The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fantasy-adventure film inspired by the short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King). The story revolves around a girl entering a magical world which is filled with fantastical things (such as giant nutcracker soldiers and adventurous mice). It is executive produced by Lindy Goldstein and Sara Smith.
Clara (Mackenzie Foy) receives a special gift from her mother, Marie, which was set aside for her after her mother's passing. Mr. Stahlbaum (Matthew Macfadyen), Clara's father, presents her with the gift her mother wanted her to have: a beautifully crafted box which is in the shape of an egg. Along with this package is a note from her mother.
Yet Clara is unable to open the egg as it requires a key which she doesn't have and she must discover. This sets Clara off on a journey to find the special key and open up the box. She meets her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), an engineer who designed the egg box and gave it to her mother originally. Drosselmeyer explains that her mother wished for her to also have the egg box.
While attending a Christmas ball with her father, Clara explores the landscape of the house and finds a hallway which brings her to a magical realm that is like a parallel world filled to the brim with magic. She follows a mouse with character through a snowy forest and bumps into Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a nutcracker captain in command of the area. Phillip helps lead her through the forest and beyond. The pair enters a kingdom of four realms and they meet a variety of fascinating characters, including Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley), one of the realm's leaders. Clara also learns about the leader of the fourth realm, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). As the story unfolds there are surprising twists and turns along the way.
The film doesn't emphasis the ballet dance as much as the action-adventure elements but it still retains a sense of the dance portion of The Nutcracker which so many have come to love about the story. The ballerina princess is played by the acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland and she does a terrific job of bringing these sequences to life with creativity and fervor. These sequences are also enhanced by the terrific music score composed by James Newton Howard (Signs, Unbreakable), conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and featuring performances by Lang Lang.
The cinematography by Linus Sandgren (La La Land, First Man) is exceptional. To say that this film is visually stunning almost feels like an understatement. It's beautifully composed with such a fascinating use of color. The visuals greatly enhance the storytelling and filmmaking style. The special effects are first-rate and the elaborate sets and production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas (Inception, Passengers) impress at every turn. The costume designs by Jenny Beavan (The King's Speech, Gosford Park) also impress with each character in the four realms having elaborate costumes (Keira Knightley's costume is especially impressive.)
The screenplay to The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was written by Ashleigh Powell from a short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King) with uncredited rewrites by Tom McCarthy (Academy Award winning director of Spotlight). The story is extremely loose in it's adaptation but it does have a ton of fun with the high concept. The film also has heartwarming moments which make the film feel more memorable and important.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Salmon Fishing in Yemen) and Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger, Jumanji), who came in for extensive reshoots, the film clearly demonstrates the mark of both first-rate directors. Instead of feeling like a mess (which is a obvious concern when reshoots of this nature happen) it's clear that these filmmakers both had a great time putting together this elaborate production. The stylistic energy of these filmmakers syncs well. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fun and charming fantasy adventure which has plenty to offer for the whole family.
The 4K UHD:
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray with a HEVC 2160p presentation in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film is presented with HDR 10 for deeper blacks, brighter whites, and better color reproduction. Though this was a film not naively finished on 4K, the film's 2K upscaled source material (from 65mm film) looks remarkable with this high-end presentation. The film looks even better than it did during its theatrical run and it really impresses with great clarity, color, and depth. The high-bitrate 84 mbps encode easily bests the Blu-ray format's encode as well. This is a terrific presentation which will not disappoint fans of the film. The HDR and resolution increases make this a stunning release.
The Dolby Atmos sound mix on this release is terrific. It's a stunning audio presentation which easily matches the picture-quality. The 24 bit high-resolution audio has crisp clarity and detail and the immersive aspect of the film is even better with this atmospheric sound mix.
Atmos audio allows for a much richer soundstage with sound coming from above (the direction of the sound is improved) as well as from the surrounds. This film has a highly effective sound mix which beautifully reproduces the music score by James Newton Howard and the creative sound design. In experiencing the film with my 5.1.2 Atmos setup, I found the experience exhilarating. 7.1 or 7.1.2 options are available for the sound mix as well (for those equipped).
For those without Atmos sound setups, it will default to a lossless audio Dolby TrueHD sound mix.
Optional Spanish, French, and English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) subtitles are also provided.
Extras are included on the Blu-ray feature film disc. No extras are included on the 4K UHD disc so the PQ/AQ encoding is at it's absolute best.
On Pointe: Misty Copeland (HD, 5 min.) features a short interview and behind the scenes piece with ballerina Misty Copeland. She discusses her contribution to the film and one of the film's key dance sequences.
Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (HD, 7 min.) is a behind the scenes making-of featurette with the cast and crew discussing the film's production and development.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 4 min.) showcases 5 short deleted sequences which didn't make the film's final cut. Each offer some interesting moments but you can understand why they got cut. My favorite of the scenes has the bumbling duo of Cavalier and Harlequin going around in circles "left, left!" during a key action scene. It's a truly funny moment but most likely affected the scene's pace (hence was cut).
"Fall on Me" by Andrea Bocelli (featuring Matteo Bocelli) (HD, 4 min.)
The Nutcracker Suite (by James Newton Howard and Lang Lang) (HD, 4 min.)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a terrific experience. The film is filled to the brim with creativity and an adventurous spirit. The cast is excellent. Disney has done a great job with the production (everything from the sets to costumes to production design is top-notch).
The 4K UHD presentation is superb and is an easy recommendation for fans of the film with great picture-quality and Atmos sound.