The Nutcracker and the Four Realms 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Disney may have some guaranteed hits on their hands with anything coming out of Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, but when it comes to original Disney movies, they’re on a bit of a losing streak. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, A WRINKLE IN TIME and now THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS all struggled to find an audience and received poor reviews from most critics. Unfortunately, The Nutcracker might be the worst of the bunch as the film not only rejects the only thing that made the original musical enjoyable (the music), but creates a world that is more creepy than interesting and characters that are predictably one dimensional. It’s a frustrating film that struggles on almost every level.
The film follows Clara (Foy), who is mourning the loss of her mother and begrudgingly attends a party with her father and siblings. We learn that she’s friends with Drosselmeyer (Freeman), who works at the place of the party. He helps her with a Christmas gift that leads her to a magical fantasy world where she’s thrown into an ongoing war between four realms. We slowly learn that her mother was once the queen of this world and it’s up to her to battle Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) and unite the realms.
Sometimes a movie like this is more about the spectacle than the plot, but that might be where Four Realms disappoints the most. Watching the Nutcracker musical in a theater is a visual treat, so I expected a lot with two experienced directors and Disney cash to play with. For the most part, the film is bland on visual styling and clearly cuts some corners when it comes to special effects. Throwing more money into the film probably wouldn’t have helped the film drastically, but I was surprised at how subdued everything looked. Aside from the bland visuals, the film lacked energy all around from the cast. Keira Knightley is a great actress, but she doesn’t have the ability to elevate the energy of a film. But a lot of the blame falls on Mackenzie Foy as the young Clara and her Nutcracker helper played by Jayden Fowora-Knight. It might be a product of their inexperience as actors or maybe the directors didn’t set them up for success, but they both struggled to keep the audience engaged.
Technical issues aside, the biggest knock on THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS is that it’s dreadfully boring. The film forces a couple of heartfelt moments that don’t click with the audience and then races through the issues facing the Four Realms. It somehow manages to feel rushed and dragged out at the same time. The characters are never in any real danger, so any scene hinting at such is wasted. The “twist” that occurs in the beginning of the third act is met with a shrug because at that point, the audience just wants to get on with it.
So what went wrong with THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS? For starters, the filmmakers should have embraced the classic music and the adopted Christmas themes. The world presented in the film is rushed and poorly developed and I can’t shake the feeling that the filmmakers wasted too much time trying to reinvent the wheel. We didn’t need a straight-forward remake, but adhering to some of the more traditional elements would have helped things along. But again, there’s no easy answer here as there were a lot of problems.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: In typical Disney fashion, the 4K of THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS comes off unusually dark at times. I point that out right away so it won’t come as a surprise to anyone comparing it to the Blu-ray. That said, the 4K does offer some nominal upticks in detail over its Blu-ray companion, most notably in closeups and in settings. The movie has a nice texture to it that is amplified by the 4K, making for a nice presentation.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is another nice upgrade over the accompanying Blu-ray’s DTS track. The improvements are subtle, but add to the film, especially during the more robust action sequences.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
On Pointe: A Conversation with Misty Copeland (4:35): Copeland talks about her time as a ballerina and her experience working on the film.
Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (7:05): A brief making-of featurette.
Deleted Scenes (4:05)