Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (2018) - Movie Review the snafu regarding the changing of directors in Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought that’d be it for this year. I thought I’d be able to get through this month without having to revisit that concept, or more specifically how too many cooks in the kitchen can turn in a mess of a meal. Then I saw this movie, and saw that possibility fully realised.

Before getting into this film’s swarm of problems, let’s get the major positive out of the way first: This film looks really damn good. It’s like what Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland should have been, and indeed might’ve been if he had the sense to have at least some practical effects in the mix. The costumes are well-crafted, the locales are vibrant, and the character designs on their own range from polished to outright frightening. Seriously, Mother Ginger’s troupe of circus clowns give Pennywise a surprising run for its money.

This is best highlighted in what is the film’s single greatest moment: The ballet number that serves as the film’s exposition about how main character’s Clara’s mother found the Four Realms. (Or possibly created. Or at the very least gave life to; the film isn't clear on whether Clara is actually Princess Jesus or not.) Paying homage both to the original ballet and to the music’s presence in Disney’s classic Fantasia, the sequence creates a quite beautiful synergy of theatrical staging and cinematic framing, accompanied by some genuinely impressive practical effects.

But then you dive a little deeper and discover that this whole thing is as deep as a… actually, “puddle” isn’t really adequate. It’s more that this is as deep as the mildew left over when the puddle’s dried up. The acting either wastes perfectly good stock (Richard E. Grant is so wasted in this thing, it actually hurts to think about) or goes for outright bizarre decisions (whatever the actual fuck Keira Knightley is doing with her voice), both of which induce severe discomfort throughout.

To say nothing of the writing, which truly feels like what happens when an untested screenwriter in Ashleigh Powell has their work painted over by Tom McCarthy, a filmmaker who is only as good as the people around him. I would very much like to know what producer Lindy Goldstein was looking at, but even at a glance, "strong, layered female characters" aren’t even the millionth words that come to mind. Clara as the main protagonist basically turns the whole movie into an idiot plot as, despite being quite the tinkerer, her petulance throughout makes it quite difficult to really care about what she’s doing. Between her and the spine-chilling shrillness of Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, rooting for the enemy becomes an all-too-easy prospect… and with how the narrative turns out, oddly appropriate.

Yeah, on top of everything else, the story for this is all over the place. Despite taking aesthetic cues from the original story and Disney’s history with it, this whole affair is just yet another fantasy war story about an earthly child who has to bring peace and accept their place as ruler of the land. To surprise of very few, co-director Joe Johnston is slated to direct the next Chronicles Of Narnia film; it’s like he’s doing a trial run of the same idea here.

But even beyond that, the biggest problem with the story is that it feels like it was melded from two separate ideas on how to present the source material. After a while, the idiot plot mechanics really kick into gear, with the kind of twists that not only feel horrifically out-of-place for the characters declaring them, but that they might as well have been improvised for all the sense they make in any regard.

This is basically the same deal as with last year’s Beauty And The Beast: It looks good, and even does some things with the source material that I can vibe with, but the treatment of the characters and the plot at large is positively atrocious. Whatever good things I have to say about the film’s visuals feel like afterthoughts in the wake of just how misguided this whole thing is. Please, Disney; don’t let Clara become part of the official Disney Princess canon. Or at the very, very least, give her a good movie to be in first.

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