The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

PG   |    |  Adventure, Family, Fantasy


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018) Poster

A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

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5.5/10
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  • Keira Knightley and Mackenzie Foy in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
  • Helen Mirren in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
  • Keira Knightley and Mackenzie Foy at an event for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
  • Morgan Freeman in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
  • Misty Copeland in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
  • Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

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2 November 2018 | ferguson-6
6
| not your parents' nutcracker
Greetings again from the darkness. Missing: Tchaikovsky and Ballet. OK, not missing entirely, and it seems all we do is beg for creativity and new approaches in movies, so let's give this one fair treatment. It's not the traditional "Nutcracker" holiday fare you've come to expect on stage, on TV, in the mall, at schools, and just about everywhere. Instead, it's a version wrung from both the 1816 original short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman and the 1892 ballet by Marius Petipa with music from Tchaikovsky, yet also something quite different. Still, different doesn't always mean better ... sometimes it just means different.

We are treated to a beautiful extended opening shot as an owl swoops through old London. This acts as preparation for the abundance of stunning visuals headed our way throughout. Budding star Mackenzie Foy (INTERSTELLAR, 2014) plays Clara Stahlbaum, a young girl distraught that it's her first Christmas without her beloved mother Marie, who recently passed away. Clara's quietly grieving father (Matthew Macfadyen) delivers the presents Marie left for each of the three kids. Mechanically inclined Clara's gift is an ornate egg that requires a specialty key to unlock the hidden message Clara believes her mother has left.

A lavish Christmas party at her Godfather's (Oscar winner Morgan Freeman) mansion leads Clara to a parallel universe where her mother Marie was Queen of the four realms. This is a fantastical land that reminds (maybe a bit too much) of Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND and the classic THE WIZARD OF OZ. Clara buddies up with a live Nutcracker soldier Phillip (newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight), who quickly becomes her trusted bodyguard. Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, Land of Sweets, and the blighted Fourth Realm run by a cast-out Mother Ginger (Oscar winner Helen Mirren) make up this world. Keira Knightley stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and her devilishly fun performance is responsible for most of the energy, humor and entertainment outside of the visual effects. The two time Oscar nominee seems to relish the voice, the costumes and the chance to play a quirky character.

Disney touches like the animal sidekicks are noted: Phillip's loyal steed, and the pesky little mouse that flashes more personality than anyone in the film outside of Sugar Plum. Most of the comedic secondary characters (including Richard E Grant and Eugenio Derbez) fall flat with very little do in a screenplay from Ashleigh Powell that gives the impression of multiple hands in the pie. Adding to the disjointed feel and lack of cohesion in the story flow is the fact that two very different directors worked on the project. Lasse Hallstrom (CHOCOLAT) handled principal photography and then Joe Johnston (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) spent a month on re-shoots with attention to visual effects. The contrasts between these two directors is quite clear in the finished project despite the cinematographer of Oscar winner Linus Sandgren (LA LA LAND).

The mishmash of styles and tone prevents us from ever really connecting with characters or being drawn in by the story, but beyond that, there are some really terrific visuals and special effects. I especially liked the look of the enhanced tin soldiers and the work of two time Oscar winning costume designer Jenny Beavan. Of course, this is a familiar story and many viewers bring certain expectations into the theatre with them. The iconic Tchaikovsky music is played early and throughout the film, though mostly in teases and in blends with new music from James Newton Howard. We do get a glimpse of Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducting the orchestra, and for those expecting ballet, the fabulous Misty Copeland performs a couple of times, though it's likely not enough for those hoping for more of a ballet production. The end result is an impressive visual experience that will likely still disappoint those looking for another holiday watching tradition.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Morgan Freeman's character "Drosselmeyer," nearly mirrors his "Lucius Fox" character from the Batman movies. As Drosselmeyer the toy maker and mentor to Clara, herself a technical genius, works in his workshop 'down below' just like Lucius Fox in Applied Sciences department at 'Wayne Enterprises,' for Bruce Wayne. A clock work swan Drosselmeyer was working on failed to work properly as it turned backwards. Clara fixed it for Drosselmeyer by fixing the drive gears idler wheel. In The Dark Knight Rises (2012), 'the Bat' flying vehicle that Fox did not get to fix was repaired by Bruce Wayne, who repaired a program patch in the flight software.


Quotes

Shiver: This is your mother's throne, Your Grace.
Sugar Plum: Have you come to save us, Clara?
Clara: No.
Clara: I'm sorry. I didn't even now this place existed before today. You see, I was looking for a Christmas present from my godfather.
Hawthorne: Oh, I love Christmas!
Hawthorne: What's Christmas?
Clara: ...


Goofs

Every decorated conifer has the same silhouette, with an identifiable bare patch on the left side of the trees, suggesting that the image was simply recycled once rendered. Real trees look different from each other.


Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits and the title doesn't appear until the end credits.


Soundtracks

The Nutcracker Suite
Composed by
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Produced by James Newton Howard
Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel
Featured Piano Soloist - [Lang Lang]
Lang Lang appears courtesy of Universal Music Limited (Hong Kong)

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Family | Fantasy

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