Sunday, November 10th, we went to see the new Disney live-action film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. We enjoyed it.
The story is “suggested” by the E.T.A. Hoffman story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” and by the ballet The Nutcracker, by choreographer Marius Petipa. I was pleased that Petipa was credited, since it is his “book” for the ballet that is probably known by far more people than Hoffman’s story.
The story is “suggested”, since, other than characters and setting, it is a new story, a kind of quasi-sequel, since we find that Clara’s mother, Marie (Anna Madeley), has been to the Four Realms before her, and was responsible for much that has happened there. (But, what happened before is also quite different from the ballet story, although one could see that the ballet might have been a prettified version of what supposedly actually happened--.)
In this story, Marie has recently died, leaving her family in various stages of grief. Clara (Mackenzie Foy, apparently no relation to the very busy Claire Foy--), the second daughter, is taking the loss hard, and not meshing with her equally grief-stricken father’s stiff-upper-lip soldier-on coping mechanism. At Christmas, her mother has left gifts for her children, and Clara’s is a mysterious box shaped like an egg, but lacking a key.
It appears that the key will be delivered to her by the marvelous Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), but complications ensue when it is stolen by a mouse. Clara’s quest for the key leads her to the Nutcracker (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and the Four Realms (Flowers, Snow, Sweets, and “Amusements”), where she finds that events put in motion by her mother have run off the rails and the Realm of Amusements, led by “Mother Ginger” (Helen Mirren) is essentially at war with the other three. Clara, of course, is the “key” to sorting things out.
I was a bit disappointed that Disney’s writer Ashleigh Powell could think of nothing better to do than to fall back on the “dead mother” trope that we find in so many other fairy tales, although it does give Clara a solid link to other Disney princesses such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle.
Very decent acting by Ms. Foy, and she’s well supported by Matthew Macfadyen as her father, and the other actors in principal roles, especially Keira Knightley as Sugar Plum. We got a chuckle out of some allusive bits, such as when, at the Four Realms gala welcoming Clara, orchestra conductor Gustavo Dudamel mounts the podium in silhouette, a nod to Leopold Stokowski doing the same thing in Fantasia, which of course includes a suite of Tschaikowski’s Nutcracker ballet music. We were pleased to see the exquisite ballerina Misty Copeland dancing in the film’s ballet sequence.
The real star of the film is the CGI world of the Four Realms, with its fantastic Steampunk castle at its heart. The ruinous Realm of Amusements is wonderfully scary, to the extent that the movie might not be suitable for younger children, particularly if they are prone to be afraid of mice, or of creepy clowns.
The plot is a fun action-adventure, with a surprising twist. All in all, we enjoyed this quite a bit. I don’t think it will ever be one of the major Disney films, but it is a very good fantasy film.This entry was originally posted at https://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/332592.html. Please comment there using OpenID.