In a city where the four elements coexist, some things remain impossible, such as the love between Fire and Water. Until Ember Lumen and Wade Ripple meet.
In Element City, Water, Air (illustrated by clouds), Earth (plants) and Fire live in harmony. Like our big cities, certain inequalities remain and the degree of tolerance of each individual is variable.
Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) and Cinder Lumen (Shila Ommi) left Fireland to build a new life in Element City. The couple opened a convenience store and had a daughter, Ember (Leah Lewis). The latter, now in her twenties, awaits the day when her father will retire and hand over the reins of the family business to her.
His meeting with Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), however, changes his path which seemed to be entirely mapped out. Ember is a Flamboyant, while Wade is an Aquatic. Although they live in the same city, these two peoples live separately. Firetown is the district of the Lumen and their ilk. Wade and his family live in the nicest part of the metropolis. Despite everything, their friendship filled with discomfort and doubts gradually turns into a budding love.
Director Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur) delivers one of the most beautiful and ambitious stories to come out of Pixar Animation Studios. He drew inspiration from his own experiences and those of his Korean parents to compose a story scripted by John Hoberg, Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh. The relationship between immigrant parents and second-generation child is at the heart of the work, as are cultural differences and the need for affirmation. With intelligence and humour, the authors evoke the importance of respect for others without being moralistic.
Visually, Elemental is stunning. The emotions conveyed by the characters made of raw materials are palpable. The variety of textures and the attention to detail are unheard of. We would have liked to explore this lively and vibrant city more, because despite its size, the places visited are limited. The action is rare and is only caused by a recurring problem with a leaking water pipe. Even if it is at the origin of the various twists, this one remains boring. We doubt that children are particularly amused by these many scenes of flowing water.
Funnier are the countless sight gags and puns regarding the elements. Very close to their emotions – one could say transparent – the Ripples are affable hypersensitive people who do not realize that Element City favors the H2O citizens. The Lumens are warm and unifying. Their tempers can flare up at times, especially Ember’s (well done by Leah Lewis), but they remain pillars of their community. Aerials and Earthlings are unfortunately only represented by a few secondary roles.
Pixar excels in the art of making people laugh and reach audiences of all ages. Elemental is no exception, but will perhaps be more appreciated by older people, while it may leave younger people indifferent. An impossible love story combined with a brilliant metaphor for our cosmopolitan cities is usually not at the top of their fields of interest. We are happy that this film exists, because what it tells is essential, but it will not be unanimous like Finding Nemo, WALL-E or Toy Story.