Review of "Elemental", a Story About Migration Under the Umbrella of a Romance

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Pixar used the four elements to portray a problem that points to respect for differences through a romance. This is our review of "Elemental".

Still from the film 'Elementary'

Photo: Disney Studios

LatinAmerican Post | Julián Gómez Gómez

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Leer en español: Reseña de “Elemental”, una historia sobre migración bajo la sombrilla de un romance

"Elemental" is the film with which Pixar tries to shine this year. Despite the allocated budget, the commitment to animation and the empathy that the background of the story can generate, the film is not being well received by critics.

The film opens with the arrival of a family of fire in Element City, a modern place where the four elements (air, earth, water, and fire) coexist, but fire is the discriminated element there. With Ember, a young woman who is at the moment of deciding what she wants for her future, the story shows a series of social layers covered by a story of friendship that later turns into romance.

The film was Pixar's bet for 2023 after what was done with "Lightyear" last year. As an addition, this film was released in parallel with "Carl's Date", a short film that works as a sequel to the studio's great success such as "UP". However, this hook has not been enough to attract an audience.

With animation too risky on special effects issues, Pixar hopes the film will hold its own despite poor marketing. The animated feature film is directed by Peter Sohn, who had already left them an outstanding revenue with "The Good Dinosaur."

The setbacks of "Elemental"

As mentioned above, the marketing done to the film was not the most appropriate. Proof of this is that the box office of its premiere in movie theaters has been labeled as a failure. In fact, it is the worst opening in the history of Pixar with a collection of 29.6 million dollars in its first weekend in the United States.

Among the failures stands out: giving prevalence in advertising to secondary characters like Clod, who almost does not appear. Also, the bad 'timing' with Ember when they gave their element publicity prevalence with comic bits while there was a forest fire crisis in Canada and that generated an avalanche of criticism.

Additionally, the chosen date was the least indicated for what was going to be a bet. This is because a couple of weeks ago came the animated "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" and "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts", two sagas with a coined audience that were going to eclipse the impact of their launch.

Also, it was released the same day as "The Flash", something that ended up subtracting a sector of the 'geek' public, which also consumes what Pixar does. The most worrying thing is that, according to the trend, it will go unnoticed in theaters, since it could not take off and the public is already looking at "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny", another saga.

To top it all off, the film allowed attention to be distracted from the story, similar to "Lightyear." Like the aforementioned film, “Elemental” also suffered from the 'anti-woke' campaign for showing Pixar's first non-binary character. That distracted a lot of attention from the essence of the film, and said character doesn't have more than 5 seconds of prominence.

Also read: Disney's “Primos,” does it Promote Stereotypes, or are we Over-Watching Children's Productions?

Migration with the excuse of romance

One of the possible failures of "Elemental" focuses on wanting to address many deep issues covered under an umbrella of romance. In the end, as it is obvious, each theme ends up being treated superficially and that takes away power from how emotional the proposed romance could be.

It is clear that the film represents the problems that migrants face from the first frame. The main family arrives in a boat to a modern city, and they are not allowed for rent due to the condition of the element from which they are made. They also experience another series of xenophobic and racist situations.

Themes such as the importance of tradition, self-discovery and generational traumas are contrasted, which are broken with the protagonist.

Pixar will have to rethink its marketing to regain the dominance in animation that it maintained until the release of "Soul." Lately, his new stories have failed to match the impact of past hits like "Ratatouille," "Toy Story," "Cars," and so on.