Elemental Review

Wednesday 12 July 2023

 Plot: Follows Ember and Wade, in a city where fire-, water-, land- and air-residents live together.
Film: Elemental

Director: Peter Sohn

Writers: John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, Brenda Hsueh

Starring: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi

Ember (Leah Lewis) is just a fire girl in a fire world and doesn’t really how much more of a world there is out there until she meets Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a water boy who immediately starts causing her problems. Together the two must solve the mystery of how water is getting into Fire Town before it’s too late, while still finding time for Ember to have an adventure of her own leaving home and seeing Element City for the first time.

There are definitely some weaker areas to the story, the fire people as whole and Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) and Cinder (Sheila Vosough) coming over to Element City being a metaphor for immigrants is a little convoluted, the obvious being that immigrants don’t set fire to everything they touch, ironically that’s a better allegory for people who grow up in the more developed area. I do I think the community that the fire people built for themselves outside the city and the desire to keep their culture alive in a new place was a nice touch and something Disney have been doing more as of late, with Turning Red for example, while the ‘small flame in the big city’ is something we’ve definitely seen a lot more. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of a lot the character designs, I understand the whole trying to appeal to a young audience angle, but a film about anthropomorphic elements could have been so beautiful but ended up looking rather goofy, especially the cloud characters like Gale (Wendi McLendon-Covey). I think the design for Wade was my favourite, only because I found myself distracted by his ‘hair’ for most of the film, the constant wave-style movement of it was very impressive. Ember’s design had its moments, the light coming out of her flame when she’s vulnerable for example but compared to Wade her design felt flat.

It has to be said that I’m a sucker for romance and I did enjoy the chemistry, pun intended, between the characters and think that the progression from friends to lovers was a nice slow burn, I’ll stop now. Fire and water, yin and yang, Romeo and Juliet, two that shouldn’t be but just are, again it’s nothing new and I think Pixar really missed a trick in not explaining more about how Ember and Wade ‘changed each other’s chemistry’ so that they could touch, given that water had previously extinguished Ember. I did notice children growing bored in the screening that I was in, so perhaps this was a conscious decision to appease the younger demographic, which I can appreciate.  

This probably isn’t a film I’m going to be thinking about once it’s out of the cinema but it’s definitely one I would watch again, which for me hasn’t been the case since Onward as far as Pixar films are concerned. It’s a nice story with nice leads and a nice ending.

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