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Elemental

What is your general opinion on romantic comedies? Nine times out of ten, they follow the same formula: boy meets girl, they fall in love, break up, reunite, and live happily ever after. Even some of the best romantic comedies follow this same pattern. Yet, even then, I’m aware that some romantic comedies have primarily broken this formula and formulated their own, like those of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. So, when any romantic comedy comes along and puts a new spin on it, whether it’s in the acting, the characters, the visuals, or even the storytelling, that feels like the first step to creating a memorable romantic comedy that’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished it.


When I first saw the trailers for Elemental, I expected it to follow the same pattern as most romantic comedies. I was impressed by the amazing animation and its potential in worldbuilding, but I just expected it to be the usual romantic comedy we’ve seen a dozen times.


But when I finally saw it, I realized I might have only scratched the surface.


What I thought would be your everyday romantic comedy involving anthropomorphic elemental beings was just a portion of everything that Elemental has in store for those who voluntarily check it out.



Before I talk about the movie, here’s some trivia about Elemental. This movie was based primarily on director Peter Sohn’s childhood as an immigrant in the Bronx, and so much of what he endured before and around Ember’s age was succinctly expressed here. There was even one surprisingly funny moment where Ember’s grandmother asked Ember to “marry fire” before disappearing in a puff of smoke, like the fire people’s way of dying was more unintentionally humorous than we’d think. Sohn was left the same wish by his relatives and dying grandmother, too, who asked him to ‘marry Korean.’ Of course, he eventually married an American woman, which I bet would’ve sent his grandmother spinning in her grave. Regardless, this movie felt richer because of that, showcasing the complexities of life as an immigrant in a new country with new destinations and people to familiarize yourself with.


And for those who don’t know Peter Sohn, here’s one thing to remember him by: he was the voice of Emile from Ratatouille and Sox, the robotic cat from Lightyear. Think about that.


As for the movie, there are so many aspects to this movie that stick out to me. For starters, let’s look at the biological aspects of the characters.


The way they worked off each other felt very imaginative and generally like how any elements would’ve reacted off each other. Fire would have scorched earth since they grow vegetation off themselves. Earth beings enjoyed being bathed or soaked in water since it helps their vegetation grow. Water could easily have put out fire if even a measly drop or splash landed on the fire people. And finally, air pretty much worked off everyone easily with no problem.


Now, let’s look at each one individually. The air people were the most versatile elemental beings because they’re made of nothing but clouds, meaning they could’ve gone in or through something without a problem. The water people may have lived up to the term ‘flexible’ since they could have maneuvered their shape, just like air, but also have enough solidity in their substance to morph into noticeable shapes and body patterns. Something about that capability add a genuinely alluring essence to them that feels somewhat serene. The earth people were the most solid of the elemental beings, for they’re made of soil and rocks, which would’ve allowed them to grow vegetation as hair or anything else of that nature. And as for fire people? If the fire people got a good chunk of water falling onto and obscuring part of them, they could’ve munched on firewood to regain their shape and fill in what was doused out by water earlier. And like air, they, too, had no solid structure, for they’re made from literal fire. Whatever they touched, either they could’ve destroyed them, or their hands would’ve gone out if it was water they felt. Because of this, it contributed to society’s general lack of consideration of fire people for fear of being subject to their fiery touches. So, the biological standards of the elemental beings worked off each other just fittingly and naturally.


Speaking of which, I must also mention some things regarding the Fire people and their originating hometown. At first, I thought their ‘race’ carried too many parallels to Orientalism, primarily the Chinese people. The way they bowed, cooked their food, spoke in a national language that sounded quite complex, paid tribute to their ancestors, and upheld honor among family members, it felt like some unintentional similarities can be noted here. Yet, I understand that Peter Sohn and his family are of Korean origin, so the similarities here make sense. Similarities aside, however, it wasn’t until later that I realized that the name of their language and nationality, “Firish,” also rhymes with Irish. And I remember how mistreated they were in and out of their homeland, especially as they emigrated to New York City after the Potato Famine. So, while similarities abound with the Fire people, their role in the story and functionalities would still leave you with an important message concerning immigration and what that means to those who deliberately left their homeland for a better life and a much more profitable opportunity in the new land they sought.


It leads to our next subject: the worldbuilding. Element City was undeniably a massive metropolis, with each section devoted to each element and custom-made for each of their needs. The air sections of Element City had air-venting machines and helped keep inflatable devices afloat in midair. The earth portions were overgrown with plant life and would generally have been splashed with water to help with their vegetation. The water neighborhoods usually had buildings that surrounded themselves with waterfalls, pools, etc. But Firetown was potentially the most neglected of the four, besides the water mains not flowing through to their place. It didn’t have much to show for it outside of what was offered at The Fireplace. So, that would tell you the lack of consideration most of Element City had for fire people. As Ember puts it to Clod, Element City isn’t built with fire people in mind.



However, as impressive and detailed as I thought Element City was, here’s the thing. When I first saw it in the trailers, I was blown away by it and expected it to be on par with Zootopia regarding worldbuilding. However, after seeing the movie, suddenly, Element City reminds me of Zootopia too much. The system in place for Element City is too reminiscent of how Zootopia worked, with each animal species being separated into suburbs depending on their environmental preferences. Since we’re talking about a community that was ingeniously researched, well-categorized, and functioned off each other perfectly, watching it all practiced the same way with Element City just felt a little repetitive, dare I say it. At the same time, of course, comparing Element City to Zootopia is almost like comparing Gotham City to Metropolis. They share many similarities, whereas one works one way and the other doesn’t. And for what it’s worth, Element City is still imaginative in what it accomplished with unfamiliar beings like those we were introduced to in Elemental. So, I still tip my hat to the animators for bringing this vivid world to life.


What does exceed my expectations, however, is what stunned me about Elemental in the first place: its animation.


Despite Element City’s unoriginal structure, it still looked stunning, and its cityscapes and urban areas still brimmed with creativity around every corner. Each section looked unique, functioned creatively and organically, and the way they worked off each other was also pretty. It still leaves me feeling like I want to visit it as much as Zootopia.


And the biological reactions wouldn’t have been believable without giving visual attention to the characters, and for the most part, they were given exactly that.


The elemental beings looked nice, moved and functioned off each other most convincingly, and their biological standards were conveyed nicely enough for me to buy into their world, down to how they go from one place to the next, eat, sleep, and do their own thing. The Earth people looked like their biological functions fit with their earthly operations. The air people looked fluffy and had no solid aspects to worry about but could’ve gotten darker and more thunderous every time they got agitated. The water people expressed themselves with slight ripples or small waves whenever they emoted or moved. And the fire people blazed forth in a very illuminating and spellbinding but potentially hazardous manner. I especially admired Ember’s design, with her hourglass figure, retardant black outfits, and upward, elegant flames. I knew she would’ve been a knockout when I saw her in the trailers, and guess what?


Her personality and mannerisms complimented that design perfectly.


So, hopping on over to the characters, they all felt likable and nicely conveyed. It even helps that there’s no villain to speak of in the whole movie. It’s just elemental beings acting as we’d expect anyone in a big city environment to respond, except their methods of doing so were more exaggerated and fantastical than how we do it.



Starting with Ember Lumen, she felt like a resilient and determined young lady with a burning passion, so to speak, to help her father in any way she could, which is very touching. Of course, for all her good intentions, Ember acknowledged how she wasn’t as prepared to handle what awaited her as she said she was since Ember was expected to take the responsibilities of the Fireplace “when she’s ready.” So, when she dealt with obnoxious customers – ranging from water to even among the fire community – or even with stressful situations, they made her live up to the term ‘fiery’ and lose her temper on occasion. But the film shows it’s more of a sign that she had a lot on her mind and might’ve had rethink where she stood. As Wade told her, whenever she loses her temper, it’s a sign that she is being told something she doesn’t want to hear. The movie even showed signs showcasing how she was meant for something equally productive, such as glassmaking. At several points throughout the film, she found herself excelling at whatever glasswork she did with panache, even if it was seemingly for the sake of The Fireplace. But it turned out that what she displayed had enough potential to be a class of its own. So, it is almost like a nicely constructed coming-of-age story fit for anyone who settled in a new home but felt like a perpetual outsider.


Wade Ripple was different from what I expected him to be. When I first saw him in the trailers, he looked like he was going to be a calm and collected, cool guy with a more modest and mellow personality. It might’ve been nice for Wade, but it could also have run the risk of being too one-note. But in the movie, while he lived up to that personality sometimes, he was also easily driven to tears by even the slightest touching or heartrending thing he saw. At first, it’d make him a tad too insecure, but he was also a city inspector, which means he’s observant enough to catch on to when something’s wrong, especially with someone like Ember when he first ran into her. He was also happy-go-lucky enough to either be skittish about it or embrace whatever opportunity arose, like his dates with Ember. It displayed a refreshing but also unexpected dynamic with this character. Sometimes, he could’ve had you laughing at the general absurdities with him, but other times, he could’ve either weirded you out or charmed you. In short, Wade was just an admirably multifaceted character.



Ember’s parents were also charming, even if they both didn’t get equal characterization. With Cinder, there wasn’t enough to make her a standout character, but she was the Firetown’s matchmaker, so she could’ve detected whenever or however someone was in love. She smelled that of Ember, too, once she started catching on to her lovesickness whenever Ember wasn’t around Wade, even though Cinder didn’t know she was going out with a water guy. Her devotion to their fire tradition and practices of what they carried with them from Fireland set her up to look like the stingy one in the family. But all-in-all, she was generally excitable and even humorous. And while she also didn’t trust water, she only relied on her traditional practices, not her prejudices, to do the talking regarding matchmaking. So, she felt interestingly portrayed as well.


On the other hand, Bernie had plenty going with him. After a storm left his old shop in Fireland in ruins, he embraced his opportunity to open a new shop in Firetown and remained hopeful about its outcome. Bernie did everything he could have to tend to it and make it shine with everything he and Cinder brought with them, including Ember. Whenever he spoke, there was an obvious language barrier between his fluctuating Firish and English, mispronouncing several words. His age and constant exhaustion concerned Ember and were why she wanted to please her father and prove that she could take over his shop upon his retirement. But when things started throwing a monkey wrench in their plans, such as the arrival of Wade or even Ember’s temper, it put him in a position to think hard about where The Fireplace would go next, where Ember would go next, and where he would’ve gone next. His dreams were shown in all their clarity, and it helped make this character a tender and proud worker.


Wade’s family felt like the opposites of Ember’s family, but not in a way that made them automatic enemies. While Ember’s family lived in a rundown environment but proved themselves to be resourceful, hard workers, Wade’s family was more jubilant and distinguished but tended to cry their eyes out over the most minor of heartrending circumstances, just like Wade. Some of their methods of expressing things were witty, too. Harold, Wade’s uncle, said he painted watercolors, or just plain ‘colors’ as he called them. And even Wade’s nephews, who played with each other in the water, were named Marco and Pollo. Watching them work off each other and respond to Ember’s arrival exposed a great deal of elegance and pleasant peculiarities, which more than compensated for their more minor contributions to the movie. I also really liked Wade’s mother because of how thoughtful and resourceful she was…whenever she wasn’t in a crying fit, of course.


There wasn’t much to display regarding Wade’s employer, Gale Cumulus. However, she showed how she was full of aggression and tenderness depending on her mood. Outside of being the head of city inspection throughout Element City, she, too, had a bit of a fit to her whenever things started to not go her way, just like Ember with her losing her temper. Other times, she was more modest and professional about the sewage lines in Element City. Because she shared some things in common with both Wade and Ember – Wade since he’s her employee, and Ember with her losing her temper, only in Cumulus’ case, it’s for her to morph into a thundercloud – a little more involvement out of her would’ve been nice.


Finally, you have the Earth kid, Clod, a young Earth boy with the hots for Ember. He stopped near the Fireplace and tried to woo her with flowers, particularly those he grew from his armpits. And trust me, it’s not as gross as it sounds. His mannerisms were cute, and it was just depressingly hilarious to watch his flowers be burnt to ash by Ember, not because she meant it, but because she’s fire and would’ve burnt flowers no matter what. He reminded me a lot of that one boy at the beginning of Moana who made googly eyes toward the title character. There’s a certain charm to him you can’t help but admire.


So, all the supporting characters made the most of their time in the movie in the right doses, although I sometimes wish Gale and Clod had more screen time.



Another aspect of this movie that helped bring this movie to life was the voice acting.


Starting with Bernie and Cinder, Ronnie del Carmen and Shila Ommi perfectly conveyed their characters with tenderness and enough exotic natures to help them feel more like emigrated elemental beings. Bernie sounded tender, knowledgeable, and aggressive whenever he tended to obnoxious customers or forces beyond his control. Yet, whenever Bernie spoke with Ember, you could feel the love, concern, and wisdom he carried with him as he intended to raise Ember in the Firish ways. Shila Ommi made the most of the little time she played in this movie, infusing her character with vulnerable tactics that made her range from quirky and entertaining to proud yet desperate as far as Ember was concerned.


The rest of Wade’s family felt conveyed with just the proper amount of naturality and occasional comedic banter usually expected within an accommodating, if also privileged, family. And, if you can believe it, the modest, tender, and chipper voice coming out of Wade’s mother was provided by none other than Catherine O’Hara, AKA Kate McCallister and Sally the Rag Doll. She’s still going strong after so many years and brought forth the same lightheartedness and motherly nature she’d mastered so nicely before through Wade’s mother.


The actress doing the voice of Gale Cumulus, Wendi McLendon-Covey, sounded like she was having fun with this character. From being exaggerated to being humorous or extravagantly over-the-top, she just helped make this otherwise generic, one-off character carry across so much more of a charismatic nature to her than you’d expect.


I admired the vocal ranges Mamoudou Athie provided for Wade. As he voiced this character, he made him come across as a sensible, conscientious, and surprisingly knowledgeable individual willing to help in any way he can. His coolness factor seeped through when he remained content or cool about it with people like Ember. But whenever he was emotional, he had fun exaggerating it a little to match how it’s common for Wade and his family. Regardless, he sure made the character feel more animated than I expected this already animated character to be.


As for the voice of Ember, I respect actress Leah Lewis for conveying her character with such brash impulses and conflicted emotions all at once. Having grown up convinced that elements don’t mix, least of all water with fire, she sounded confident as she approached friends, strangers, and her surroundings with a healthy dosage of sass. But whenever she had to think for herself about her dreams and aspirations, especially where her priorities lay concerning those of her parents, you could feel her inner turmoil slowly working its way through as Ember wrapped her head around where she stood in life. So, she did a terrific job as this character.


The music by Thomas Newman was just terrific. Having worked his magic before with Wall-E and Eve’s escapades, he performed the same magic with Wade and Ember’s relationship. It was nice when it played over other portions in the movie, mainly the ones centered on day-to-day lifestyles. But whenever Wade and Ember did some things together, the music helped me feel the same tingly feelings over their relationship as any solid theme should. And during the climax, where tons of internal and exterior conflicts broke through, the music did a decent job of reflecting it.


On top of that, the song by Lauv, “Steal the Show,” sounded catchy, slightly lively, and as cute as Wade and Ember’s relationship. It may sound like your everyday pop song, but it has enough rhythms to help it establish the proper romantic mood.


But now, let’s shift our attention to the one aspect of the movie that surprised me: the story.


What is it about besides the relationship? Well, let’s take a look-see. After a nasty storm demolished their old shop, Bernie and Cinder left their home in Fireland for better opportunities. So, they decided to venture into Element City for bigger opportunities, much to the disappointment of Bernie’s father, who thought they were abandoning their traditional ways by heading to Element City. Then, as they settled in Element City, they were accepted as citizens of Element City but weren’t exactly greeted as such by all the other elemental beings in the city, who looked down on the fire beings and thought of them as the most dangerous of the four elements.


Because of this, Bernie and Cinder had to build their shop from scratch and continue what they did best back at Fireland, providing authentic Fireland products to the nearby Firetown citizens in Element City. As Ember grew up, she grew close to her father, so she started following Bernie’s lead on all the ins and outs of running The Fireplace. But as Ember grew older, there were some circumstances beyond her control that Ember didn’t anticipate, resulting in her losing her temper on occasion. In one of her brief episodes dealing with it, she quickly evacuated to the basement to let it all out, where she, as Bernie’s customers described her, ‘went full purple.’ However, her temper burst some of the pipes in the basement, leading to the shop and its basement being partially soaked from the pipes’ spraying waters.


Only then did Wade show up, specifically through the pipes. As Ember explained why the shop was important to her, Wade discovered that one, Bernie built the whole shop from scratch, pipes and all, when the building it operated in was rotting. And two, he did so without a permit, making both circumstances a big no-no among Element City qualifications. Because Bernie had water mains running throughout his shop in an area where pipe water was cut off from the rest of Element City, this counted as a double whammy for The Fireplace as it now was at the risk of being shut down because of its improper terms, not to mention Ember’s temper. So, the rest of the movie was about Ember and Wade trying to get to the source of the pipe issues and resolving them within one week while, in the process, they started having feelings for each other. And at the same time, Ember tried to wrap her head around the issues that started because of the burst pipes and whether it was anyone else’s fault or even if running the shop was what she wanted to do.


And of course, how would Ember have felt about dating a water guy? Because she was fire and he was water, they could automatically never mix. So, would this relationship have ever worked out between them?



One of the things I strongly appreciate about this movie is that what I thought would be just a standard romantic comedy with great animation and high creativity blazed forth with a more personal focus than is most associated with many other romantic comedies. In this case, it stemmed from Ember’s heritage and insecurities. What would you have sacrificed for a chance at a better life? What are the challenges of settling in a new land with new people to whom you must be accustomed? These issues bugged Bernie, Cinder, and Ember too, but only because of her parents’ expectations, if any. But when Ember’s insecurities started to conflict with what she wanted in life, it put her at odds with what was good for her parents versus what was good for her alone. Until she first met Wade, she likely never wandered anywhere outside of Firetown, so it gave her a generally naïve and uncertain but no less prepared outlook on the world she grew up in. There was a ton of personal turmoil here, and you could feel her anguish and frustrations as she tried to wrap her head around what was most important to her.


Plus, the story of the pipes felt fascinating. As Wade and Ember investigated the pipes in Element City, they caught on to how they were cut off from Firetown long ago and had them course their way throughout Element City. Also, Element City dealt with a dam that started splitting apart and letting in excessive amounts of overflown water that slipped in from the nearby canals.


You know, for a city that had uneasy, if not hostile, feelings toward Fire people, the fact that they cut off the water sources for Firetown was surprisingly convenient. I wonder if they knew that no water was supposed to go to Fire people, anyway.



However, as Ember eventually told Wade, one of her biggest and most troublesome experiences exploring Element City occurred when she and her father didn’t have a chance to see a Vivisteria tree. Her reason for that was that such a tree was potentially the only one that grew anywhere in the world, especially in Fireland. However, the other three elements’ prejudices against fire prevented them from going in. I assumed that maybe they thought that having fire near a tree would automatically have made it go up in flames, which I can understand. Still, it’s interesting to watch how other people reacted to other people’s understanding of something, even if they never knew that what they thought would never have mixed had more in common than they thought, just like Wade and Ember’s relationship.


However, I must say, the way this movie tackled racism and prejudice, like Zootopia, had interesting ways of displaying it. With Zootopia, its message of bigotry generally felt blatant and adequately forceful to hit home how dangerous prejudice and borderline racism are, no matter who expresses it. However, the facets of discrimination weren’t made such a big deal of in Elemental outside of Ember’s flashback. Every element reacted to each other as if they were strangers trying to fit in somehow, even if the fire people struggled with this the most.


Plus, this is a story of an identity crisis as far as Ember was concerned. Growing up in a family household where tradition and honoring your elders were paramount, Ember had a heavy burden as she did everything she could have to please her father and run the shop. But once she got furious with some of her customers and went out more with Wade, only then did she start opening her eyes more to what’s out there to explore and grasp her true calling. At several points in the movie, Ember immediately took the chance to fix broken glass by warping it, blowing into it, and morphing it into what she wanted it to be, whether it’s with the glass countertop in the shop, or even with the broken water pourer at Wade’s house. It told Wade’s family that she had an innate talent she was not aware of and that she could put it to good use in another facility somewhere.


And the whole romantic comedy subplot with Wade? It still went forth at a gradual, albeit slightly rushed, pace, and it followed almost all the same plot points as any other romantic comedy, especially those concerning star-crossed lovers. At the same time, though, there’ve been some slight spins on such a premise, primarily concerning their meetings with their parents. I remember in the trailer when Wade was forced to eat Bernie’s fireballs, and I thought it was because Bernie wanted to know Wade a little more. It felt like something out of Meet the Parents. But instead, what happened was that Wade was caught by Bernie, who suspected him of causing the pipes to burst. In this case, Ember and Wade came up with a white lie saying that Wade was the food inspector, and not the city inspector as Bernie suspected, and it prompted Bernie to test him by having him taste-test his food to see if he was a food inspector. Narratively speaking, it felt tinkered around with nicely, and it helped play to some of the film’s romcom cliches with reinventions that felt natural.


Also, how about Ember visiting Wade’s family for dinner? In the trailers, I thought it would go the other way around, with Ember knowing Wade’s family more, just as I thought Wade would’ve known Ember’s parents more. But while that was one benefit of Ember’s visitation to Wade’s home, that wasn’t the primary reason for her visit. What happened was that she and Wade were expecting a call back from Gale Cumulus to report back to Wade about the splitting dam, which they sealed up with glass that Ember made with the sandbags. So, Ember got to know Wade’s family over dinner to pass the time, display her glassmaking talents, and even partake in the Ripple family’s game: the Crying Game. During their wait, Ember’s adventures with Wade and his family made her open up more to people who she grew up believing with her parents couldn’t and shouldn’t be trusted.


Also, the part where the romantic couple would’ve split up? While Wade and Ember fell victim to this, too, the reasons and outcome still felt nicely played with. Ember grew agitated over her falling in love with Wade, even though they just found out that it’s possible for fire and water to not harm each other through will, because her family priorities and calling were still uncertain to her. So, as Ember prepared for Bernie to hand her the reigns of ownership of The Fireplace, which Bernie initially retitled Ember’s Fireplace, Wade came in crashing the party to confess everything about himself and his and Ember’s relationship. It showed that while Ember thinks she’s given up on Wade, Wade has never given up on her.


In short, this movie knew the strengths of all three major subplots - the romance, the investigations, and the turmoil - and while they didn’t jibe with each other more thoroughly, the plot still weaved them around a little so they’d interconnect and play a much bigger role down the line when all three major subplots came to a boil and started simmering into each other.


The ending, however, felt cluttered because of similarities or scenarios that I knew were coming.


What happened was, after the beans were spilled about the real cause of the pipes bursting out and who Wade was to Bernie and Cinder, the glass sealing the dam shut broke apart and started unleashing water across the Firetown, threatening to extinguish its residents, The Fireplace, even Ember’s family’s sacred blue flame that she tried desperately to save, mostly with Wade’s help. However, despite their best efforts, and while they did protect the blue flame, the two of them got entrapped in the furnace, with Ember heating it up and causing Wade to evaporate. The scenes were made to look like Wade was about to die, and the way Ember mourned his so-called death seemed to reflect what went through her head as Bernie and Cinder did. But I knew he wouldn’t stay dead for long, and it’s not because it’s a Disney movie. I can sum up the biggest reason for that in one word: condensation.


Of course, Ember and her parents caught on to this and attempted to enforce that out of Wade. All it took was for them to hear Wade sobbing in the furnace, and then Ember told him what he told her as part of the Crying Game to put him in a weepy mood again. She and her parents told him more things that made Wade cry again until his droplets expanded, allowing him to become himself again.


Also, watching Ember confess her feelings about Wade and the shop to Bernie, with the two of them and Cinder embracing each other in mourning, felt nice and tender. But it also reminded me too well of Inside Out’s ending with Riley confessing her feelings about leaving her Minnesotan home behind. The rhythms are still there, except it felt rushed and had been done before. However, watching Ember do it on her terms felt nice to watch.

SPOILERS END


Regardless, Elemental still did a terrific job of highlighting the more personal angles of the immigration experience and having it jibe nicely with the romantic subplot that audiences expected the movie to be about.


Taking in all that occurred in this movie, Elemental would leave a different impression depending on how you watch it. If anyone saw this movie on its own, it’d be seen as a cute romantic comedy with hefty elements of immigration issues to spice up the experience. However, the first two times I saw this movie, I saw it in theaters with my girlfriend, and honestly, that only enriched the experience for us. Watching this movie with a loved one by your side suddenly makes it feel special. What you may feel with your loved one, you could potentially feel with Wade and Ember as their relationship grew.


More impressively, I can completely relate to the dilemmas that Ember endured. Being a clerk at both a local public library and a local toy store all at once, watching Ember try so hard to run the shop by herself while also trying to keep her temper under control when things started going kerflooey throughout the shop reminds me too well of how I try to take care of things during my shifts. So, I can empathize with Ember’s struggles as she tried to keep her head on her shoulders as things started slipping from her control. Also, her devotion to showing herself off as the best that she can be, even though it may have conflicted with what she wanted in her life, reminds me a lot of what I feel from time to time whenever I evaluate where I stand in my family and compare it to what I want to do with my life.


It has that same feeling that I remember from Kiki’s Delivery Service, with the more low-key atmosphere and the dilemmas feeling on par with what anyone normally dealt with in their day-to-day lives. But admittedly, I felt bothered by how Kiki reacted to the more personal problems she dealt with during the middle portion of the movie. Why? Because she constantly ran from them and unwisely let herself be weighed down by them instead of addressing them to her closest friends.

In Elemental, this was one of the main catalysts of its story. The problems Ember ran into, and those that she started, only got worse because of her not telling anyone, and Wade encouraged her to admit it, especially to her parents. To me, that aspect of the movie worked so well, too.


Speaking of seeing Elemental in theaters, that wasn’t all that my girlfriend and I saw of it. Starring Carl Frederiksen and Dug from Up was a cute short film accompanying Elemental called Carl’s Date. And let’s put it this way. If Elemental felt like You’ve Got Mail, then Carl’s Date felt like a tiny Sleepless in Seattle. In this short film, Carl was invited to go out with a good friend for a date. It panicked Carl, of course, because not only did he not know how to date, but throughout his life, the only love of his life he ever knew was Ellie. So, it took some encouragement and advice from Dug for Carl to muster the courage and give his date a shot. This short film was nice, it did a good job of addressing second chances at love, and it showed that even when your beloved ones are gone, that doesn’t mean they are if you love them and know that they’d love you back. More importantly, knowing that this was one of Ed Asner’s final roles before he passed away last year, Asner’s more tender moments through Carl felt more bittersweet.

Even through all its faults, of course, Elemental still felt like the kind of film that, just like Ember with Wade and Element City, would amaze you by challenging your preconceived notions of it by experiencing what you’d never expect to see of it. The characters all feel humble and eclectic, the designs are stunning, the worldbuilding – though too familiar – is still imaginative, and the story packs a wallop within its designated themes. It may have come with the standard romcom ingredients, but this movie called me back to what Roger Ebert said best about the movies’ stories. He said:

It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.

With Elemental, how it’s about what it highlighted helped it become an intrinsic, cutely dazzling film about reaching out and finding where your connections lie once you step out of your comfort zone. This movie has so many strong elements that they far overshadow its more flawed aspects altogether.

Whether this film is out of your element or not, check it out anyway. You never know what you’re missing until you dive in.


My Rating

B+



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