I’m late to the party on this one. But in this case, better late than never! “Elemental” is a charming little film that showcases yet again why Pixar is great. The film centers around Ember, a spirited girl of the fire clan. Her father dreams of retiring and wants to pass his shop on when she is ready to run it. But when a problem occurs during her test run, she meets Wade, a kindhearted man of the water people. They quickly develop a romance, creating unrest among their families since elements do not blend. Will their chemistry be enough to make it work?
I remember this film opening to a very low number opening weekend. But surprisingly, it had sturdy legs during its box office run. My interest piqued when word of mouth seemed very positive. I’m happy to say that “Elemental” lives up to the positive remarks! Right from the first few frames, I was entranced by the animation. I much prefer the whimsical world building animation style of Pixar to those of the “Spiderverse” or “Mutant Mayhem” films. Both have their own creative merit, but this is more appealing to the eye. Each group of element people have a signature style and culture, reflecting the world we live in. This is especially true when we see these kinds of groups existing in major urban areas. Pixar again nails the world building.
“Elemental” also feels very personal. Director Peter Sohn explained that the film is meant to reflect this own experience being a child of immigrants. Ember’s own personal struggles are explored throughout the film, relaying the pressure she feels to take over her father’s shop. She has her own dreams and aspirations but doesn’t want to let her family down. Wade on the other hand provides a very different set of characteristics. Their differences should in theory prove that elements aren’t meant to mix, but their journey proves the opposite. I enjoyed seeing how they each help each other when one of them is struggling, creating a realization that they may be puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together. The emotional beats in the story felt very genuine and worked well for me.
Although this story borrows from other films, it does so with style and care. Themes such as opposites attracting, interfamily drama, and romance cliches are present with Ember and Wade. But I couldn’t help but feel joyous when going on this journey with them. “Elemental” proves that familiar beats can be revived if executed properly. I continue to be impressed at how detailed Pixar’s films are. Not only the animation surrounding each character, but the world in which they inhabit is truly immersive. Young children will enjoy the creativity and color of the film, but also the energetic dynamic between Wade and Ember. But as always, adults will have plenty of material to relate to as well. Families will love the film!
As much as I enjoyed “Elemental”, I don’t think it ranks among the best of Pixar. More recent Pixar films haven’t felt as relatable on a large scale, choosing to focus on one idea or theme. While adapting this personal approach, I think certain groups of audiences might not find the film very memorable. I have no doubt most people will enjoy the film, but the niche messaging of Pixar recently might lead them to revisit the classics over this one.
Again, there are pieces of the narrative that feel familiar. Although executed well, the plot isn’t exactly original in the story department. This is a nitpick, but based on the rules established early on in the film, the elements truly would not mix no matter how powerful they draw to one another. I was able to overlook this as the relationship between Ember and Wade was largely metaphorical to the real world. But still, even Pixar has to follow their own rules.
Pixar has another winner in “Elemental”. Familiar story structures and a few bumps in the road aren’t enough to shake the charm and creativity of this one. The story is heartfelt and will be sure to please families. Fans of the Pixar brand will be treated with eye popping animation and whimsical world building. This was one of the biggest surprises of the year and I highly recommend checking it out!