Director: Peter Sohn
I initially considered seeing Pixar’s Elemental in theatres, but the trailer didn’t pull me in enough to justify spending the money. Watching it was an easy decision once it got moved to Disney Plus. Elemental is a new Pixar story set in a world made up of the four elements, fire, water, land, and air.
The movie follows Ember, a young fire girl, as she tries to balance her father’s expectations and her dreams. The fire people are shunned by the other groups, and this has made Bernie, Ember’s father, bitter. He has no patience for other groups, especially water. When Ember takes over her father’s shop for a day, things go wrong. Ember bursts the pipes, sucking a city inspector into their very not-up-to-code basement.
The inspector, Wade, writes enough tickets to shut down the shop and scurries back to his office. Ember chases him down, trying to save the shop and her father’s dream, but she is too late. She tries to convince Wade to rip up the tickets, but by the time she convinces him, they are gone. The unlikely duo pair up to track down the tickets and save Bernie’s shop.
I enjoyed the plot. It explores quite a few different events, it balances emotions well, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. I was surprised by the number of areas we saw around the city, from the canal system to the stadium. The different settings helped keep everything new and engaging. It is a kids movie, so most of the plot was pretty obvious, but I enjoyed the little twists and turns this movie took.
Like many Pixar projects, Elemental doesn’t shy away from more serious undertones that help an older audience connect with the characters. The movie touches on segregation a couple of times, with the total separation of fire from the rest of the city, even going as far as to ban the fire people from certain locations. It’s a powerful topic that is touched on carefully, balancing the story and the messaging well.
Ember is our main character, and I liked the way she was written. She’s a hothead, no pun intended, but she tries so hard to please her father. She’s torn between two worlds, both literally and metaphorically, and that is going to connect with a lot of people. There’s no reason to have one-dimensional main characters, regardless of genre, and Pixar does a great job of bringing meaningful characters into their projects.
Wade is the opposite of Ember in almost every way, but it works well. His family has money, he’s been encouraged to chase his dreams, and he’s level-headed. The similarity that draws our characters together is that neither of them has figured out their dream. Whether they’ve had opportunities to chase it or not, Wade and Ember are both unsure of what they want to do in life.
The rest of the cast is decent, with Bernie and Cinder being the only other two to hold any kind of meaningful role for the entire movie. Most of the secondary characters are used to further the plot, limiting the number of characters that matter and keeping the spotlight on Ember and Wade. Leah Lewis, Ember, and Mamoudou Athie, Wade, both did a good job as the voice leads.
The emotional ups and downs were handled well, and I found the voices matched our characters. I didn’t find the voice acting to be anything spectacular, as we have seen in some other animated works, but they were still quite good and on par with the rest of the movie.
One of the most interesting parts of Elemental has to be where it is set. The entire world is brand new, from the location to the people, and it makes for an interesting watch. I was impressed by how expansive the city appears, even if we only see bits and pieces along the journey.
The animation style of Elemental is awesome, and it helps the world-building. The character design is cool and unique, but I liked the buildings and structures within the city. The skyline is always interesting, and the city appears to be filled with colour and visual magic. The details put into an entire city were impressive, and it leads me to believe we aren’t done with Elemental just yet.
With the large number of areas left unexplored in the world of Elemental, it leads me to believe a sequel is coming. The ending sets up another story for Wade and Ember, and the movie performed well at the box office.
On top of that, we didn’t explore 2 of the other types of people, land and air, which gives the writers plenty of material when crafting a sequel. Money talks, but so should good writing, and this colourful world deserves a second adventure.