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Feel the heat of adventure and romance with "Elemental”

Warm up to a story of self-discovery found only in Element City. Don’t worry about any spoilers as they are washed away from this review!

By Renee Aguila | Wednesday, 6 September 2023

In Elemental, audiences get to witness the various forces of nature trying to live in harmony in Element City. Released on June 14, this animated feature has certainly taken a more chill and breezy direction in comparison to Disney and Pixar’s previous hit movies. 


Viewers follow the story of fire-elemental Ember (Leah Lewis), who strives to live up to her father, Bernie’s (Ronnie del Carmen) expectations to run their convenience store, the Fireplace. However, Ember has struggled with managing her rage and being more open about her emotions. 


All seems to go well, until one day, the store has a major sale. Ember tries to manage the pressure of the numerous customers and releases a fiery outburst which accidentally causes a break in their basement’s water pipes, and summons city inspector Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), a water element. As Wade examines the malfunctioning plumbing system and reports violations to his boss, Ember is left to try to save her father's store from closure. 

Fiery breakthroughs in animation and against stereotypes

Directed by Peter Sohn, Elemental’s story is simple yet moves the hearts of audiences with its characters. Ember’s character is relatable as she doesn’t shy away from expressing her frustrations. Wade, on the other hand, strays away from the stereotypical portrayals of male characters not being allowed to express emotions by showing his more emotional side to Ember.


In terms of animation, Elemental contains visual eye candy and flair that will make audiences feel more immersed in Element City. Upon paying close attention to each elemental character, it’s fascinating to see how they are animated in a way that fits their element, such as water characters moving with more fluidity and even adhering to the concepts of chemistry when being near fire. Similarly, air element characters even interact with vehicles such as blimps in a way that powers them to stay afloat. The details and physics in animation are certainly worth looking at in this movie. 


Additionally, it was interesting to see how the movie touches on the subjects of family responsibility, passion, and privilege. 


Throughout the movie, audiences follow Ember’s journey as she sets out to save her father’s store from being closed down. During her adventure, she starts to question if being passed the ownership of her family’s store is something she truly wants, as she discovers other pursuits. Moreover, she considers if she even has the privilege at all of choosing for herself for once because she’s worried about her father’s health concerning running the store.


Watered-down messages and airy chemistry

In line with that, there seem to be multiple messages the film wants to tell its viewers all at once but Elemental struggles with that. People may relate to certain scenes in the film, but determining the overall message becomes difficult for viewers. Furthermore, it should be recognized that Wade and Ember lack more chemistry than their natural characteristics. Because they are elemental opposites, their romance in the film feels unusual and forced. Perhaps focusing just on Ember and her family's tale would have made the movie more compelling.


With its straightforward premise and well-crafted animation, Elemental remains an excellent Pixar film. While its characters should have been fleshed out more and its messages could have been more explicit, it's an underrated film that everyone can enjoy.


Experience the quirky lives of the various elements in Elemental, streaming on Disney+.