When I started this look at Christmas Villains, I brought up how the arts are such an important part of shaping what this holiday is and how they have come to play an integral part in some of the traditions that we have set up. One of the biggest examples of that has to be the beloved ballet, The Nutcracker. As we end our look at Christmas villains this year, we once again find ourselves once again revisiting the world of the theater.
Now yes, the beloved ballet itself was an adaption itself as it was adapted from The Nutcracker and The Mouse King
However, the ballet is what people think of when they think of this story. The title also highlights another interesting facet as The Mouse King is a popular Christmas villain. Sue, he may not be on the same level as say The Grinch but considering how often the story has been adapted, people know him as the villain of The Nutcracker. And heck an old obscure Disney special, Mickey’s Nutcracker kept the idea of him as the villain but instead changed him to The Rat King.
See, you can still have this guy as the villain, though I don’t think I’ve seen many adaptions where he has multiple heads but that is something else he ballet changed as he only has the one head there.
I am spending so much time on The Mouse King because A. he’s an awesome villain and as you could tell from what the name is in this entry, he is not the villain in this Nutcracker movie. Ugh! We’ve discussed adaptional villainy before and I’ve always stated that one has to be able to buy into the character being turned into a villain and it also has to be a character that makes sense to be a villain. So, which character did this movie decide to turn into the villain?
The Sugar Plum Fairy, why? No seriously, why is The Sugar Plum Fairy a villain? That is such a baffling choice to me, the best I can figure is that Disney wanted this movie to kickstart an epic fantasy franchise much in the same way they hoped Oz: The Great and Powerful would do. It kind of seems like they’ve been chasing that white whale ever since letting go of Narnia. This is kinda funny after doing research and learning how many people consider the first Narnia movie to be a Christmas movie. A bit understandable as Father Christmas does appear and if I do look at more Christmas villains next year, The White Witch will be included, I just had no idea about that when coming up with this year’s line-up. (Also, I’d like to have time to read the book before watching the movie).
Having said all this, does making The Sugar Plum Fairy a villain work?
I’ll go into more detail as I break down her character but I find this decision a bit baffling and feel as though the movie would have been just fine if The Mouse King remained as the villain. With this lengthy introduction out of the way, let’s start looking at her character.
Knightley is no stranger to being in grand adventure Disney movies. See her turns as Elizabeth Swann in the first three POTC movies. Though I must admit that I don’t think I’ve ever seen her play a villain before.
Her performance is fine and she does work well with the material that she’s given but as I stated in the introduction, I find the idea of making The Sugar Plum Fairy a villain to be baffling at best.
The film first introduces us to Sugar Plum when Clara discovers the Four Realms that her mother, Marie was the queen of and meets the leaders. No one in the Four Realms had an idea that Marie had passed away.
I do like the costumes and also how the movie is able to work in both names that the female character is known as from this story but I’m not sure about the idea of making Clara a princess. I don’t know if that was truly needed and man, does the titular Nutcracker take a backseat to all the other characters in this story.
Sugar Plum starts off as being sickly sweet, quite fitting considering she is the leader of the Land of Sweets. However, that is a bit of a facade, as she is quite bitter and vengeful after Marie left the Realms to be with her human family. In that sense, the film is trying to present Sugar Plum as something like a tragic figure who had her heartbroken by someone she believed cared for. Think Spinel from Steven Universe: The Movie.
Not a bad idea in theory but I don’t think it works as well as the film would have hoped as the relationship between Sugar Plum and Marie doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.
Your mother abandoned us. And then…. she just expects us to carry on and play nice. WELL, I DON’T WANT TO PLAY NICE!! (Clara: Mother Ginger didn’t do anything wrong, did she? You lied to me…. to everyone!) But I have a very special plan for Mother Ginger and the other regents.
And the argument that Marie is a dead character doesn’t hold much water with me as we see it is possible to build upon and show a relationship that became fractured with one half being dead. Beyond that, however, when Sugar Plum is revealed as the villain, she feels like a stock villain that you’d find in any kids’ movie. The film truly had an interesting idea of showing how hurt and fractured Sugar Plum was but it feels as though, they threw that by the wayside just to have a villain. Just saying, you could have kept The Mouse King as a villain without writing this character into such a hard corner to work out of.
She hopes to become queen of the Four Realms. A bit cliche and doesn’t really feel like it does a whole lot to build on her character. It’s like there is a seed of a good idea in there with her.
A true queen does what’s best… FOR HERSELF!!
But it never feels fully fleshed out and rather the film realized that “Oh snap, we need a motivation for making The Sugar Plum Fairy the villain”. It’s just so bland and there is nothing truly remarkable about this as a motivator.
This is now the third Christmas movie I’ve covered involving giant tin/toy soldiers and these are the worst looking ones yet. Seriously, the Toy Soldiers in The Santa Clause 2 looked better than this.
Seriously, these soldiers look so much better. This is also where Sugar Plum gets weirdly sexual for one moment.
This is more like it: a proper army.. to create discipline, order, control. Boys in uniforms with weapons sends a quiver right through me.
No really, why? Because up until this moment, Sugar Plum had come across like more of a petulant child but suddenly once she sees the Tin Soldiers she has to say this line. Wha…, it also feels out of place with the rest of the movie. Is the idea supposed that once you are evil, you are allowed to be sexy. I find this to be a bit of a problem and an outdated line of thinking as this line intentional or not seemingly implies that sexiness is bad. This shouldn’t be the case and I know I’m overthinking this line but it came so out of nowhere.
Most Evil Deed
She accused Mother Ginger of being evil and carrying out the evil deeds that she was enacting. It’s something small but it works. It also speaks to how easily she finds it easy to shift the blame. Interestingly, much in the same way, The Duke of Weselton was promoted as the main antagonist, the same is true of Mother Ginger.
It does work for a time as Sugar Plum uses it as a means of gaining Clara’s trust.
Yeah, I must admit that her defeat is a bit underwhelming. Okay, so like in the original story that people know the inhabitants of the Realms started as toys but were brought to life by a machine Marie built called The Engine. Way to strip away the wonderment and Christmas magic of seeing the toys come to life in a fantastical way. In order to defeat her, Clara uses said machine to turn Sugar Plum back into a lifeless porcelain doll.
I honestly find this to be a little lame for my own liking. Sure, it does serve as a punishment for her actions but in some ways, it feels like taking the easy way out for what she did. It’d be like if Kuvira died before she could stand trial for what she did in the final season of Korra.
There’s little if any weight to these actions. I think Sugar Plum should have had to face consequences from the others in the Four Realms instead of just reverting her back to being a doll. Yes, that does strip her away of her humanity but it doesn’t feel like the punishment fits the crime.
Is The Sugar Plum A Good Villain?
She may be one of the worst villains I’ve looked at not this month but ever since I started doing Villains Profile in general. She’s just so generic and bland and doesn’t feel as though the writers had a firm grasp on what they wanted to do with her. I still stand by my opinion, that this movie would have been better if it had been a straight and faithful adaption as trying to twist the story and bring in these new elements only hampered the story being told instead of reinvigorating the story. I’m all for bringing something new to a beloved story but it has to be something that makes sense and also works. In my opinion, making The Sugar Plum Fairy not only doesn’t work but it doesn’t make sense either.