Ben Oliver

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Elemental

You were the dream. You were always the dream.
14 September 2023

Pixar’s latest animation. In a world inhabited by elements - fire, water, air and earth - a family of ‘fire’ elements struggle to integrate into a new city they’ve moved to, geared mostly towards the other elements. Controversy sparks when the fire daughter falls for a ‘water’ man.

A somewhat under-baked concept here from Pixar. I’m not sure depicting the immigrant family as ‘fire’ is the best idea - yes it provides warmth and light but without constant supervision it’s inherently destructive, polluting and dangerous. It’s a cool message that you can always learn to get on with those different to yourself, but the metaphor runs out of steam because fire will always burn you if you’re not careful and water will put out your fire if you’re not careful.

The amount of effort that went into creating the world they inhabit is crazy. It’s a giant city that’s brimming with life and detail, and yet somehow it all feels a little sterile. It’s not a place I’m eager to jump back into, like say with Coco or even the more recent Luca. Perhaps I’m just too grounded in the real world.

Tonally they’ve gone for a sort of 90s rom-com vibe which works reasonably well, but it’s lacking in any ‘tentpole’ scene to really etch itself into your brain. They do manage to recreate the gentle humour of those films though, not laugh-a-minute but not deadly serious.

I’m being too harsh, this isn’t a total misfire (sorry) from Pixar but its awkward concept and tendency to play it safe tonally and stylistically make it one of their more unremarkable efforts.