Elemental is the latest animated offering from Pixar, delivering a familiar story but with a twist. It’s a love story involving two very different cultures, in this case, fire and water, and how their love helps eventually bring people together to live in harmony. The result though is entertaining but average.
Before we get to the love story, we’re introduced to Element City. Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) and Cinder (Shila Ommi) are fire-people who left their home in Fireland and have now arrived in the bustling city ready to start a new life and raise a family. It’s clear that fire is in the minority here though, while the other elements of water, earth and air are everywhere, and it soon becomes clear that this isn’t just a love story, it’s also an immigrant story.
Bernie and Cinder find an old run-down building and begin to set up a home there, giving birth to Ember and turning the building into a store that eventually sits at the heart of a growing fire community. As Ember grows she helps out more and more in the store, with Bernie hoping she’ll take over the family business one day. But Ember has an impatient and fiery nature when it comes to dealing with difficult customers meaning that Bernie isn’t entirely comfortable about handing over the reins just yet.
During a particularly bad day in the store, Ember finds herself down in the basement carefully trying to repair a burst water pipe, one of many that runs beneath the store. Before she can seal the pipe by welding the break together with her hands, a water character named Wade bursts through, into the basement and into her life. Wade is a building inspector for Element City and he and Ember don’t get off to a good start when a subsequent report he files means that the store will be closed down in just a few days’ time. The two eventually begin to form a bond though as they begin working together to try and get the closure decision overturned.
This is the part of the movie that works well as we watch their romance slowly develop. Wade is confident and friendly, but with a highly sensitive side, and he takes Ember to places she’s never been before, due to the fact that she is different from others (shining brightly in a dark cinema is obviously very distracting to others). They also learn more about each other’s lives and cultures, with Ember cautiously meeting Wade’s family in their watery home. The characters and the animation come together beautifully.
What didn’t work so well for me, and continued to bother me throughout, is how the rules involving the way characters affect their surroundings and other elements they come into contact with are constantly contradicted. After so many beautiful visuals and sight gags at the beginning introduce us to this strange, wonderful world and the way it all works, it’s not long before it starts to unravel, picking and choosing when to follow the rules. A fire character burns through wood, while another doesn’t. A paper brochure held by Ember doesn’t burn when she holds it but then does later when convenient. She burns a hole in a chain fence as she walks through it, but doesn’t burn a cinema seat when sitting on it. And if it is possible to control when something is affected by you, why does the story repeatedly hammer home the fact that elements do not mix? Why do fire people have such a big impact on water and earth people, but when it comes to touching and holding hands with a water person for the purposes of romance, that’s OK?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get past those niggles, especially as they kept on cropping up throughout. Aside from that, as I’ve already mentioned, the story itself is sound and well-animated with some nice touches. Sadly, it does definitely seem as though Pixar is losing its touch a little though.
Where to Watch
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.