WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, in theaters now.
Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms adapts E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and the ballet it inspired, Marius Petipa's The Nutcracker, to paint the story of young heroine Clara (Mackenzie Foy) trying to save four magical realms -- the Sweets Realm her deceased mother once ruled, the Flower Realm, the Snow Realm and the scary, unnamed Fourth Realm.
Sadly, she's betrayed by her new mother figure, the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), who wants to conquer and rule all the lands. However, in the movie's finale, the person we thought was the villain of the story, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), returns with her forces from the Fourth Ream to help the young girl claim her birthright and finally unite everyone. In the process, directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston set up a couple interesting paths for a sequel.
The Reign of Queen Clara
In the four realms, time moves very slowly compared to the real world. Clara leaves at the end to go back to her family, especially her godfather, the genius inventor known as Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), who created this bridge between the realities. As much as she'd like to stay and rule the realm her mother discovered and gave life to via the special device called the Engine, she has to take care of her depressed father.
However, she makes a promise to her love interest and the person she leaves to oversee her realm, the Nutcracker soldier Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), that she'll be back. After all, despite the realms uniting, the other rulers, Hawthrone (The Flower Realm), Shiver (The Snow Realm) and Mother Ginger admit more threats could be lurking, especially in the wake of Supgarplum's attempts to use the vile Tin Soldiers as an invading army. However, Clara makes it clear she'll return, older and wiser, ready to sit on the throne and deal with any further uprising. Right now, she knows she's not mature enough to become a ruler, but believes Drosselmeyer can mentor her back home, like he did her mother.
A Doorway to Disaster
Clara finds the doorway to the realms by accident, similar to the Pevensie children from C.S Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Except here, the journey's through a mystical tree trunk. What's a bit disturbing is there's no one guarding the doorway in the real world at Clara's home, while two inept guards are protecting it on the magical side. In other words, it's easy for anyone to make their way across, from either side.
The Nutcracker was initially guarding the doorway, but as he's now acting in Clara's stead, so there's a strong possibility evil forces could sneak over to Clara's world. The movie didn't fully explore the dark Fourth Realm, but the clowns we see there look a bit sinister, so who knows what else lives there and wants to explore Clara's home. There's also a chance that Clara's siblings, or other people from the real world, could travel across and end up in the magical lands. What makes this so dangerous, though, is this arrival point is closest to the Fourth Realm, so human strangers would certainly find themselves at the mercy of realm's evil creatures, angry Sugarplum loyalists or bitter outcasts like Mother Ginger.
Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger and Morgan Freeman.