By Jack Dignan
In Cinemas November 22nd
If you thought we were free of the detrimental aftereffects of Disney’s 2010 live action Alice in Wonderland adaptation rippling through all of our old stories, think again, for Tim Burton’s darker take on the beloved source material has now translated into the story of The Nutcracker. Instead of Alice, we have Clara (Mackenzie Foy). Instead of the Red Queen, we have Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren, who’s phoning it in at every possible moment, and I honestly don’t blame her). Instead of Twiddledee and Twiddledumb, we have Harlequin (Jack Whitehall) and Cavalier (Omid Djalili). And instead of Wonderland, we have the Four Realms, a magical dream-like kingdom full of gingerbread soldiers, ballet dancers and army of mice. Just don’t expect to see much from three of the four realms.
While I don’t go around raving and applauding the brilliance of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, and I practically gag at the memory of its follow-up Alice Through The Looking Glass, at least that film had a vision and stayed true to Burton’s intentions. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an entirely different beast. It’s a derivative, thinly plotted, poorly characterised, visually stimulating, corporately produced vomit of colour and familiar, safe, family friendly plot threads that barely feel woven together. If there were ever a movie made by a committee, this would be it.
One could easily ask, “are you surprised?” And the answer, unfortunately, is both yes and no. Yes, this looked like the skim milk, home brand equivalent of much better movies mashed together for the sake of capitalising on those previous films’ successes, but it also felt like a harkening back to the magical, illustrious, larger than life Disney cartoons of old. Alas, it is not. There’s glimmers of an okay-ish premise being explored in early moments, as these characters struggle to accept the death of their mother, but it doesn’t take long before you start checking off all the predictable plot beats in your mind as they play out as expected on the big screen.
Think you might know the story? You definitely do. All the plot twists that looked obvious in the trailer are even more obvious in film. As Clara runs away from her home and her family, entering into a magical world where she’s hailed as a princess, the forces of evil soon draw her into a fight for the fate of the kingdom. Helen Mirren serves as our villain, but not once did she feel threatening or developed. You don’t get a sense of why she’s doing what she’s doing, or even what’s wrong with the realm everyone deems to be evil. She just… is. Everything’s dark and dying, and I guess that’s all we really need to know?
But on the other side of things, Kiera Knightley’s Sugar Plum is a walking, talking dog toy with a voice higher than a c-note on a piano. Yet, she faces the same problems. Her character makes absolutely no sense. As the “plot,” if we can call it that, unfolds, as do her ulterior motives, but there’s no justification for any of the secrets her character’s been harbouring. We’re just meant to role with it before the filmmakers attempt to make us feel a warm, fuzzy feeling in our stomach during the climactic moments, a feeling that never once comes. It’s all dribble and nonsense with no narrative coherence.
At one point, Clara and the titular Nutcracker (yes, he technically has a role, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight, but his character is a walking contradiction, constantly backtracking over his prior statements and offering little to no help in any scenario) lead an army into the fourth realm to fight back against Mother Ginger. Spoiler alert – all of the soldiers are sucked into the ground within minutes, and, for all I know, they’re dead. We never see them again. Yet nobody seems to even notice, nor care about their untimely departures. But also, Clara ends up falling into that same hole and she turns out fine, but the location of her arrival is devoid of any soldiers.
Sadly, that’s not the only moment of idiotic, incoherent storytelling, and I could honestly dedicate a whole article just to pointing out plot holes and narrative inconsistencies in this film. But story isn’t everything, so what else does this film have to offer? Well, the production design looks pretty, I guess. As do the costumes. Sure, several scenes have a faint green tint around some of the characters, breaking the disillusion we allow ourselves to fall under when watching a CGI-heavy film like this one, but hey, a lot of the designs sure are stunning. Bonus points for colourful, if not slightly repetitive lighting cues.
After this and March’s box office flop A Wrinkle In Time both attempted to tell kid-friendly stories of grief, family and the loss of a loved one, perhaps Disney will start focusing on telling new stories with fresh, unique ideas again, which they seem to do so well in literally every other department, animation especially. An aesthetically pleasing colour palette and some competently produced costumes aren’t enough to make this failed reflection of the grief complex into anything more than the gibberish it is.
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: