FILM REVIEW - Elemental
By The Masked Medic
So it’s been a while since I’ve watched something new on the streaming services and my sister was in the mood over the weekend to watch the new Disney and Pixar film, ‘Elemental’. I had seen trailers for this film when it came out in cinemas, but it was such a busy time that I never had a chance to see it and I did really want to. So without further ado, my review!
‘Elemental’ tells the story of a place where the elements live together. We focus on a couple of fire elementals who move from their hometown to the big city. There they have a little girl named Ember. Ember is always told that she will inherit her father’s shop in Firetown once she is ready, and we see her growing up quickly. Although she knows how to do the work, Ember finds that she often loses her temper causing disastrous consequences. She worries that if she’s not able to take charge, she will disappoint her parents. One day, she blows up causing a leak in the basement of the shop. In comes Wade, a water elemental who just so happens to be a city inspector. He writes up the shop for a number of infarctions and says that he has to tell his bosses at City Hall. Ember attempts to stop him unsuccessfully, but when she breaks down and explains the reasons why she needs her father’s shop to not be closed down, Wade has a change of heart and says he’ll try to help. Their efforts to convince Wade’s boss, Gale, who is a wind elemental, lead to a deadline. She tells them she’ll consider cancelling Wade’s report if they can find where there is a leak causing water to enter Firetown. Ember and Wade find a way to work together, but through their collaboration, something deeper emerges. Perhaps love? The only problem is that they’re from two completely different worlds and Ember isn’t sure how that will translate in her life as a fire elemental. Can they put their differences aside and surrender to true love? Or will the pressure of their backgrounds cause things to go a different way?
Sometimes, it’s great to watch an animated film and recognize the voices, however, I’m also a fan of letting new talent in and watching it grow. Both lead roles were actors that were unknown to me. Playing Ember was Leah Lewis who I’ve not seen or heard in anything. I thought she did a great job bringing some real warmth (excuse the pun) to the role. Opposite her, was Mamoudou Athie. Initially, I thought that he was a completely new face to me, but I’d seen him in a very minor role in Jurassic Park Dominion. The role was far too small for me to have formed an opinion on his abilities, but I thought he was excellent in this film. The supporting cast which included Ronnie Del Carmen and Shila Ommi as Bernie and Cinder Lumen were an excellent addition and you could really tell through their performance that the Lumens were a family that represented ethnic minorities.
Okay, so for the last few years, a lot of the animated films that have been coming out haven’t really attracted me. I’m not sure if that’s because sometimes it seems that they're losing the character development in an attempt to get across a particular message. ‘Elemental’, however, doesn’t struggle with that problem in the slightest. From the get-go, I was laughing away, seeing the similarities with my own experiences growing up. Both main characters are so relatable and it was difficult for me to pick a favourite because again I saw bits of myself in both Ember and Wade. The film also sensitively speaks about the difficulties faced by ethnic minorities when moving to a place that is very different from where they came from, and the way that Firetown develops over time has parallels with places in Western cities where certain minorities have built a home, e.g. Chinatown!
Listen, Pixar is the best in the game for a reason, and for the last few years, I’d argue that Disney’s solo ventures into that kind of animation haven’t been as successful. ‘Elemental’ is a perfect example of why their collaboration needs to continue. The designs of the 4 kinds of elemental were excellent. The way that creators had thought of ingenious ways to show their differences was very memorable e.g. walking through the wind elementals and the way Wade’s body would appear from a body of water—extremely funny stuff. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either, but the one thing that I appreciated was the influence of other cultures that were infused into the film. Since the fire elementals were clearly designed as immigrants you could see how Chinese and Subcontinental music was used. I thought that was excellent, and probably added to my enjoyment of the entire thing. Overall, I really liked this film and a part of me is quite annoyed that I didn’t watch this in the cinema. Next time I’ll trust my gut!
Voice Acting: ★★★