The characters of Pixar’s latest feature are neither humans nor animals, but personifications of the four elements (fire, water, air and earth) who coexist in one place, Element City. Each group has its own way of life, dictated by its composition, and they tend to stick within their own neighbourhoods for fear of the dangers that interacting with other elements may present. In some ways reminiscent of the animation studio’s recent release Turning Red, which tells the tale of a young girl with a Chinese background growing up in Canada, Elemental also focuses on diversity and integration but does so in a more symbolical – although equally explicit – way.
The protagonist is Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis), a flame girl whose parents emigrated to Element City when their fire-populated hometown became a dangerous place to be. After facing many adversities and much hostility due to their fiery nature, which is seen as a threat by most inhabitants of their new city, the family manages to set up a shop within the fire community and thus fulfil their dream of giving their daughter stability and an opportunity to succeed in life.
Ember is committed to repaying her parents’ efforts by one day replacing her father as a shopkeeper, although so far, her short temper has prevented her from providing decent customer service. When she accidentally meets a water guy named Wade (Mamoudou Athie), she is surprised by his gentle ways and she finds herself venturing outside her area for the very first time. As she comes in contact with a bigger world, the life she has always known feels limiting, which inevitably causes a rift within her family.
Pixar gained its reputation thanks to memorable films such as Toy Story and Ratatouille, but it would seem that most of their other efforts are failing to hit the mark. Elemental has its heart in the right place, but it is disappointingly flat and predictable. In spite of some cool animation, there is no attempt at enhancing the basic plot with anything magical or unexpected. The film’s straightforward messages and the lack of subtlety in the analogies it draws make it perfect viewing for a very young audience, but anyone older will have to wait longer for a new Pixar classic.
Elemental is released nationwide on 7th July 2023.
Watch the trailer for Elemental here: