Released: 22nd November
Seen: 17th December
It’s hard to understate just how popular The Nutcracker ballet actually is. It’s one of the most reproduced ballets you could imagine, representing almost half of what American ballet companies make every year. The score is iconic and has transcended beyond anything that Tchaikovsky could’ve imagined. The show, the music, the story of The Nutcracker is legendary and has lived on for well over a century… which means it’s copyright ran out so Disney can come in, claim it, kill it, pillage the corpse for anything it chooses and leave it as hollow, lifeless and empty as a Tin Soldier.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is set in a very similar storyline to what the original Nutcracker was with some key exceptions. First off, the mother is dead because this is a Disney film and Disney has a dead mother fetish that borders on the pathological (Seriously, Disney, who hurt you? Who hurt you so much that every time you get a chance to kill the mother off screen, you do it?) and second, it’s not well written. The best metaphor for this film comes in the opening scene where Clara and her brother use a Rube Goldberg device in order to try to catch a mouse. During this scene, we constantly cut back to Clara so she can painfully explain every single second of what’s going on, down to explaining how Newton’s third law of motion works (And it’s important she does that, it’s a plot point). That is this film in a nutshell, overly complicated visuals that leads to a simplistic conclusion, all the time narrated by the main character who thinks the audience is too stupid to follow along. Well, I’m not too stupid… I am tremendously bored though.
This film is, somehow, more boring than actually going to the ballet and just watching the Nutcracker in person. At least if you go see the actual ballet you’ll get to see some amazing dancers putting their heart and soul into a show. It’s depressing how bland everything in this film feels. The colours feel muted, the performances are phoned in, the plot is so predictable that I literally sat in the cinema and said out loud what the twist was going to be about five minutes before it happened because it was so telegraphed that it’s impossible not to work out where this is going… and I hate it. I hate where it went because so many Disney films lately has done this exact twist. Frozen, Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph, they have all leaned on the same shocking twist that’s meant to make us rethink how we’ve viewed a character and this one does that too. It’s tired, it’s boring, the only plus side is that halfway through the movie we actually get an interesting performance when the twist happens.. Other than that, there is nothing interesting here because it’s just so basic and boring.
In general, there are only about three good performances in this movie, that being from Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the ballet dancers. That’s it really. The lead is bland, the Nutcracker himself doesn’t really seem to do anything of note and everyone else is just not even trying. It doesn’t help that they’re given either uninteresting dialogue or actively annoying dialogue. There are several moments where I found myself groaning at a bad line that wasn’t even delivered well, almost like everyone involved knew that this wasn’t good but they were getting paid by the mouse so they just did it because that mouse pays well. There are moments in here that I doubt anyone could do well, but I feel particularly sorry for Keira Knightly who had the irritating task of literally telling the audience what they were seeing while the movie stopped to just perform the Nutcracker ballet as backstory. Oh yeah, much like Alice in Wonderland, this is a sequel to the source material and it’s somehow more painful than the Underland reveal because at least then they were trying to tell a radically different story, and it at least looked like Wonderland.
Speaking of looks, everyone looks awful in this film, the decision to give everyone paint jobs that look like they were done by children doing an amateur production of Nutcracker was a poor one. Grown men with beards that are painted on in liquid eyeliner is not a look that I expect to see in a movie that’s clearly trying to sell itself on impressive visuals. The outfits are drab and lifeless with maybe only Mother Ginger getting anything actually visually exciting to wear. It’s off because this is clearly a film that wants to be visually impressive, the opening shot where we fly from the Disney logo to the main character’s house is enough to make you know that this film want’s to impress you with its visuals but it doesn’t push far enough, the colours are dark and drab and the CGI lives in the Uncanny Valley at all times. That opening shot is so obviously completely CGI that it’s painful how you can just tell that every person we pass is a half-rendered model. You’re Disney, you own everything, you couldn’t afford to shut down a street and get a drone? It’s depressing because it’s Disney, I expect them to be able to do so much more with this but it feels like they turned the vibrance down as low as it can go.
The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is a dull drab lifeless companion piece to the ballet. It lacks character, it lacks spirit, it lacks care. You may end up liking it, I have no doubt that some will because taste is subjective… but you won’t remember it. You’ll sit through it and forget key ideas even when they are spelled out for you because this film didn’t care about itself. Ironic since the message of the film is about how the thing you need most is to believe in yourself… this film didn’t follow that message, and it’s such a shame that it didn’t.
What did you think of The Nutcracker And The Four Realms? Let me know yours in the comments below