and they argue.
They are both upset and Clara calls him self-absorbed and obsessed with maintaining a perfect image since her mother’s passing. Drosselmeyer disrupts the argument, announcing that everyone’s Christmas gifts are ready. Clara finds her name on a string and follows it, leading her into a new world in which she finds a tree holding the key to her box.
Upon her attempt to take the key, a mouse runs away with it across a lake into the ‘Fourth Realm’.
Needing to cross the bridge, Clara meets a man guarding the bridge, whom she comes to know as Captain Philip Hoffman (The Nutcracker). Hoffman takes Clara to the palace, where she meets three regents of land in this world. Sugarplum (Keira Knightley), regent of the Land of Sweets, Shiver (Richard E. Grant), regent of the Land of Snowflakes, and Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), regent of the Land of Flowers.
Sugarplum informs Clara that they are under attack from Mother Ginger (Dame Helen Mirren), regent of the Land of Amusements in the fourth realm, whose desire is to dominate all of the realms and turn the regents into toys.
One thing that stood out to me in the film was the visual effects. Each shot was mesmerising and flamboyant; the world/realms within this narrative world are believable, and each possesses a quality that triggers emotions: the Land of Sweets triggering joy, the Land of Amusements triggering fear.
The visuals and the premise are very reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which I also enjoyed. I do feel as though the story could have been more climactic, and I semi-agree with critics that the characters could have had more depth.
I did like Mackenzie Foy’s character Clara, yet failed to connect with her as she was pretty simplistic. However, in terms of character chemistry, the relationship between Clara and the Nutcracker was very endearing and a highlight in terms of acting.
As for Keira Knightley, this was not her best role. Perhaps it was the character of Sugarplum, her shrill tone of voice, or just Knightley’s performance in general, made me dislike every scene she was in. The best acting for me was that of Helen Mirren, who was spectacular as supposed tyrant Mother Ginger.
There’s also a beautiful sequence in which Misty Copland performs a ballet number acting out the discovery of the realms, and the current war between the realms. This is one of the best scenes of the film.
The film deserves some credit. Its visuals are breathtaking, some scenes are captivating, and it has a plot twist that works well. It is also wonderful for the festive time of year. The story and characters could have had more depth, the film could have constructed a better climax and the acting from some of the A-Listers could have been of a higher standard, but overall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is worth the watch and is not as bad as the critics say.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is in cinemas now.