‘Elemental’ - An impressive chemical romance
In Element City, beings of all types populate the area. Water people, plant people, even walking and talking clouds. All of which live in harmony, in a multi-element utopia with the exception of its more fiery residents. The film’s main character Ember is forced to live on the outskirts of town with her parents Bernie and Cinder.
Adorable pun names aside, Pixar’s Elemental puts forward a crushing allegory. Immigrants to a city are struck with xenophobia upon their arrival. They find solace in their shop which specialises in food and items with significance to their culture. It’s a place which naturally becomes a community haven for other immigrants. Elemental’s back story immediately resonates for anyone who’s had a similar culture clash.
The intriguing dynamic of the world is explored through the film’s main character. Ember is ambitious, but carries the weight of her father’s great expectations. Her journey to be herself is marred by her desire to honour her family’s sacrifice, with anything less amounting to a disappointment. So when she starts to develop heart eyes for a water man named Wade, Ember is, understandably, torn.
As Wade and Ember’s affinity for one another develops, so too does the tension. At a certain point you’re unsure if their relationship will create steam or fizzle out disastrously. The movie plays up their cultural differences, as well as their elemental volatility. Like all great romance movies, Elemental takes two people that shouldn’t work, but ends up making you root for them to.
The work that’s done on the characters and the world is impressive. Equally impressive is the film’s outstanding visuals. So many moments feel like the animators behind the scenes taking time just to show the audience the mind-bending things that can be accomplished in 2023. At one point, Ember takes shards of broken glass, melts them down, and recreates the structure that once was, showcasing the film’s mastery of matter.
Elemental has a lot going on and manages to deliver on a well-balanced film with compelling characters, and some truly incredible visuals. It takes an abstract approach to its character design, and uses it to tell an incredibly relatable story. Two characters from different worlds who can’t help but be drawn to one another. And as an audience member, you can’t help getting swept up in it.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.