Elemental is the 27th film by Pixar Studios, and by now, I think, we’ve watched too many Pixar films to be surprised any more unless the makers decide to take some risks. Elemental finds its thematic ground in ethnic strife, racial tolerance, and immigration. It’s a timely film seeped in societal indictments masked as humor. While the film targets the early teens or younger people, it can be a nice visual treat for adults. The plot is timed perfectly considering how the United States is slipping into intolerance and xenophobia.
However, the film doesn’t come out as one of Pixar’s best. When you consider the impressions created by films like Wall. E, Up, Coco, and Inside Out, Peter Sohn’s Elemental seems like a very safe bet geared towards pleasing the masses rather than challenging them. There can be no questions about the quality of animation achieved by the film’s animators – dealing with fiery and watery figures, the film demanded state-of-the art computer animation. And the $200 million that has gone into the making speaks for itself.
Now, let’s come to the story. To put it simply, Elemental is set in a universe where elements – fire, water, earth, and wind manifest as elemental beings (of course, they’re all personified). Now, a family of the fire community leave their homeland, and emigrate to megapolis of elements – Element City. The city is dominated by one element, water. The family arrives in the city to provide a better life to the young fireling Ember. Ember’s father Bernie Lumen starts a grocery store, Fireplace in a small corner of the city where the fire community flocks.
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Ember grows up, meets a young watery inspector Wade Ripple, and as opposites attract, fall for each other. Wade and Ember explore the city along with its evils. Things go as you would expect combined with dazzling visuals.Peter Sohn, the director who has “The Good Dinosaur” to his credit, says that the story is inspired by his own life after moving into New York city from Korea.
You’d know within a few minutes that the film is going to play with the themes of immigration, diaspora, racial and ethnic strife. And it does that without risking too much. Maybe it’s the right thing to do in a world where it is so easy to offend people. It’s a movie with a huge budget afterall. But as far as the art of storytelling goes, the film fails to create a lasting impression.
Elemental is a good Pixar movie which had the ingredients to be great but didn’t. A critic went as far as to say that Elemental feels like a movie created by AI, it is so full of the usual ingredients of a Pixar movie.
Stars: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen
Screenplay: John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, Brenda Hsueh