Haunted Mansion Review

 Ready for a little spookiness in August? I'll be honest the desire to throw on a jumper, buy pumpkins and embrace all things spooky has hit me early this year, mainly due to the depressing summer weather here in the UK. But something still feels slightly off about releasing a ghost movie in the middle of summer but that is exactly what Disney have done with Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion is the second film of its name release by Disney, The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff, 2003) was my go-to childhood scary movie, although there is no link between the two films. It is also the second film to be based on a Disney ride, the first being the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The ride features at five Disney Parks, under three names: The Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor and Mystic Manor, and the film makes numerous nods to the dark ride. So, join me foolish mortals on a journey to the Haunted Mansion.  Haunted Mansion's opening act is perfect, scary and full of mystery. As we open

Elemental Review

Pixar is welcoming summer in with their new feature film Elemental! Pixar are renowned for the ability to turn mundane objects, such as toys, cars and fish into stories with gravitas, emotion and relatability. But over recent years Pixar have been struggling to capture the magic of their early films. Following the box office failure of Lightyear (2022), Pixar were clearly looking to make big waves at the box office with Elemental. If we take a quick look at Lightyear, its lack of success could be linked to the change of Buzz's voice or from the disappointment of Toy Story 4 (2019). But problems have plagued Pixar for a long while, with films such as Turning Red (2022) a disaster, Luca (2021), and Soul (2020) all releasing on Disney Plus. So, can Elemental revive Pixar and propel the studio back to the success of the 90s and 00s? Read my full review to find out! There will be spoilers beyond this point!!

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The best way to describe the world of Elemental and the characters that reside in that world is simple. Think of Disney's Zootopia (2016), except remove the animals and replace them with elements. There are the same themes of co-existence, there is a mission, the narrative predominantly takes place in an urban space that’s perfectly constructed for each inhabitant. That is not to say the concept and world created are any less because of these similarities, but it lacked the original feel we have all come to expect from a Pixar cinema experience. Delving deeper, whilst Zootopia had a clear, decisive narrative, Elemental does not. The film is at war with itself, torn between a romance and an adventure, whilst it is very common to blend the two, in this case not enough went into that blend and we are left with an identity crisis. The film should have chosen to either fully focus on a sweeping romance or a thrilling adventure, placing the other storyline in the background, Wall-E (2008) did this perfectly. To a film that is already experiencing this identity crisis, filmmakers add another layer, race and an interracial relationship. Whilst Pixar films are great at tackling social issues normally in a nuance thought-provoking way, Elemental's message feels forced, stereotypical and harmful. Which is a real shame because you can see the potential, it's just not fully realised. 

Leading the film is ever on the verge of anger fire element Ember (Leah Lewis), who perhaps would have shone if she did not spend the entire film pandering to the wishes of her father and boyfriend. Her character outdated, as the film side-lines any real interaction between Ember and any other female character, Elemental is certainly not passing the Bechdel test. Love interest, water element Wade (Mamoudou Athie) is great, emotional and respectful. But the relationship between Wade and Ember, is not compelling, their big argument moment is forced, not blending within the context of the narrative, once again stereotypical. Of the supporting characters we have Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen) Ember’s father, Cinder (Shila Ommi) Ember’s mother, Wades family and air element Brook (Catherine O'Hara) who is actually brilliant. I said the same thing when Luca and Turning Red came out - Elemental would have been a better film if you'd swapped the gender of the lead characters. 

It is in the animation that Elemental finally shines. You can see the advancements in technology, style and creativity in every scene. Pixar have always been at the very forefront of animation style and technology. The creation of the anthropomorphic elements: fire, water, air and earth are wonderful. Each element taking on a singular yet cohesive style. The world itself is also stunning to behold, clearly inspired by New York City. The creativity that was channelled into the creation of the world is clear, building a city to house four very different elements a challenge, yet the final result feels seamless. It is just a shame that the narrative and characters could not match the visuals. 

Overall, Elemental is a visual wonder, showcasing the very best of Pixar animation, you could easily get wrapped up in the elements and their world. But the poor narrative structure, full of stereotypes and forced messages paired with a female lead that is so focused on appeasing the men in her life that she even bows to her father but not mother hold Elemental back. What makes Elemental such a disappointment is the potential you can see throughout, I would have liked nothing more than a sweeping romance that could overcome the greatest of obstacles, but what we got is a half-hearted effort. As hard as it is to write a negative review, not even the animation could save Elemental from being another disappointing Pixar film. 

Let me know what you think below!

Thank you for reading xx