Why Disney’s “The Nutcracker” Could Be Heading for Disaster

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Disney)

The Director’s Guild of America has made a surprise exception to its standard rule for film credit. Owing to a series of lengthy reshoots for Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”, two directors will be given joint credit for the film even though they didn’t actually collaborate on the project.

This is unheard of. Typically, the Director’s Guild of America has a very strict rule that states that only one person can gain directing credit for a movie.

The exception to this is a two-person partnership. The Russo Brothers, for example, always work as a pair. Because they’re committed to a singular vision from the start, they’re allowed to share credit. Something similar is happening with the upcoming “Captain Marvel”.

The Nutcracker Disney
Source: Disney

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” will break this rule. Both Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston will share directing credit on the movie.

Lasse Hallstrom initially filmed the movie. Joe Johnston then stepped in to do lengthy reshoots when Hallstrom was unavailable. The two didn’t plan to work this way, but sometimes scheduling for blockbusters is hard.

The results is a movie that is the work of two directors with two different visions. Both contributed approximately half the footage in the final film. Neither have sole creative control over the project.

This makes editing the movie a little easier, as otherwise Hallstrom, as the main director on the film, would have full control of its final cut (despite apparently not being available to work on the piece).

Frankenstein’s Movie

I’m pessimistic about what kind of movie this will produce.

Personally, while I don’t ascribe to everything surrounding the Auteur Theory of film critique, I have noted that movies that are the work of a single director with a clear vision turn out better than something with multiple visionaries vying for control.

Just looking at “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”, I can see signs of incongruous tone in the way this thing has been shot.

Half the movie looks dark and creepy, which suits the source material, but does come across as a little too similar to “Malificent”.

The other half of the footage we have looks very much like Ava DuVernay’s “A Stitch in Time”, with an over-the-top, bright, colorful directorial style that feels reminiscent of a big-budget Disney Channel production.

The Nutcracker Keira Knightley in a Pink Wig
Source: Disney

Of the two approaches, I think I like this one better, if only because I’m unapologetically in love with Keira Knightley as a bright pink Sugar Plum Fairy and I’d prefer if she weren’t steeped in shadows.

Either of these styles alone would be difficult to pull off convincingly, but I worry that, with the movie wobbling between two very distinct looks, the result will be somewhat tonally confused.

Similar lengthy reshoots and changing tones turned “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” into awkward messes.

But, at least “The Nutcracker” looks like it has more personality than “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, which also suffered from too many cooks laboring away on a single broth.

A Bad Time For Everyone

I’m hoping that the Director’s Guild’s ruling here doesn’t become the new standard for approaching this kind of situation. I don’t want it to become easier for movie studios to replace directors half way through a film.

This could end up making future movies a bit more corporate and micromanaged, and that’s never good for them.

Here’s hoping Disney’s “The Nutcracker” ends up being more enjoyable than it looks on paper. If this thing flops, though, I’ll be happy too. I don’t want the director credit sharing precedent to pay off for anyone involved.

Except maybe cotton candy Keira Knightly.