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The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Disney has its share of high profile box office bombs, too, ya know. Notably this year, Solo: A Star Wars Story sadly couldn’t huff it as a more straightforward classic adventure in a galaxy far far away. The fairy tales/princess live action updates also can have their share of troubles, too. I’m sure some will argue this one doesn’t count, but The Nutcracker And The Four Realms seems like an attempt at that kind of big time modern update. It wound up getting beaten in the bicycle race by the fat bottomed girl that was Bohemian Rhapsody. Although now this holiday treat will find its way home on 4K Ultra-HD where it can hopefully find a second life as a seasonal tradition. You can pre-order a copy below to have for 2019’s end of the year December watch on January 29th. Prepare yourselves, for these nuts are about to crack!

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Film 

In “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” Clara travels along a golden thread, presented at Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual party, eagerly searching for a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a music box that holds a priceless gift. When she enters a mysterious parallel world, Clara encounters a Nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and three Realm regents, including the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley). Ultimately, she must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve the key and return harmony to the unstable world.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is another attempt to update and make a big budget update on a classic fairy tale feature from Disney.  No, its not one they’re known for in the animation world like Beauty and the Beast of Cinderella, but nonetheless its a household name. Filling up with some fun supporting roles and what feels like expanding upon the original story in a more grand, adventurous way, it never quite feels as big as the film wants to be.

There are many fantasy “realms” visited in The Nutcracker, each with fun character and beautiful set design and costume, full of nifty little characters. However, the weight of conflict and the overall “big battle” or adventure of the story feels very small scale, though suggest an all out war of the land. I can’t help but be reminded of X-Men: Apocalypse where an entire massive attack on a global scale feels nothing more than punching and kicking (And Magneto lifting) in an abandoned junkyard between 6 people. While this is a more fluffy fairy tale film, it could have used a bit more intensity and sense of urgency.

No matter my qualms with the narrative, this is a beautiful film to look at with wonderful costume, set and make-up design. A majority of the film was done practically and it adds a sense of character and uniqueness to the film that many other big budget films of 2018 weren’t offering. While I’m not big on the film as a whole, its parts are top notch and really should be under consideration for these respective departments for the Academy Awards this year.

My biggest takeaway and most fun I had with the film was Keira Knightley. She’s a performer that I will see a movie just for the fact that she’s in it. Here, she has a wonderful and fun look to her as the Sugar Plum Fairy. However, its her performance that stands out. You’ve never seen her like this, ever! She seems to be pulling inspiration from whatever Michelle Williams was pulling inspiration from for I Feel Pretty. Her voice inflection and action really chews up the scenery and makes every scene she’s in terrific. She’s almost enough to recommend the whole movie on.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an “okay” picture. Its not boringly safe, but its not as exciting as it really wants to be. Its parts are all absolutely top notch, but they don’t come together to form a terrific whole. I dig the very Joe Johnston look to it all, but came out just merely whelmed. It wasn’t really bad, it just sort hit a lot more middle of the road bumps in the script than it should of.  Keira Knightley, though, she made my trip here worth it!

Video 

Please note: The pictures used in this review are captured from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K Ultra-HD disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms debuts on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format in what appears to be a native 4K transfer coming from a digital intermediate culled from film elements. The picture is quite a lovely, colorful one featuring fluffy, strong and crisp details all around. Its look of fantasy truly come across with a good pristine quality to it. The Nutcracker winds up having a nice kinda of polished fluff to its appearance that really accentuates and compliments the story being told.

Depth:  I can’t remember if the film was released in 3D or not, but there is a nice sense of extended pushback on the backgrounds of the interiors and many of the set pieces feel a good sense of spacing between people and other objects. Motion is smooth and cinematic with no distortion issues present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and really bring a slight haunted quality to the picture in terms of shadow and interior darkness. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors features a lovely palette with many well saturated tints and shades. Costumes really flourish and pop and Keira Knightely’s Sugar Plum Fairy has a nice luster to her. Its a bold and colorful movie that sees a nice uptick and pop in this 4K presentation with HDR.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, carrying a slightly colder look to them. Facial features are clear as day with moles, freckles, make-ups strokes and lip texture seeping through clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: After the success of Ant-Man and the Wasp, I felt Disney’s Atmos problem was becoming a distant memory. This one isn’t on the level of that release, but its not bad or far off from it either. Its main crime is that it needs turned up a few ticks. The dynamics in the mix are still there and its plenty rich and effective. The mix is intricate and well layered with terrific depth and balance across the board.

Height: Overhead features some fun design in the mix as every environment seems to include a little something to delight you from the top.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer is a bit of an odd duck. When it hits, its pretty good and make for an expected nice impact. Though there are moments where I was anticipated a much bigger bump than was provided. Overall, this is some good work.

Surround Sound Presentation: This track does have quite a bit of fun and you really feel every bit of the rolling motion frolicking through each channel. Sound travel is the funnest part of this, while every speaker is given some fun unique tasks to complete to bring an environment to life as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. Bonus material is found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

On Pointe: A Conversation With Misty Copeland (HD, 4:36) – Copeland shares the thrill of portraying one of her favorite characters in a whole new way. She talks the challenges of doing the film versus the stage. The choreographer also chimes in for some commentary on the actress.

Unwrapping The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (HD, 7:08) – Goes over the production design, sets, costumes and more that helped transform a beloved ballet into an adventurous movie and features cast and crew interviews. It hits upon relations between different designers on the film in bringing the film to life.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:05)

Fall on Me” Performed by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Matteo Bocelli (HD, 4:23)

“The Nutcracker Suite” Performed by Lang Lang (HD, 4:06)

Digital Exclusive

Unwrapped: The Visual Effects Of The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (HD) – Digital code not yet open for redemption.

Summary 

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is merely just all right. Nothing to seek out, but fine enough if you catch it. Worth it for Keira Knightley for sure. The presentation here is terrific enough and it features some solid, but short, bonus features. When the price comes down a bit, it’d make a solid purchase for holiday watching.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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