05th Feb2019

‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Mackenzie Foy,  Kiera Knightley, Morgan Freeman, Misty Copeland, Tom Sweet, Meera Syal, Ellie Bamber, Matthew Macfadyen, Nick Mohammed, Charles Streeter, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Helen Mirren, Omid Djalili, Jack Whitehall, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant | Written by Ashleigh Powell | Directed by Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston


Disney’s latest hollow attempt at once again crafting another franchise in the same vein as the early Pirates of the Caribbean, and Alice in Wonderland, A Wrinkle in Time pictures etc comes in the guise of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Directed by both Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston (don’t worry we’ll get onto that a little later) their dual attempt to craft something worthy of entertainment almost, not quite, but almost verges on a criminal offence to the eyes and ears of any audience subjected to it.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms takes all the worse attributes from Alice in Wonderland, A Wrinkle in Time,  and Snow White and the Huntsman,  and crams all of it into a Frankenstein-esque monster and sets it free unleashing it upon the stubbornness of audiences who are slowly starting to realise that the one-time magnificence of Disney is fading away into lustful oblivion. Gone is the original prowess of state-of-the-art technology and left in its wake is mediocrity to the finest degree. This is a prime example of the sheer depressive depth Disney will fall, regarding standards, to put together something so tedious and lifeless.

The film is sadly just empty. It has zero charisma of even the slightest margin. The CGI at times is downright beautiful and in the next scene bafflingly inept. The wide and establishing shots showcase an outrageously beautiful aesthetic and the film does honour itself with vivid and abstract colours that pop in a lavish elegance. Its only once characters begin to talk that the film falls to pieces. Certain sequences of dialogue here from screenwriters Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy is quite frankly atrocious. I’d even go as far as to say that it condescends its own target audience with how inept and lifeless it takes itself.

Mackenzie Foy in the leading role of Clara Stahlbaum leads the charge as heiress and princess to the four realms (of which i cannot name for reasons stated below) or maybe not for that matter. The film has little to no depth available for its audience to engage. Neither interesting nor sufficiently suitable regarding who or what purpose anything has in this story that is vastly over-convoluted and saggy. Made, even more, disappointing with how simplistic and effective the property could have been adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s short story.

The narrative abruptly develops from an engaging and emotional tangent with a young girl living a privileged life in London. Grieving the death of her late mother to meeting an incredibly maligned performance from Morgan Freeman in a cameo that is marvellously out of place and serves little to no purpose whatsoever in the long term, to then suddenly being transported to this underwhelming Narnia derived world in The Four Realms. The narrative is astonishingly stop and start. With every opportunity it has to layer or even breathe to stabilise and establish character/motif it suddenly throws itself under water the next, desperately fighting for air.

A dark metaphor if i say so myself but within the context of having to watch Kiera Knightley as Sugar Plum Fairy and the sheer horror of such a dreadfully patronising and condescending performance in front of your eyes, it is undoubtedly appropriate and accurate. The level of abrasive horror on show here is mesmerising. It is the films most endearing and striking property of unironic viewing that will live on far longer than any of us all can imagine. The sheer scale of ultra-kid friendly toxic patronisation is borderline barbaric. A sentiment that nobody wants to have to write but the sheer level or stubbornness and dumbing down on material needs to be highlighted so it does not and can not happen again.

Lastly the dual directors. I don’t think even Disney could come up with adequate excusable reasoning for such a decision. Unneeded and problematic? yes. Understandable and sufficient? Not really. Hallström in charge of the initial principal photography, yet unavailable to return to overseer re-shoots led to Joe Johnston coming abroad and shooting for a staggeringly long thirty two-day schedule. It’s all over the place in terms of strategy and direction the film is clearly the work of two separate minds. Resulting in two entities that are neither entertaining nor sufficient, to begin with. If Johnston has been credited for his work it is clear the initial shoot was somewhat of a disaster and in that respect, one can almost sympathise in both directors’ struggles. However, who asked for this to be brought to life? In a world where cinema is struggling to bring minorities and female talent in front and behind the screen this is a deeply tragic and embarrassing failure all around.


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