Elemental – Review


Elemental is the newest Pixar film directed by Peter Sohn. This film has been dogged by largely not-flattering press, following its US release. The film hasn’t necessarily received bad reviews, but it hasn’t received enough good to put the box office on fire. The fact that it’s being released internationally now might boost its numbers, but it’s now come to the UK with not the best reputation.

I found it interesting that I was mostly unaware that this film was even coming out. Maybe it’s because my TV time has been pretty limited lately due to a house move, which means I also haven’t been going into town much- but I really haven’t seen many TV ads or posters for this film! I found it interesting that Disney was keeping large portions of the film under wraps in the trailers.

Having now seen the film, I personally think that was a good decision, but as a whole, I think the film is more interesting than it is good. I would say for the most part it’s a good movie and it does use its concept very well.

The film is essentially a love story set in a world where the different beings are different elements, Air people, Fire people, Earth people, and Water people. Pixar uses this setting to tell a love story about immigrant communities moving to new lands. It makes a point early on of having Fire people be a minority even within the city limits. I think the film does a good job showing the elements to have different environments as well as different customs, and it’s fun seeing them play out.

The main centre, though, is a love story of Ember (Leah Lewis), the fire elemental, and Wade (Mamoudou Athie), the water elemental. It shows Ember trying to be good to her parents after her father’s dream of her taking over the family shop, as well as her trying to keep her relationship with Wade a secret because of her father’s dislike of water people… Yeah, subtlety is not this film’s strongpoint.

The film that it really reminded me of the whole time was Zootopia. It kept some of that film’s strengths but also leaned into its weaknesses too much. The smart decision in Zootopia was not hiring a large celebrity voice cast that would stand out to the audience too much. But the subtlety issues were present in Zootopia and Elemental leans into those even more. I will say that in comparing those two movies, I think that Zootopia was the better movie overall, but one of the areas where I think Elemental is better is through the imagery and creativity.

I would also daresay that it’s one of Pixar’s best-looking films in the last few years.

But I also don’t understand entirely where some of the ideas were going. This film has a major padding problem. It also doesn’t help that one of the big questions about Ember’s motivation comes up very late into the film so there’s not much time to explore it. It also doesn’t help that one of the few trailers that detailed plot points actually gave away part of her motivation!

The one thing that the film had to get right was the love story, and I think that they succeeded! The characters have great chemistry, and it’s helped by the fact that Wade is one of the funniest parts of the movie- though despite the fact that they want to make this a very funny movie, it’s not. I laughed at a few good moments, but as a whole, most of the jokes don’t land.

What’s really weird is that the film paces itself like a three-act structure, but it’s also quite episodic in a sense. So, I think trying to follow it as a three-act structure doesn’t really work.

The positives are that the two main leads are likeable and the voice acting performances stand out. I also think that they made the smart decision not to have an antagonist in this movie, and I think that the movie has a central conflict around the prejudice angles and that’s all that you need. I think that adding an antagonist would have actually made the film worse.

All things considered; I think that Elemental is a pretty okay movie. Its biggest standout is the movies pretty decent romance plot, and it is very creative. Where it falls down is that the story structure feels not very thought out and the film doesn’t really have the most subtle tone for the subject matter. Though I will say, if anyone who sees this movie comes from an immigrant family and actually sees a resemblance to them, then I can’t take that away from them and I will eat humble pie and say that it did a good job reflecting their experience.

I do think that this will be a Pixar film that is largely just there, and we won’t remember it much. I don’t think that this will be up there with films like Coco, Toy Story, or even Inside Out.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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