For this year’s Disney Christmas fairy tale THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS Directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston reflect on a world-famous ballet. But especially for this exciting approach, her film turns out to be surprisingly unoriginal. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
Young Clara (Mackenzie Foy) finds herself in a mysterious parallel world when she sets out to search for a mysterious key that will open a music box with a unique gift. In Snowflake Land, Flower Land and Sweets Land she meets all sorts of strange inhabitants. Together with the young soldier Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), she finally goes to the ominous Kingdom Number Four, which is ruled by the tyrannical Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). It’s no longer just about Clara’s key, but about restoring harmony in the four kingdoms.
Movie explanation of the ending
Things have been going smoothly for Walt Disney Pictures at the box office for a while now. Since Marvel and Lucasfilm also belong to the mouse company, Disney has been represented several times at the top of the last annual best lists. Recently, however, there have been repeated scandals and questionable decisions by various company bosses; be it the handling of James Gunn’s personality with regard to the creation of a third “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, the expulsion of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the set of the “Star Wars” spin-off “Solo” or even the waiver of renowned journalists who were simply no longer invited to US press screenings after repeated negative reports. Under these conditions, one should be pricked up if Disney keeps this year’s Christmas fairy tale “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” under wraps for as long as possible; In United Kingdom, too, journalists were only allowed to see the film a few days before the release and had to wait until the opening day to report on it – a very rare requirement for the Disney company, which is usually applied to films where those responsible fear spoilers that will leak out in advance. This much can be revealed: neither the feared fiasco nor a mega narrative twist awaits the viewer. Instead, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is charming in its best moments and invites you to marvel. In the worst ones, however, he is really annoying, which is mainly due to Keira Knightley, who is doing everything she can to win the Golden Raspberry next year.
Clara (Mackenzie Foy) discovers the four kingdoms.
It’s a bit reminiscent of the now almost legendary scene with Rihanna in Luc Besson’s science fiction opera “Valerian”: The best thing about the whole film is a moment that is completely irrelevant to the actual plot! In “Valerian”, the R’n’B star shows a perfectly choreographed dance performance in which she not only shows what her character’s body can do, but also changes her appearance several times – visually stunning, breathtaking, spectacular; narratively but at the same time invalid. In “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” it is the ballet, perfectly performed in a single scene (which would not have needed it narratively), that gives the viewer a momentary idea that there is a really good film in the generic fantasy all sorts could, the makers would have focused more on the origin of the original – the famous ballet “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, which in turn is based on ETA Hoffman’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” – instead of repeating it over and over again in the briskly told 100 minutes to reach into the generic pot of CGI fantasy fairy tale set pieces that countless directors have already used in recent years. Everything about “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is reminiscent of something we have seen many times before: “Alice in Wonderland,” for example, “The Fantastic World of Oz” or “Maleficent.” The directors Lasse Hallström (“Salmon fishing in Yemen”) and Joe Johnston (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) largely touches of pleasant kitsch from mythical creatures, picturesque fantasy worlds and a pinch of fairytale atmosphere. And it always works when the charismatic young actress Mackenzie Foy is allowed to wear it alone.
As Clara, Mackenzie Foy becomes the perfect identification figure for a young audience. Initially reserved and overwhelmed by having discovered a world beyond her own, over time she blossoms into a brave heroine who can only succeed in ensuring that peace finally reigns in the four kingdoms. Foy mimics this change from shy girl to tough fighter believably and authentically, even if she, like much of the rest of the cast, can never quite match the acting excellence of her previous career (in Foy’s case, that might be Christopher Nolan’s space epic “Interstellar” be). This is largely due to the dialogues and the lack of energy in them. Ashleigh Powell (“The Hazel Wood”) lets the characters act out theatrically; Some of the sentences are outrageously constructed and are always formulated by the actors – including a breathing space so that the person opposite can react to what is being said. At the same time, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren’s performances in particular have a theatricality to them, especially in Knightley’s case (“Hidden Beauty”) at some point it becomes almost unbearable. With an artificial squeaky voice and a fake French accent, Knightley overacted himself to dizzying heights. Both suit her already cartoonish character, but in order to really see it all through to the end, you as a viewer need strong nerves. Even the caricature of a character, as Knightley presents it here, can be staged more subtly.
Clara and Phillip (Jayden Fowara Knight) on their way through the four kingdoms.
You don’t need that strong of nerves for the story, which is quite consistent with the genre – basically it’s just good fighting against evil, although screenwriter Ashleigh Powell can’t resist small political, smartly placed tips (and her work is therefore in contrast to the… The above-mentioned examples of fantasy films definitely help them achieve a certain current relevance). Nevertheless, Powell also resorts to a plot twist that has become very well-worn (especially at Disney) in order to turn the events in the final third completely inside out. We don’t want to reveal what exactly it is at this point; especially since the turn-around in question is finally quite unforeseen. But the script for “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” still doesn’t win any originality awards. So at the end we only have to look at the technical tricks with which Hallström and Johnston are most likely to score points. Even if the film was not played in the correct format in the press screening we showed and the image perspectives and coloring were distorted, the creative diversity that lies in the completely contrasting settings of the four different empires can still be guessed at. Sometimes it’s really breathtaking, but at other times it’s bursting with CGI effects and recognizable green screens. The best thing about the film is ultimately in the details. Be it talking mice that actually look as if they were real, or the aforementioned ballet scene in which a dancer on a stage gives the film a magic for a brief moment that it lacks as a whole.
Conclusion: Compared to similar fantasy material like “Alice in Wonderland” or “Maleficent,” “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” at least has a touch of political relevance. The worlds that unfold on the screen are also really beautiful to look at in their variety of details. But it’s not just Keira Knightley who gets on the viewer’s nerves with her unbearable overacting, the script also only dares to deviate very marginally from what Disney has been making money from for years.
“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from November 1st!
Note: At the press screening we attended in Hamburg, the film was not shown in the correct format. This meant that the images were cut off at the top and bottom due to the unintentional zooming in and the coloring was displayed incorrectly. We would have liked to go into the visual qualities of “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” in more detail, but after viewing this version we would not like to allow ourselves to do so as usual.