Joe Johnston’s Nutcracker Stumbles at Box Office

Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston’s sparkling fantasy film isn’t doing so well.

After premiering on November 2nd, Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms grossed a disappointing $20 million during its opening weekend. Produced with a budget of $125 million, Nutcracker is Disney Studios’ lowest nationwide debut in over two years. The ballet-turned-epic-fantasy is not faring well with movie critics, either: Rotten Tomatoes currently gives it a rating of just 34%.

What does this have to do with Narnia? Joe Johnston was announced as director for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair in May of 2017. Now that Narnia is headed to Netflix, his future involvement remains unknown. Last December, it was reported that Johnston had been hired to direct 33 days of reshoots for Nutcracker after original director Lasse Hallstrom became unavailable. In July, it was announced that Johnston would be listed as co-director for the film.

Film critics have described the movie as a mash-up of The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. Does its poor opening weekend bode ill for Narnia? Do you think that Joe Johnston should be involved with future Narnia adaptations, whether movies or series? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

20 Responses

  1. Jonathan Paper says:

    Joe Johnston seems to be a well-skilled director. However I do not know of his interest and desire for Narnia. In 2017's press conference, he didn't sound that passionate about Narnia but maybe that is just his personality and his normal way of speaking.

    I hope that the Netflix series has enough skilled, creative talent that make them fun movies full of "mirth", as had been mentioned on Narniaweb. I hope the writing and the adaptation is strong. The themes of the books related to life and humanity should come through (and even be expanded a little as the format allows). As Glumpuddle has said, just make great movies! However they should still be the Narnia stories we know.

    I hope that Johnston does not direct the Netflix Narnia shows but I won't be too disappointed if he does. My reason for not wanting him is because he has made a lot of good movies but they are not really related to high fantasy (as far as I am aware). He seems a safe choice for Hollywood but I don't know what his passion and vision for Narnia is.

    Johnston seems to be a skilled filmmaker with a desire to make a good quality movie. I hope he makes a leap to really get invested into the world and heart of Narnia, if they keep him.

  2. Just Queen, not High Queen says:

    I do not think Joe Johnston is to blame for the film's poor reception. Coming in to direct reshoots for another director's film must be challenging, and from the reviews I've read, he did a good enough job that it isn't obvious that the film had two directors.
    And I don't think this has any reflection on Narnia. The main issue with The Nutcracker film seems to be the script, which based on the trailers, seems to barely resemble the ballet its based on, twisting the story so much that it's almost unrecognizable. It looks like the film depends on comparisons to Narnia and Alice in Wonderland as a crutch. It was easy to tell that this film would flop just based on the trailers and its odd release date.

  3. Friederike Lehrbass says:

    May be they should have released nutcracker in December not November. I assume more people will go see it closer to Christmas…

  4. Cleander says:

    I'm just waiting to hear from Joe Johnston. The Nutcracker's success (or lack thereof) doesn't really bother me; after all, it's kind of a goofy story to begin with. All the Johnston's expertise couldn't really have helped that.

  5. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    I'm just glad we're seeing these numbers AFTER it was announced that Narnia is heading to Netflix… not because it affects my view of Joe Johnston as a director, but because I think the low box office results would really scare off investors from backing a big budget theatrical adaptation of The Silver Chair.

  6. Jonathan Paper says:

    Disney is releasing Mary Poppins Returns on 19 December – very close to Christmas Day. But Nutcracker is a Christmas-related property, but Mary Poppins is not really. Maybe they could have swapped the release dates? However maybe Disney thinks that Mary Poppins Returns will make more money over the Christmas holidays. Disney has so many films coming out these days. Determining their release schedule must be difficult.

  7. Jonathan Paper says:

    Good point.

  8. Hermitess of Narnia says:

    I haven't seen the movie because in the trailers the movie setting looked too gaudy for me to really feel was real. Also, the Disney live-action fairy tales that have been made recently have a sort of grim vibe to them – I'm not sure how to explain it. But not all of them, Jungle Book didn't feel that way and A Wrinkle in Time didn't either, but they weren't movies that I wanted to watch a second time.

    I don't see how The Nutcracker is going to affect Narnia. Joe Johnson was hired at the last minute, and was not in charge of the movie's direction, so his choices for filming Narnia will be different.

  9. Col Klink says:

    I actually loved Disney's recent Cinderella movie. It was so traditional and sincere, no elements of parody or deconstruction whatsoever. That's not to say parodies or deconstructions are bad. But it took a lot of guts for the filmmakers to do something like that in this day and age. It'd be great if the Narnia adaptations could be like that.

    (This doesn't have anything to do with Narnia or Joe Johnston but I'd like to clarify that I wouldn't have liked Cinderella if being sincere and traditional were its only selling points. There were other really good things about it. Those were just the ones that I could use to bring the conversation to Narnia.)

    I'm pretty sure Johnston is not going to be involved with Narnia at this point. When he was hired, they were going to do a (presumably) theatrically released movie of the Silver Chair. Now they're doing either a series of made for TV movies or a tv series based on all the books. But maybe if he doesn't retire first, he'll get involved with the new project.

    If he does so, I hope he'll do an adaptation of a book for which he's suited. I was optimistic, if not ecstatic, about him for the Silver Chair because it lends itself pretty well to Hollywood's fantasy adventure popcorn movie mold. (There's more to it than that, of course, but it isn't less than that either.) But he doesn't seem like someone who could pull of the more surreal Narnia stories.

  10. Jillian says:

    I wanted to see this film but the sugar plum fairy’s voice annoyed the stuffing out of me! I could barely stand it for the trailers so I knew sitting through a full movie of it would end in me banging my head on the seat in front of me. It’s a shame too cause I like Keira Knightly.

  11. Johnston came in to help finish the project, right? He can't be judged by the movie's story-quality. Sort of like a painter who didn't choose the ugly color for the wall, but paints it anyway.

    This new Nutcracker film, based on its trailers and reception, makes me all the more glad Narnia has left the big studios and gone the way of Netflix. There's still plenty that could go wrong, of course, but my goodness what a generic looking film.

  12. Bob Hum says:

    Yes, it is certainly disappointing. Netflix, and whoever else is involved, may lose faith in Narnia as a whole because of how similar this "failure" was to it. Maybe it's a sign that family-friendly fantasy isn't "in" anymore.

    Personally, I'm excited about Disney's live-action adaptation of MULAN, because it's composed by Harry Gregson-Williams.

  13. Aslan2018 says:

    Joe Johnston has been handed some difficult projects over the years – the Narnia franchise being no exception. If the Silver Chair isn't going to be his last movie after all, I hope he continues to make film well into the future.

  14. Roger says:

    I am going to see it. It is a fairy tale, so I do not expect a great story. I hope to see great acting and great sets and a passable story. I hope that Netflix handles Narnia much differently than Disney handled this fantasy. Even the new Fantastic Beasts movie is getting mixed reviews. Making movies by the numbers does not work.

  15. Col Klink says:

    I've always loved fairy tales so I don't see why a fairy tale equals a story that isn't great. In fact, I think the Chronicles of Narnia could reasonably be described as fairy tales (though that isn't the only way you could describe them of course.)

    I'm probably going to rent this movie when it comes out on dvd since I enjoy Tchaikovsky music and I remembering like the Hoffman book. But I'm not expecting much from the commercials and plot description.

  16. Roger says:

    I saw it. I loved it. It was a very good Disney fairy tale. McKenzie Foy (Clara) is our new Disney Princess. Ms Foy has a second degree black belt and uses her talents in the fighting sequence with some perfect kicks. I will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out. The fight sequence is handled the way I think fight sequences should be handled in Narnia.

  17. Eustace says:

    I actually wanted to go and see this film. I do not care what critics say about movies anyway, I think it was just bad timing for release in general. Mary Poppin Returns should have come out in November and the Nutcracker should have come out in December. Still excited about this film and I will see it soon!

  18. Eustace says:

    I agree. I just watched it and boy was it awesome! It gave me hope for Narnia. This movie is so beautiful. Joe Johnston did an awesome job, you cannot even tell there were reshoots.

  19. Smooshy says:

    I agree. I loved the live action of Cinderella — and its sincerity was one of the main things I loved about it. Their other live-action adaptations did not feel that way and I've been souring a bit on Disney lately though I still love their classic films and characters. I always feel they're trying to hard to prove a point of some kind.

    I don't know who's who in Hollywood anymore so names don't mean much. And it seems to be that kind of business where you are on top one day and down in the gutter the next and vice versa. A great movie tends to have everything come together for it. As much as I'd love to see Narnia on the big screen again I think Netflix or any other streaming service is the best home for it these days. It might not get the huge budget but it could then focus more on quality story and characters.

  20. Andy Harrelson says:

    I don't think Joe is to blame, If you ask me it's the writers and Disney, because at this point Disney is just pumping out 'Nostalgia Bait' live action films to make a quick buck, rather than make anything original. Don't get me wrong, there are a few good ones, but the rest are just forgettable popcorn munchers which either add nothing new to the story, or completely botch up the original story altogether.