FANTASY A HARD NUT TO CRACK
Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a feast for the eyes starring Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren but in terms of overall storytelling, the filmmakers do very little with a lot
Disney’s live-action heroines don’t appear to be evolving as fast as their animated counterparts. Alongside Frozen’s heart-melting princesses and Moana’s oceanic adventurer, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ central character feels constrained.
Corsets could well be part of the problem. But she’s not helped by a derivative storyline that borrows liberally from beloved children’s classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.
It’s almost as if the screenwriting is diminishing in inverse proportion to the sophistication of the technology.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ swooping, birdof-prey perspective opening shot is a heart-stopper. And the costume and production design is just as spectacular, as one would expect from a $180 million Disney Christmas confection.
But in terms of the overall storytelling, the filmmakers do very little with a lot. And the characters – with the exception of Keira Knightley’s scene-stealing Sugar Plum Fairy and Helen Mirren’s spicy Mother Ginger – are about as hollow as the tin soldiers the film’s villain brings to life.
Given the joint directing credit, it’s hard to know where the responsibility lies – Joe Johnston ( Captain America: The First Avenger) oversaw 32 days of reshoots when the original helmsman, Lasse Hallstrom, was unavailable. But it seems likely that the problems originated in the initial concept.
Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Misty Copeland’s classic dance performances are the closest The Four Realms gets to its source material. The plot – in which the central character follows a mouse into a magical parallel world – feels about as disposable as a massproduced stocking filler.
When the film opens, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is about to spend her first Christmas without her mother (whose death is handled sensitively). Desperate to unlock the silver egg she has been bequeathed, Clara pursues the key-stealing rodent into the Four Realms, where she is persuaded by Knightley’s Sugar Plum Fairy to take on the evil Mother Ginger. At this point, there’s a surprise twist.
The Four Realms boasts a self-reliant heroine and two powerful supporting female characters. The other two realm regents – flowery Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) and icicle-crusted Shiver (Richard E Grant) – are unusually insipid. And the nutcracker (Jayden FoworaKnight) is reduced to the role of handbag prince.
Contemporary audiences have become accustomed to self-empowerment stories that are a bit more thematically substantial. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is now showing in cinemas
Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mackenzie Foy as Clara in a scene from new Disney offering The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.