Pixar returns with ‘Elemental’: film review

'Elemental' is showing in cinemas now.

ANIMATION studio Pixar has released its latest picture Elemental in theatres. Our resident film buffs Stefan Bradley and Tom Parry went to check it out.

SB: At the time of this chat, my Elemental screening just concluded, whereas Tom saw this movie on opening weekend. My immediate thought is this is a very enjoyable animated film that comes very close to true greatness, but its not up there with Pixar Animation Studios best films.

TP: Having had a few days to consider my own thoughts, there were certain elements – no pun intended – that I didn’t appreciate. Still, I entered the screening with low expectations, and left finding it an engaging, warm and beautiful film. Like all good Pixar releases, it deftly blends multiple genres together; but at its core, it’s a romantic-comedy that transfixes you with this unlikely friendship between two characters who couldn’t be more different.

SB: The two likeable main characters are Ember (Leah Lewis), the daughter of immigrants who helps run her family’s small business, and Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a city inspector, both of whom live in a world where all the elements – water, earth, fire and air – are personified.

TP: Ember and Wade don’t belong to the same group of elements – the former is a fire-person, while the latter is a water-person – and their personalities are polar-opposites too, which makes their relationship even more complex.

SB: Ember’s immigrant background forms a key part of her character and the plot – she recognises the sacrifices her father Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) made to provide her with a better life, wants to make him proud, and fears what will happen if she doesn’t. The plan is for Ember to take over the shop, but both she and Bernie are unsure if shes ready.

TP: The story also touches upon themes of xenophobia, with Elemental being rather unsubtle with its racial metaphors; but it does explore these issues in a way which aren’t condescending to its target audience.

The two protagonists of ‘Elemental’, Ember and Wade.

SB: What about the animation? In my view, it’s what you would expect of Pixar, and I enjoyed the clever sight gags related to the characters and their abilities. Not quite as mind-blowing as their previous films, or even other recent animated works like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse or Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, but nice enough.

TP: I found the character designs to be quite creative, and the settings were gorgeous to look at as well. But it’s also worth commending the soothing, tranquil soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who has been tipped for an Oscar nomination come early next year.

SB: Elemental has a fantastic score and soundtrack. We’ve seen a lot of long movies recently – just look at Sale Cinema’s session times and you’ll notice that most of the films being released at the moment are well over two hours in length, with mixed results. So it’s nice to see a movie like this with a run-time of 110 minutes that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

TP: Even though it’s close to two-hours long, it feels shorter, and that’s a testament to the film-makers. I would happily have spent another 30 minutes in that world.

SB: It’s a shame that it isn’t doing well at the box-office – it has so far earned just US$121 million from a $200 million budget. Obviously, Pixar’s parent company Disney doesn’t need any more money, but I hope that people do watch Elemental in a cinema, because it deserves it.

TP: Definitely. Although the film does take a while to find its feet – it relies too heavily on clichés at first and is slow to develop its characters – once it hit that second act and morphed into a rom-com, that’s when I was fully on-board, and was engaged until the very end.

SB: The love-story between Ember and Wade was written very well, and I tend to cringe at most rom-coms. While it’s not at the same level of prestige as other Pixar films like Toy Story, Up or Inside Out, on its own merits, Elemental is a great family movie.

Elemental is rated PG for mild themes, occasional coarse language and scary scenes, and is currently screening at Sale Cinema.

Images: Disney/Pixar