“Everything you need is inside,” said the note Clara receives from her mother in the new Disney cinematic version of the Tchaikovsky’s ballet, 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms'.
Released on the 2nd of November, 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' came out just in time to remind us to look inside ourselves. To escape the commercialised Christmas present fiasco. To care more about finding our inner strength rather than seeking other’s approval. It is a certifiably powerful message worth spreading right before Christmas. With this beautiful message it makes the viewer wish however, Disney had come out with a far better film, than this average digital weird hybrid between 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and 'Alice in Wonderland' with notes of Tchaikovsky.
The classical soundtrack is probably the only element of the film true ballet fans will love. That and the beautiful dance of American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland. Her appearance is an absolute highlight but remains just that. Her performance is wonderful and makes you wish Disney had integrated the ballet more into the narrative. This will probably be the reason why ballet fans will soon forget about the movie.
Speaking of narrative, the story in itself appears to be an original dark interpretation of the classic, as we have seen in many other Disney reboots like in 'Alice in the Wonderland'. As a matter of fact, the 'Nutcracker and the Four Realms' borrows a lot from it: a strong young female character who does not fit into the upper class she was born into and who finishes her story in a magical world. There is also, a strong parallel between the two heroines finding themselves and their confidence to be who they were meant to be.
Far better than in 'Alice in the Wonderland' is the digital festive landscape Directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston have come up with. Yet, this is not like 'The Chronicles of Narnia'. In Narnia you could almost forget our world’s reality; that lions do not speak and Santa Claus does not exist. But in the Nutcracker digitalisation takes over, the narrative almost gets lost and it is impossible to see the magic.
Likewise, it is almost impossible to be fooled by the squeeky annoying voice performed by Keira Knightley as Sugar Plum Fairy. On one side it is admirable that she was able to maintain that voice and that fool vain girl appearance. But on the other hand, that annoying high voice and the writing is exactly what makes her character predictable to almost everybody, including young kids.
Even though Keira was average, Helen Mirren was great in the vest of Mother Ginger, Regent of the Amusements Realm. Unfortunately, she was underused as much as the dancer Misty Copeland. She only appears in the second half of the film and has one crucial scene in the end with the digital mouse king and Clara (Mackenzie Foy).
Speaking of Mackenzie Foy, her interpretation of a young girl who is still mourning for her mother is touching. Yet, it is hard not to compare her with the other strong live-action female Disney leads of recent years such us Emma Watson (Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast'). Comparably, Emma Watson’s role is: more relatable, less fake, less robotic and perhaps more emotively engaging. This could be down to age and experience but nonetheless it is apparent.
Accompanying Foy during her travel across the Four Realms, is always the Nutcracker. The character is played very charmingly by Jayden Fowora-Knight. But unfortunately, a movie’s forenamed character, has never been more marginalised than in this film. As a matter of fact, he is only accompanying Clara across the realms and appears almost free of will. A stark contrast from the ballet. The only real substance he has is to be a comedic duo with the Mouse King.
The way in which the high-profile actors and dancers were underused, expresses the tone of the film very well. Sparkling and enjoyable at times but overall a bit boring and disappointing. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a digital Christmas live-action film which will be probably be enjoyed by young children but unmemorable to older audiences. A film which will sit amongst far more favourable and entertaining options, never chosen first but most likely picked as a mediocre reprieve from the constant viewings of far better Christmas movies.