'Elemental' review: Pixar burns bright and shines in the cinemas once again


Pixar manages to restore that spark of joy one gets when watching one of their films on the big screen. – Photos: Walt Disney Studios Malaysia

Elemental
Director: Peter Sohn
Voice cast: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Catherine O'Hara.

How long has it been since we’ve watched a Pixar movie in the cinema? Pixar movies used to be an annual event to look forward to, but no thanks to the pandemic, we’ve not had one in the cinemas since 2020’s Onward, to be exact.

As a result, the impact and anticipation of a new Pixar movie has diminished somewhat – as Pixar boss Pete Docter said, families are now 'trained' to expect Pixar movies to go straight to Disney+.

With that in mind, It IS a shame that excellent originals like Soul, Luca and Turning Red did not get the box office cinema crowd they truly deserved. (The less said about the Lightyear debacle last year, the better).

Fortunately, with Elemental, Pixar manages to revive that spark of joy one gets when watching one of their films in the cinema. It’s a story with a lot of heart about love and family, the world building is fabulous, the lead characters are likeable and relatable, and the gorgeous animation thoroughly deserves to be seen on the big screen.

When you head becomes hot enough to fuel a balloon, it might be time for anger management.When you head becomes hot enough to fuel a balloon, it might be time for anger management.

Set in a Element City, a bustling metropolis inhabited by anthropomorphic elements of nature like Fire, Water, Earth and Air, the story follows Ember (Leah Lewis), a fire element who has been waiting and working towards her goal of taking over her father Bernie's (Ronnie del Carmen) convenience store in Firetown.

However, a chance meeting with a sweet and earnest water element named Wade (Mamoudou Athie) leads to an unexpected romance that threatens to not only derail her ambitions, alienate her from her family, but also turn her entire world and culture upside-down.

Things were really starting to heat up and come to a boil between Wade and Ember.Things were really starting to heat up and come to a boil between Wade and Ember.

With the almost three year gap between Onward and Elemental, I had almost forgotten just how magical watching a Pixar movie in the cinemas can be. Many of studio's best films have a way of connecting with audiences of all ages – fun and colourful enough to keep children entertained, while managing to push all the right emotional buttons in adults as well.

The tale of forbidden love between two different cultures may be a well-told one, but Elemental makes it seem fresh thanks to the, er, chemistry between its two leads. While Leah shines bright as the fiery yet conflicted Ember, Athie's deep, languid 'go with the flow' performance as Wade that really gets the electrons moving in this relationship.

Whenever you want fireworks, Firetown has the works.Whenever you want fireworks, Firetown has the works.

There is also some wonderful world building at play here – with its flowing canals, floating clouds and the harmonious way each element lives and interacts with one another, Element City is without doubt one of Pixar's most creative and expansive locations yet, and one I wouldn't mind seeing more of in the future.

The isolation of Firetown and its culture from the rest of Element City is another distinct aspect of this world that seems quite poignant, especially considering the fact that director Peter Sohn based part of this story on his own experience as a kid, growing up as the son of immigrants in New York City during the 1970s.

Unsurprisingly, it is the emotional, familial side of the story is without doubt the strongest, er, element of the film. Ember's relationship with her father forms the strongest core of the plot, and in turn, allows the romance between her and Wade to blossom to burn that much brighter.

Gale adds another meaning into the term 'breaking wind'.Gale adds another meaning into the term 'breaking wind'.

Pixar used to be the benchmark to which most animation studios aspire to, but lately, it has seen its crown slip quite a bit. One could also argue that the decision to start making sequels to their beloved franchises has also diminished the allure of the studio somewhat.

While some, like The Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory, managed to live up to the expectations set by their originals; others, like Toy Story 4, Cars 3, Monsters University and even Lightyear did not.

But as far as its originals go, the studio still retains a peerless ability to craft well-thought out, highly imaginative, beautifully animated, and deeply emotional films that are far too good to be seen on mere TV screens or (shudder) mobile phones. It may not rank as one of its classics, but Elemental sees the studio back in its, well, element once again. Welcome back, Pixar.

8 10

Summary:

Pixar is back in its element once again.

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Pixar , Elemental animated feature , Disney

   

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